Etrian Odyssey

Review: Etrian Odyssey

Pal Review

"Etrian Odyssey…harkens back to a time when games were cruel and didn’t hold the gamers hand throughout."

On the outskirts of a tranquil village called Etria a crack appeared, leading downwards from the forest. News and rumours of the contents of this natural cavity travelled across the reaches of the land, beckoning to adventurers young and old to come and explore the labyrinth. Successful explorers could expect to garner riches, renown and reputation for their discoveries; however there is only one reason any guild of explorers exists for: to experience the true, death-defying spirit of adventure.

Aside from events here and there throughout the labyrinth, that’s pretty much it for the story. Etrian Odyssey is a game that comes up short in the added bells and whistles department, but harkens back to a time when games were cruel and didn’t hold the gamers hand throughout. If you feel games lack the challenge of old and you want to test your mettle in the sprawling Yggdrasil Labyrinth, then this could well be the game for you.

The labyrinth is where you will spend most of your time, so make sure you do!

At the beginning of the game you find yourself in Verda Plaza in the town of Etria. Here you can access the Inn for resting and saving, the Apothecary for reviving fallen party members and buying medicinal items, the shop for buying and selling goods, the pub and Radha Hall for accepting and reporting successful quests and missions, the forest entrance and most importantly for when you are beginning the game: the Guildhouse. In the Guildhouse you create and name your guild and then register your personnel, selecting from a range of classes and character portraits to depict them. Everything is left up to you, the game doesn’t restrict you in anyway, however, it should be evident that a varied party of adventurers is the wisest course of action. Venturing into the labyrinth with five medics might seem novel, but you will soon realise that you won’t get anywhere.

Initially there are seven classes available with an extra two being unlocked as you play through the game. Landsknechts are frontline warriors who use axes and swords, Survivalists are ranged bow and arrow attackers, Protectors are there to soak up damage and draw fire away from the rest of the party, Dark Hunters use whips to disable enemies attacks before making an easy kill, Medics are healers, Alchemists are mages and Bards are there to boost the parties stats during battle. You can have up to five members in your party at a time, divided into the frontline and backline. If you have your Landsknecht on the backline then he will do less damage than he would from the front, likewise if you have your medic on the frontline, he is more likely to be targeted and killed. It’s worth thinking about who goes where so as you can make best use of their abilities and attributes.

The aim of the game is to explore each floor of the dungeon, map it all out as you go and find what treasures and wonders lie at the bottom. It’s played in a first person view with the labyrinth being shown on the top screen and the map on the lower screen. You can set it up so that the game will map out each tile you walk on, but you will have to draw in walls, add icons for doors, treasures and item points and so on. If you feel particularly hardcore then the auto map option can be turned off. It may sound incredibly boring, but you will fall in love with Etrian Odyssey because the creation of your own map makes you feel like a true adventurer. When in battle the map remains on the bottom screen so you can continue with your cartography between turns, and believe me, you will because it’s addictive and compulsive. The completionist in you will strive to have everything mapped out as fully and efficiently as possible.

It is not unlikely that you will see the game over screen after your very first battle, because despite not being totally thrown in at the deep end, B1F is a lot more tricky than you will expect. Difficulty is constantly a threat in Etrian Odyssey and is what provides the thrill of the exploration. Is it worth pushing on to map out another section or is it time to get back to town to heal up and save your progress? This is the perilous path you will tread. If you get to know your limits then you won’t see the game over screen as much as someone who plays a bit more recklessly. You will feel a great sense of achievement when you are able to slaughter your way through previously difficult floors- then when you progress to the next stratum the basic baddies will kill you at ease, just as though you were starting out on B1F again. You will still press onwards, needing to discover what lies deeper in the dungeon.


"Its genuinely one of the most charming and most satisfying games available for the DS"

Etrian Odyssey lacks a quick save feature, so if you are playing on the go then you will be closing your DS and putting it on sleep mode a lot of the time. There are save points in the labyrinth between each stratum as well as the save point at the Inn. When you die you will lose everything from your last save except your map data. It’s cruel but Etrian Odyssey would lose a lot of its identity if it were easier.

The action takes place with a first-person view point.

Movement is carried out with the d-pad, the shoulder buttons flip you forwards and backwards through the floors on your map, Y brings up the menu, A selects and B cancels. It’s simple and doesn’t confuse. It would be nice if you could sidestep like in Orcs and Elves DS as movement feels a little rigid, and when you are equipping items, it would quicker if you could press L or R to go between characters. The controls work fine as is and the game is in no way broken, however a few tweaks here and there would have been appreciated.

As you walk around there is an indicator that shows how likely you are to encounter a random battle. When its red, you are almost sure to engage some baddies when you take your next step. Battles are carried out in the first person with the enemies represented as 2D sprites. The battle menu is straightforward to navigate. You can attack, defend, use skills or items, boost when your boost bar is full or select to escape. Everything is self-explanatory, leaving you to worry about how to actually win each encounter. As well as random battles, you will see “red clouds” as you walk around which will also appear on your map. These are the FOEs (Foedus Obrepit Errabundus) whom it is usually most wise to avoid. More often than not you can watch their movement and circumvent them and other times they will follow you, but as long as you don’t run to a dead end alley you will escape them. FOEs provide you with unique items that sell for a high price as well as a decent haul of experience. Another danger with them is that they continue to prowl when you are engaged in battle, meaning if you take too long, a nearby FOE will join in with any battle you are engaged in and gang up on you. Like with the average baddies, you will truly realize how well you are progressing once you are strong enough to beat FOEs at ease.

Random battles such as this populate the game.

After battling you receive your items and experience. Items can be sold to the shop in Etria, which will stock new items and equipment as you sell off more and more goods. Regarding leveling up, skills you gain and how your characters progress is not predetermined which allows you to further customize your party. It means that two characters of the same class could have completely different stats at any given level. If you feel you have messed up with how you want a guild member to develop you can either rest or retire them. Resting a character will drop them ten levels but will allow you to redistribute their skill points whereas retiring someone will have them leave your guild but will give a new character stat boosts- however they will need build up again from level one.

Yuzo Koshiro provides the music. It doesn’t intrude on the gameplay but rather, compliments the atmosphere of each location and battle. Verda Plaza and the shops in Etria have individual music and when in the labyrinth, there is a different composition to accompany and differentiate between the stratums. Sound effects are of the fairly minimalist “thwack” variety, but they get the job done and aren’t out of place when combined with the old school battle graphics and animations.

In closing, Etrian Odyssey is a game that will eat you alive if you aren’t paying attention- and it will still eat you alive if you are. It is a game of high difficulty and certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those that will like it, the difficulty will be one of the things that makes the game such a classic. You are on your own, adventuring and uncovering the mysteries of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth and being beat to a pulp for your efforts. It wouldn’t be half as fun or addictive if it were any easier. Its genuinely one of the most charming and most satisfying games available for the DS, and for the few that will pick it up, Etrian Odyssey will become one of their favourite games on the system.

N-Europe Final Verdict

If you are looking for a game with a challenge then look no further. Etrian Odyssey will kill you and keep you coming back for more.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals3
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



One of the best RPGs on DS
One of the longest games on the DS


Too old school for some
Practically no story
Only one save slot

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