Review: Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold
Most recently, the game I've been sinking time into is Etrian Odyssey Untold 2, by Atlus.
The basic idea is simple - there's a large labyrinth, and a ton of adventurers who want to explore it. You control a guild of these explorers as you map out each floor, fighting the monsters inside on your way to the mythical floating castle. Story mode adds additional story, giving you a set cast to use with a more specific mission: Descend into the ruins of Ginnungagap to complete a ritual.
Though the game has a 2 in its title, it's actually the sixth Etrian Odyssey game - there are the original I-IV, and the Untold games are remakes of I and II that add a story mode, many mapping improvements, and some gameplay cleanup. There are also other related games, like Etrian Mystery Dungeon (uses the Mystery Dungeon gameplay, but Etrian Odyssey setting and classes) and Persona Q (Uses the Etrian Odyssey engine, but Persona 3 and 4 characters).
During exploration, you move along the labyrinth in a 2d grid, looking out for shortcuts, gathering points, and treasure. All is not easy, though: as you walk around your chance of encountering monsters increases. Battles involve two sides, in two rows each - the front row is more susceptible to damage, but can also deal more melee damage. Different classes are more useful in one row or the other.
Not only are there random battles, but there are also beings called FOEs, which have a variety of fun nicknames ("Freakishly Overpowered Enemies", "F's over everyone"). These creatures are vicious, and large enough that they're visible on the map when exploring. When you first encounter one, you will almost certainly get wiped out. Each of the labyrinth's 35, including the postgame stratum and Ginnungagap floors has its own FOEs, and a big portion of navigating each floor is studying the FOEs' behavior. For instance, 1F's Ragelopes will walk in circles nonstop (unless you run into them), while 16F's bird FOEs are territorial and protect their nests, so you can clear an area of them by luring them toward another nest that's out of the way. This adds a fun challenge, carefully plotting your moves to allow you to advance, avoiding or guiding the FOEs.
Since I've been playing story mode, I've basically kept my characters at their original classes, but after I complete story mode I plan on using New Game+ to enter Classic Mode - this will allow me to create my own characters, pick their classes, and have a larger guild to better handle a variety of situations. I look forward to trying to mix and match some of the classes:
- Landsknecht is a typical "all-around" character, using swords and axes together with elemental abilities (using
Voltskills) to deal a variety of damage.
- Fafnir is an interesting class that primarily uses their Force gauge to jump in and out of a high-power Force Boost form. Though all classes have some kind of Force Boost, the Fafnir gains a huge increase in power and health when using his. Fafnir is a story-mode party's largest source of damage, but is only available on the main character. (When using New Game+ you can carry your party members over, so you can keep your Fafnir)
- Sovereign is an excellent support class, adept at manipulating buffs and debuffs - their skill tree is mainly composed of "orders", which give your teammates additional buffs as well as heal, and their
Link Orderis a fantastic combo with a Landsknecht or Fafnir's elemental damage, repeating an elemental strike on an enemy.
- Beast is explorer's best friend, protecting their guild members by taking hits for them - a sort of paladin.
- Hexers and War Magi are another good combo - Hexers inflict ailiments, while a War Magus can do all sorts of things to a creature with ailiments.
- Highlander sacrifices life (both their own and their party members') to deal heavy damage.
Overall, it's a fantastic game that I've easily put a hundred hours into. It manages to stay fun, giving many quests and other things to do (like the recipie system, hunting down items from various locations and enemies) and has quite a few challenging bosses. I'd give it a solid 9.7, for its excellent mapping system, addictive gameplay, and rich world.