Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Review: Save the Day One Map at a Time

by David Sanchez on September 23, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

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For a lot of players, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl may not be the best game in the series to come to North America in 2013. That’s due to the highly pleasant advancements introduced in Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, which was also localized this year. That said, Untold is a largely unique dungeon crawler/RPG that features great enhancements of its own. As a retelling of the first game, it’s undoubtedly an excellent jumping-on point for newcomers, as well as a pleasant change of pace for series veterans.

Past Etrian Odyssey games allowed you to build your very own guilds, constructing teams with class types of your choosing. The biggest change in Untold comes in the form of Story mode. This time around, you’ve got predetermined characters making up your crew. While that may seem like a drag to longtime players, it’s important to note that the characters you meet along the way and form bonds with are actually quite interesting and entertaining. You’ve got the loud-mouthed Arthur, who’s good with magic; the calm healer Simon; and the strong (and clearly Canadian) defender Raquna.

Early in the game you also come across a mysterious female character who’s been asleep for 1,000 years. She assumes the role of gunner and becomes a member of your team. Of course, she immediately takes the spotlight as one of the most integral parts of the plot in Untold, as she’s apparently suffering from amnesia and requires your aid to get her memories back. While the bulk of the story itself isn’t always memorable, the characters really add a magnificent layer of intrigue and mystery.

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While predetermined characters aren’t exactly a staple of Etrian Odyssey, there’s plenty of traditional gameplay to keep older fans pleased. You’re still jumping into vast dungeons, which must be explored in first-person perspective. Your map is a barren sheet of parchment, and it’s up to you to draw in the walls as you explore and discover new areas, landmarks, treasures, and helpful characters. Navigating and drawing maps is a major part of the Etrian Odyssey experience, and it’s quite possibly the selling point for these games.

If you don’t consider yourself the expert cartographer, you can enable the new auto-mapping feature. This fills in the map as you move around, adding walls as necessary so you know the basic layout of the area. For some, this may take away a bit of what makes Etrian Odyssey so different from other RPGs, but others will appreciate the new feature, as it really comes in handy. Of course, notable spots on the map, such as helpful soldiers who can heal you or springs that revitalize your characters, aren’t added automatically, so you’ll still need to some drawing.

Combat is handled in the form of random battles and FOE encounters. The former occur much like you’d expect: You’ll come across enemies, and if you can defeat them, you’ll earn rewards such as XP, cash, and crafting items. FOEs are a bit more complex and much more dangerous than your run-of-the-mill baddies. Unlike standard enemies, these are visible the moment you enter a new area. These strong beasts take steps in conjunction with your steps, but they move in specific patterns, so it’s possible to avoid them, and many times, it’s necessary to do so.

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Of course, you won’t always have to run. FOEs are most certainly strong, and they can definitely whoop your butt, but once you level your party up enough, you can take them out and get huge rewards. It’s important to know when to pick your battles, especially since FOEs can summon partners and generally dish out loads of damage with each strike. They’re also tough on defense, and they can dodge your attacks more often than any of the regular enemies.

A nice wrinkle was added to the combat with the newly introduced Grimoire stones. These can be collected following battles, and they act as buffs that drastically change how your characters perform on the battlefield. For example, you can add a defense or healing Grimoire stone to a character who’s otherwise weak or not skilled with health-based actions, or give strong melee attacks to your magic users. You can also combine Grimoire stones to create stronger buffs and really beef up your party of heroes.

Untold isn’t an easy game, even on the Normal difficulty setting. Battles will test and challenge you, and you’re bound to fail at least a few times. If you don’t mind a bit of grinding, you’ll be able to bear with that aspect of this adventure. Folks who have absolutely no patience for grindy experiences, on the other hand, will likely have a problem with this. That said, should you select the Picnic difficulty, you can enjoy a fun romp that’s not too taxing.

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When you put together the new Story mode, auto-mapping system, and lower difficulty option, it’s clear that Untold is an ideal entry in the Etrian Odyssey franchise for newcomers to cut their teeth. It’s inviting and accessible, and you still get that delightful dungeon crawling experience the series is known for. Add to that the fun characters and battle gameplay, and this particular RPG is much more traditional than its predecessors while still feeling like an Etrian Odyssey game.

If you do have a hankering for the old school style, however, you’ll be glad to know that Untold includes a Classic mode. As expected, this component lets you build your party, just like in the old games, and it goes in a direction more closely rooted in the series’ foundations. Even then, the great new gameplay additions and stages remain intact in Classic mode, ensuring that you get the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately, this is where the bad news comes in: You’re stuck with a single save file in Undtold. That means that if you want to enjoy multiple play-throughs — whether you’re pursuing different difficulties or both Story and Classic modes — you’re going to have save over your previous adventures. That’s a total bummer, especially considering the fact that you can spend over 60 hours drawing maps, leveling your characters, and completing side quests.

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The look of Untold is pretty good, though it’s nothing spectacular. Character dialogue sequences feature anime stills, while a few great animated cutscenes pop up from time to time. The different dungeons themselves are serviceable, though the game’s maze-like structure means you see a lot of the same landscape for long stretches. Additionally, the 3D effect of the 3DS doesn’t really do much to enhance the visual style.

This time around we got voice acting in an Etrian Odyssey game, and a lot of it is really great. I just wish there was more of it, because it’s weird listening to characters say a couple of sentences, only to have to go back to reading dialogue boxes mere seconds later. In addition, there are some characters that didn’t need lines, like the shop owner and innkeeper, who both repeat the same things all the time and are generally stale. The music of Untold is also solid for the most part, with calm tunes and heavier beats playing when necessary.

If you’re a fan of Etrian Odyssey or have a genuine interest in the series, you can’t go wrong with Untold. The game is a lot of fun from start to finish, and it’s still different enough from most RPGs to earn your interest. It can get grindy, and sometimes it’s a bit too tough, but it’s still one heck of a ride. The new additions help make the whole thing feel much more fluid and welcoming, and there’s no denying that running around dungeons, fighting enemies, and drawing your very own maps really make for a wonderful fantasy quest.

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