Backlog Gaming: Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan

10:41 PM

Etrian Odyssey has generally been a "hardcore" franchise in that, in addition to it's difficulty, has a list of throwbacks to the old table top RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons. You make your own parties of all custom characters, you make your own map of each dungeon, and there's lots of little things within the dungeons that feel like stuff a dungeon master would throw at you. There aren't any checks to be made (you don't control stat growth), but it certainly maintains an old school vibe.

What really drew me into EOIV, was actually Sword Art Online's and Log Horizon's first seasons. Watching their combat and the raid situation really made me crave a party-centric RPG. Most of the games I play didn't scratch that itch - such as in the case of Bravely Default, characters had a relatively prepared role, and it was incredibly difficult to make them go against it. With 5 custom characters that I made and set up, I had the ability to form a party that would work specifically in ways I liked. In the beginning, I ran a rounded party, similar to what you might find in a small raiding team. I had a tank, a healer, a mage, and two attackers - one support and a main damage dealer. As the game went on, and that party seemed to run it's course is effectiveness, the tank was replaced by an archer who could inflict binding statuses. That party, while fun, burned through so much TP (tech points) per battle that it wasn't sustainable. Cue a whole new set of adventurers - a new party based, again, on a traditional raid team, replacing the main attacker with a class specializing in enormous amounts of damage. That team also proved to be inefficient, as the main attacker had an accuracy of maybe 75% or slightly less. My final team, the party that cleared the game, came from a mix of the two sets of characters. It's a purely offensive build, geared for sheer DPS (damage per second), involving two high DPS attackers, a main linking attacker (more on that later), a mage and a healer. The sheer amount party builds and composition that are possible is daunting, but at the same time, exciting. It means that your play style is likely possible, if you can find the classes and skills that match it.

Etrian Odyssey IV was a good length. Five lands, each with roughly 3-4 small dungeons and one main multi-floor dungeon. Some of these dungeons are puzzle oriented, such as the Windy Archives, where strong winds push you around the map like a Pokemon tile puzzle, or the Golden Lair, where you navigate a puzzle of freezing and melting pools of water to move forward. Quests you can pick up in town send you to all over the map - around the overworlds, and in every dungeon to hunt down items or monsters.

In the dungeons and on the overworld, powerful enemies known as FOEs prowl about, making them an obstacle to navigate around for lower level parties. Early in the game, these things are a real pain to get around, as they'll start following you once you catch their attention, and will give chase until you leave their roaming zone. Getting caught unprepared can ruin your day as defeat is an instant game over, unless you're playing casual, where defeat sends you back to town with 1 hp. On the topic of difficulty settings, I really enjoyed the two settings. Casual made things incredibly easy - to the point where I felt like I had made an invincible party, only to switch back to normal and have my day ruined by the same enemy I had just thrashed in the easier setting. The easier setting is nice when you're just grinding new parties up to level. Normal mode is the definitely the way to play the game.

Another feature I really liked was the map making. There's something satisfying about mapping out the dungeon, marking all the points of interest, doors, and shortcuts. Another great feature of the map is the ability to set up auto-pilot routes. Set down a specific marker, and when auto-pilot is on, you travel along those markers. For runs where I was constantly having to make run-backs against a boss, I would set up a route, activate auto-pilot and take over for battles. It's also really, really good for grinding, as you can just loop a route around a room, put the 3DS down and take over when a battle starts.

Story isn't something that this story emphasizes. You've got the main storyline, which is spread across a long series of quests, but outside of those, lore isn't really explored. You get a little bit here and there, but by and large, you'll be learning about the world through the mainline story.

Classes have a long list of skills, often with 2-3 "streams" of skills. They can also be assigned subclasses, which allows them to take a limited amount of skills from that second class. With this in mind, and 10 classes, you possibilities are almost endless. You might want to have a Landschnekt subclass Runemaster (mage), as the runemaster learns skills that boost elemental damage, which benefits the link skills (elemental chasing attacks) of the landschnekt. In addition to individual characters, you'll want to build a team that also works well together. For example, you might want an Arcanist, a mage class that inflicts status ailments, working with Nightseekers, who do best when attacking enemies inflicted with ailments.

Let's use my parties as examples. I've come to really love watching damage fly, using Landschneckt's link skills to deal a constant stream of damage in a turn. My party uses a Landschnekt as a linker, a Nightseeker for damage and multiple hits, and a Dancer for chasing, attacking after members in her line, as well as blade dance, which allows her to attack multiple times. If everything goes well, my front line might hit 24 times in a turn, between chasing and links. The damage adds up really quick, but requires a few turns of set up. Unlike my earlier party set ups, this one uses less TP because of how many attacks can be pumped out per turn. I don't have to spam skills, as the skill spams itself. My rear line has my Medic and Runemaster. The medic doubles as a fourth attacker, because she's not always needing to heal, while the runemaster swings enemy resistances while also throwing down heavy elemental damage. The best parties work like well oiled machine, where everything fits and works in tandem to produce enemy slaying results.

Overall, I really enjoyed Etrian Odyssey IV. It's a nice challenge, as well as being an excellent game to flex your RPG strategist muscles.

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