Atlus’ venerable role-playing series finally comes to an end, with its last entry on the 3DS, but is it going out with a bang? Titanfall battle royale game Apex Legends available now – Respawn rule out Titanfall 3 Every time we review a 3DS game now we wonder whether it’s going to be the last.
The portable console is fast approaching its eighth birthday and the number of new releases already slowed to a standstill years ago.
What new games there are have tended to be remakes or remasters and while Etrian Odyssey Nexus is billed as the last entry on the 3DS it’s also not an entirely new game. But we still love it anyway.
We’ve enthused over the Etrian Odyssey franchise ever since we played the first one on the DS, way back in 2008.
Which is odd because turn-based dungeon crawlers with random battles and lots of level-grinding are not usually something we have much time for. But the charm and customisability of Etrian Odyssey is something that we’ve always found very compelling.
Also, we really like the fact that you have to draw your own maps on virtual graph paper.
As absurd as that sound, drawing maps on the bottom screen of the console is one of Etrian Odyssey’s main appeals: a key means of registering your progress within the game and something that adds greatly to the beguiling atmosphere of abstract pleasures.
But it’s also the reason that the franchise is coming to an end, at least in its current form, because the Switch doesn’t have a touchscreen.
Although the fact that the series will be forced to change doesn’t seem such a bad idea after this… Etrian Odyssey has a very old school mentality, with a very minimal of storytelling and characters that are created and customised entirely by you – so they have no personality or dialogue beyond what exists in your head.
You’re always cast as a band of adventurers, with a minimum of five in your party at once, exploring nearby dungeons that are filled with monsters and some kind of over-arching mystery.
The mystery this time is… why are all the dungeons copies of ones that already appeared in previous games? The in-universe explanation for this is not very convincing but the real-world one is that this is essentially a greatest hits compilation, with dungeons, enemies, and music culled from all the various previous entries.
This makes some of the dungeons essentially remasters, as their graphics have been upgraded and their music remixed from the DS originals.
So if you’ve played any of the previous games a lot of this is going to seem very familiar, even if each dungeon is at least subtly different from its original form.
Etrian Odyssey uses a first person perspective but a grid-based movement system, where you walk forward in discreet steps and can only turn 90 degrees at a time, similar to Atari ST classic Dungeon Master.
The turn-based combat is very similar to classic Dragon Quest battles, but while visually it doesn’t look like much there is a huge variety of options in terms of weapons, skills, magic, special moves, and buffs and debuffs.
If you don’t like the sound of drawing your own map you can actually let the game do the majority of it for you, just adding in doors and other key details yourself.
Mapping is more of a fun gimmick than a central part of the gameplay, which instead is focused on the customisable characters which can be from any of 19 different classes. Which sounds a lot until you realise only one of them is actually new (an all-rounder called the Hero class, who can create temporary doppelgangers of themselves).
Etrian Odyssey Nexus (3DS) – the series has never been a looker Raiding the other games for old maps certain provides a lot of content – the 62 included here are almost twice that of anything else in the franchise – but it does create some problems with difficulty spikes, with the leap from one map to the next sometimes requiring an excess of level-grinding.
Etrian Odyssey veterans will be able to cope but it’s a shame as with four difficultly levels the lowest setting offers an otherwise welcoming starting point for newcomers.
For some reason the subclass system is taken from Etrian Odyssey IV, although we’re fine with that because that was always our favourite. Although it does take rather too long before that option is unlocked for you.
The main reason number four is our favourite is because of its excellent meta game, where you got to explore a world map in an airship and discover new areas and dungeons – slowly opening up more and more locations and secrets as you progress.