Review: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (Nintendo 3DS)
- Release Date (NA): May 2, 2014
- Publisher: NIS America/ATLUS
- Genres: JRPG/Dungeon Crawler
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Downloadable version reviewed. Download size 6282 blocks (784 megabytes).
Play time 30+ and counting including all side quests, dialogues and cutscenes so-far. It's definitely a 50+ hour game on the first playthrough.
Rated T for Teens, contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Tobacco Reference and Use of Alcohol
"It was just a couple of days ago when you were sitting with your master by a roaring fire, high among the mountain peaks, remote from civilization. It was then when he received a letter straight from the world-famous Radah Hall, an invitation and plea for help, for times are truly dire in Etria. It spoke of strange happenings in the Yggdrassil Labyrinth, terrifying earthquakes plaguing the lands, ruins emerging out of nowhere filled with monsters that felled many of the land's warriors before you. It was but a couple of days ago, but now you stand by the gates of Etria, handing your invitation to the guards, clutching your spear tightly, a fire of courage and a will to fight both burning in your brave heart. Soon you will step foot in the famous labyrinth, forging a name for yourself and your noble Highlander clan... that is, if you prove worthy, of course... and if you survive to tell the tale."
The above description is more or less how you are introduced to the world of Etria in the latest instalment in the Etrian Odyssey series entitled Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl by NIS America for the Nintendo 3DS. Just as the previous Etrian Odyssey titles the game follows a very simple premise – you are to descend into a maze, loot and cause untold havoc among the local flora and fauna – a dungeon crawling extravaganza at its finest.
Say "Hello" to Team Kickass!
The very first task you are faced with as a player is one that may be the most interesting addition to the Etrian Odyssey series yet - a choice between the fully fleshed out, narrative-oriented Story Mode with a pre-made cast of characters and the Classic Mode which is focused strictly around dungeon crawling. In the Story Mode you play as a Highlander (insert your "There can be only one!" joke here) sent to Etria to explore the recently discovered ruins of Gladsheim. Naturally you will not travel alone – your protagonist is soon joined by a menagerie of other characters - an investigation team from the Midgar Library – Simon, Arthur and Raquna, as well as the mysterious Frederica, a young girl from a civilization long gone, the titular Millennium Girl, whose memories, or rather, the lack of any, may turn out to be crucial in your investigation. In the Classic Mode you create your own team of adventurers from scratch and enter the Yggdrassil Labyrinth to find fortune, glory and hopefully not a swift demise by the hands (or claws) of the fearsome monsters within it. The game allows you to transfer your save data between these two modes - an important feature as they both have separate storylines which substantially adds to the replayability of the title. In this regard Etrian Odyssey Untold is not your average dungeon crawler, it goes the extra mile and tries to do more than just guide you through a maze full of critters.
One game, two modes, double the fun!
Even the characters seem disappointed that their cutscenes are not stereoscopic
The game's Story Mode is adorned with well-directed anime cutscenes which are a pleasure to watch. There is only one flaw I found in them, but it was a quite disappointing one for me. I thought to myself “this looks great, it must look even better in 3D!”, so I flip the switch and… I'm getting nothing extra except the slight distortion from the parallax barrier. No effort went into making the cutscenes 3D on a system offering glasses-less 3D as its selling point. What a shame – the cutscenes fell flat in the 3D department (pun intended).
The environments are nothing short of stunning - they're just begging to be explored
Upon entering the labyrinth the 3D kicked in full-blast – the fishbowl effect works great when displaying the twisted corridors of the two mazes the game lets you explore, and gorgeous mazes they are indeed. I would go as far as to say that this is one of the prettier games I have seen on the platform. Every stratum of the Yggdrassil Labyrinth looks distinct and memorable. From lush greenery to fantastical luminous caves, the game simply oozes with colour. The levels are well-designed, distinct and gradually increase in complexity, and it's that complexity which encourages you as the player to take part in the game’s gimmick – cartography. Or is it a gimmick, really?
...I hope you have them
Etrian Odyssey, unlike most games in the genre, doesn't give you a map to reveal per-se. Instead, you are provided with a grid on the bottom screen on which your steps are marked, however mapping all the walls, pickups, secret passages or other relevant spots is your responsibility, which is a great throwback to the dungeon crawlers of the olden days which required players to draw their own maps with pen and paper. This gives the game a unique, nostalgic feel and it's a great way to utilize the 3DS’s touchscreen. You may think that this is busy work, but it's busy work that pays off – often times you come across quests in which you have to give NPC’s locations of specific areas on your map. More importantly though, a well-drawn map can save your skin when trying to escape the dreaded FOE’s… which brings us to the next point – the monsters.
The mazes are naturally littered with random encounters featuring fan favourites such as Tree Rats, Wood Flies, Claw Beetles or Paletaloids – anyone who has played the previous games in the series will feel right at home. Those encounters are the least of your worries though - players should be more concerned about the dreaded FOE’s - Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens, special enemies which are visible in the game world and are far more formidable, as the name suggests. Here we also see familiar muzzles, for example the Ragelope, among others.
Take a good look at this face – it's possibly the last one you will ever see, judging by the antlers
FOE’s are quite an intelligent bunch – some follow a pre-set path in the maze, some follow you around, some stay on the lookout and some patrol an area and will chase you if you enter it. Finding out the tactics of given species is key to survival before you reach a sufficiently high level to take them on… and you really do not want to face those guys before you get to that point. All of the monsters are wonderfully modelled, fights with them are simply spectacles to watch. Although the first couple of training floors are a little bit stingy with the variety of enemies, the game improves substantially as you descend to the lower floors and meet more and more critters who would be quite happy to bite into you… or sting you… or cut you to shreds…
When your medic, magician and palladin all appear to be concerned about something behind your back... you just know you're in trouble
Speaking of combat, the mechanics are excellent and very easy to pick up. You can use simple attacks, special skills, items, guard, switch spots within your team or occasionally boost your stats for the period of a turn to deal a devastating blow – the system is very standard but it works well. The key to winning battles is simply a matter of learning to utilize the strong points of your team as they engage in turn-based combat. In Story Mode you are provided with a pre-made balanced team consisting of Arthur the Alchemist (which is the game's equivalent of a mage), Simon the Medic (playing the function of a cleric), Raquna the Protector (in other words, a paladin), Frederica the Gunner (your local firearms specialist) and of course your own character, the Highlander (a spearman of all things - I expected a swordsman). This team serves as a template before you delve into Classic Mode in which you will have to construct a team of your own utilizing the assortment of 9 classes offered – the Landsknecht, Protector, Alchemist, Medic, Survivalist, Troubadour, Hexer, Ronin and Dark Hunter. The Highlander and the Gunner are specific to the Story Mode. This division works in favour of replayability – to truly experience the game fully, you simply have to play both modes.
You've probably noticed that one of the classes is a Gunner… and this is not a typo – Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl features firearms, and not some fantasy ones, I mean straight-up pistols... and not only them, but also futuristic technology, which is not normally associated with fantasy settings. Initially I thought that this was a bizarre case of confused identity, but surprisingly the game explains this very well. Unfortunately, elaborating on this point any further would spoil the story for you, so I will leave the details for you, future players, to find out on your own - it may surprise you.
Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?
The statistics system is very straight-forward. The game has a standard assortment of stats – Strength, Technique, Vitality, Agility and Luck as well as Attack and Defense. Each character has four slots for equipment, one for the weapon, one for body armour and two additional slots for other apparel – gloves, helmets, shields, boots and accessories. Each class has a separate skill tree and different class restrictions regarding equipment. This system is simple enough and gets the job done, although the skill trees are quite limited. Each class can only expand on very specific base skills, so creating a Protector with huge defense and attack at the same time seems to be impossible… however thanks to the latest addition to the statistics system, Grimoire Stones, it's not. These stones are special, rare items created during Grimoire Chances which occur occasionally when battling monsters, they can be equipped by your characters and nullify select restrictions imposed on them due to their class as well as give them new skills. In fact, by using Grimoire Stones your characters can learn to use moves of the monsters they fought which they would not be able to learn otherwise - over 200 of them, in fact. This gives the characters additional depth, the possibilities of customization are limited only by your imagination… and luck, of course.
Damn, Simon – you're a medical ninja!
Adventure is afoot, brave travellers!
Naturally all this maze-mapping, training and monster-slaying would be pretty boring without a clear purpose, and here is where the quests come into play, and quests this game has a-plenty. If the missions given to you by the Rhada, the council reigning over Etria, will not be enough to quench your thirst for adventure, the local pub offers a variety of quests for you to complete, ranging from simple fetch quests to more elaborate assignments requiring more effort and exploration. In addition to those, maid Rosa, whom you meet early in the game, will have even more special requests which are well-worth completing as her culinary skills can provide your team with useful buffs. But wait, there is more! After all, you are not the only adventurer around! Occasionally you will meet characters inside the dungeons you explore and they too will require your assistance in a variety of tasks. My only gripe with all this is that often times the rewards for questing are rather poor, they mostly consist of healing items or potions, rarely weapons, armour or other gear, and when you do get equipment, be it from quests or from treasure chests, you're probably already using better gear, making the effort feel somewhat pointless - simply put, the equipment you can craft in the store is substantially better than that found in the field. Sure, there are a few special weapons that cannot be crafted, but they're not exactly mind blowing. Fortunately though the quests shower you with experience points, and those are well-worth working for. Long story short, the game keeps you busy at all times, which is great since this richness of quests to complete nullifies the need to grind practically entirely.
Nothin' quite like a mug of ale after a completed mission, I'm with Requna on this
Unlike in many other JRPG’s and dungeon crawlers I did not waste a single minute grinding. The level progression of your characters feels very natural and the game flows without a hitch. The story is never interrupted by pointlessly running around in circles just to gain enough experience to proceed which is often the case with this kind of games – in Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl you are always at the right level to face your foes, however the encounters remain challenging and rewarding still – the game is simply well-balanced, so if you are new to the genre, do not feel intimidated. The offering of two game modes with three difficulty levels which can be changed on-the-fly during the game makes the title very accessible, both to new players and experienced adventurers, which was a positive surprise. I expected the game to punch me in the stomach from the very first encounter like most dungeon crawlers do, but that did not happen – it was a pleasant experience, and even though my team got wiped out a great number of times it was always because of my own tactical mistakes and never due to an unfair level of difficulty. If you're not really keen on repetitive exploration, don't fret - traversing the dungeons was a breeze thanks to Fast Travel. As long as you've discovered at least one staircase up and one staircase down and the floor does not have a boss monster left to beat, you can travel between those staircases at the touch of the touchscreen. In addition to that, you can also teleport to any stratum of the dungeons from the main enterence and teleport back to town using Geomagnetic Fields you find during your adventures. All this cuts down on the tedium of exploring the same floor twice, facilitates exploration and makes the ride all the more enjoyable. Regardless of whether this is your first or one hundred and first dungeon, it is a dungeon tailored for your needs, which cannot be said about many other games in the genre.
"I throw things ZOOM and they go BOOM!" – now that is a motto to live by! Well-said, Arthur!
Your adventure is of course accompanied by catchy, pleasant and soothing music which matches the events on-screen very well. The sound effects as well as the voice acting is on an equally high level, making this game not only looking but also sounding great. Of course there are some oddities, as it is often the case with localizations, but there is not much to frown about. Perhaps one of the things which will make you raise an eyebrow is the character of Shilleka, the local female blacksmith whose accent is a little bit forced… and the distinct underboob is quite clearly fan service. That said, all of the characters are very well fleshed out via numerous dialogues, their voices match their appearance, they have distinct personalities and it was very enjoyable for me to learn their backstories throughout the course of the game. If you are stingy about voice acting or character development, this title will not make you cringe… much.
...considering the circumstances, final thoughts are in order
To conclude, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl definitely sets the bar way up high and is yet another great installment in the series. It has been a long time since I enjoyed a game this much on the 3DS, it definitely squeezes the best out of both the platform and the genre, it's clearly designed to appeal to both newcomers and hardened dungeon crawling fans, it's easy to pick up and play, audio-visually beautiful and extremely enjoyable. Despite the few slip-ups the game definitely deserves a high score and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. NIS' guesstimate as far as the length of the game is concerned is 30 hours - I have spent 32 on it and I am only half-way through the game - I cannot wait to dig into it even more. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a lengthy adventure that is well-worth your money, especially if you enjoyed the previous installments in the series. The game will be released by Atlus in collaboration with NIS America in Europe soon, so I suggest collecting every penny already, you are going to need them!
+ Varied and beautiful environments
+ Wonderful anime cutscenes by Madhouse
+ Easy to pick up and play, very welcoming to new players
+ Difficulty can be set on-the-fly in case you find yourself between a rock and a tight spot or if you wish for a little bit more challenge
- Treasure boxes and quest rewards are not spectacular and do not reflect the effort required to complete the quest
- The cutscenes could have benefitted from utilizing the 3DS's stereoscopic capabilities
- Initially enemies are not varied enough, encounters on the first few floors feel somewhat samey
Audiovisual presentation sets the bar high for other games in the genre. The geometry is not incredibly rich, but the overall design is fantastic and imaginative, the environments colourful and diverse and the art style is charming. The music and sound effects are of equally high quality and are best experienced using a set of headphones - the built-in speakers simply do not give them justice.
Top-notch dungeon crawling extravaganza - if you like turn-based JRPG's, this is definitely a game you should have in your collection. The only flaw I can think of is that it's practically impossible to avoid Random Encounters, even if the monsters on a given floor are no longer a match for you - such encounters can be quite tedious.
Including two game modes practically doubles the replayability and the roboust character customization options allow players to play the game over and over again with different characters each and every time. Often times the player can backtrack and enter new areas on previous floors using keys found deeper in the dungeon, extending the exploration factor. The only thing that works against the lasting appeal of the game is the fact that the loot that can be found in the dungeons is somewhat underwhelming in comparison to what can be crafted with monster drops in the shop.
out of 10
(not an average)
The game is a clear winner and well-worth the money. I've had plenty of fun playing it and I can't wait to see what else the game has in-store for me. It's one of the better titles available on the 3DS and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.