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Etrian Odyssey General Discussion

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?

The series is apparently dormant, and there's been some talk elsewhere, but it still feels wrong for the new board not to have a dedicated thread for Etrian Odyssey. So here we are. Talk about anything and everything pertaining to Talking Time's favourite dungeon crawler!

For my part, I recently started Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold (classic mode, natch). I'm not very far in yet (only just made it to the second stratum), but I'm having a good time.

After my very rigid party composition in IV and V— where each character did one specific thing and little more— I thought I'd try making a party that was a bit more flexible with their roles, and without a dedicated healer type. After a cursory look at the classes I landed on a party of Landskneckt, Beast, War Magus, Gunner and Alchemist. Unbeknownst to me was that a) Beast and Gunner both have a healing move and b) Gunners also have elemental attacks, so there's some redundancy going on here, and I'll probably I'll rework things at some point. But right now, this party is a lot of fun and very effective. War Magus is proving to be an interesting twist on the healer archetype, doing their best work not in getting people up to full but in preventing them from being in danger to begin with; combine that with Beast, who can very effectively redirect and soak damage, and my whole outlook has changed from reacting to damage taken to anticipating and mitigating the damage taken in the first place. It feels good, and it's effective: my party is almost never in any serious danger.

Although that may be less due to my genius and more to the generous difficulty of this game. It's been quite easy going so far; not even the stratum boss was a threat (I took it down on my second try… and first was only a bust because I didn't take out the FOEs in the chamber beforehand). I know I'm still early, but I remember the first stratums in both IV and V having teeth, and their bosses tripping me up for some time. Much as it's nice to not get roadblocked, I do miss that friction a little. Hopefully it'll ramp up a bit from here on.
 
I have to give you a thanks. This thread had me check for Etrian Odyssey Nexus in any local game shoppeses... there is one and I'll be getting it soon.

On another topic I really hope the biggest reason there hasn't been anything mentioned about EO from Atlus is because... well they're Altus, they are always slow to the trigger. Better reason than "we don't know how to implement the map drawing to the game without relying on touch screen", cuz by this point I'm willing (probably will regret that) to sacrifice the map drawing in order to have my go-to party creation simulator of choice again. Oh and of course Koshiro.
 
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Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
They could have the map roll out or fold back up whenever you pressed a button. If they made it handheld only, you could still draw on the map. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want EO on a TV anyway.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
I hate portable games, and only begrudgingly played EO on DS because I had no other option. EO on my TV would be great.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
They could have the map roll out or fold back up whenever you pressed a button. If they made it handheld only, you could still draw on the map. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want EO on a TV anyway.
Though it'd be no good for anybody with an incompatible phone, you could always have an app for the game that lets the player use their phone for the map drawing and controls in general. Or heck, just release a mobile installment* already. Etrian would be a really good fit for a fully touch-based UI.

* Yes, I realize that a mobile Etrian Odyssey would be wishing on a monkey's paw and that unless it's a port of a multiplat game there's basically no way that SegAtlus wouldn't turn it into a gacha where you draw Original the Character versions of poorly-dressed kindergartners from the slot machine. -_-
 

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
Etrian Odyssey is my favorite RPG series, and playing it on anything other than a DS would compromise the game terribly.

...but then, we got ten of those games, so I’m covered. And it’s either compromise the game or never make another one again, so bring on TV EO.

I just hope clone DS systems are a viable thing ten years from now.
 
I'd be okay with an EO game with auto-mapping. There are plenty of other virtues of the series that can be carried over.

I just hope that the resulting game is a little shorter. I've probably played 4 EO games and didn't finish a single one!
 
I love the parts of these games that are about choosing a composition of anime drawings. Have never gotten too far but played more than a dozen hours on... one of them.

I do not like map completion in any game, but there's no doubt it's better for people who do that it's a central feature here and thoughtfully designed. In games with automaps I feel like a very unwelcome part of my brain is being incentivized to butt up against every dead end I can find for no good reason. Here, the reason is: that is the game. Don't like it? Well, you can vicariously experience this series through people who do. (happy to!)
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)

I just finished Etrian Odyssey II for the first time. I have been with the series from practically the start, and picked up each game as they've come out--including the times when they never released in my region, or did so after great delays. The point is that barring a specific turnoff the games themselves can induce in me, they've always been a priority as something to follow and engage with. The protracted arc in playing the second game through only now was a result of just such an impression, because an attempt was made in earlier years. Then, I gave it up for reasons that haven't really shifted in the discerning, but their effect on my overall estimation and willingness to accept the game for what it is may have; now, I don't endure EOII--I may even like it. The game is the same it was, thirteen years ago, and happily, I'm not.

The stumbling blocks that can lead to a harsh rejection of the material are not particularly hidden. Whatever identity Etrian Odyssey had after its debut installment, and even more so in the years since, II falls awkwardly in the middle of, alienating possibly both perspectives through its odd idiosyncracies. The haphazard class balance of the first game is replicated here, not identically but through overcorrecting elevation and diminishment of the prior class dynamics; they aren't reinvented so much as remixed, and remain as starkly prejudiced as before, for the opposite kind of flavour of offense triumphing over the prior defensive hegemony--whatever the specifics, the act of play in a micro and macro sense is single-minded and repetitive in ways later games often don't have to worry about. Etrian prides itself on the kind of player expression only games of its character-building freedom can broach, but through inconsistently handled design that ideal can remains strictly theoretical--eventually, players must conform to using the favoured skills, team compositions and tactics unless they're ready to accept more hardship than is anticipated by the projected difficulty curve when playing outside of its expectations.

Criticizing an Etrian Odyssey for being hard seems counterintuitive to what appeals about the series to its general audience, and is only given meaning by what a shock to the systems II can be if the series is defined more so by its recent past than by its origins. It's a punitive game in the extreme, with none of the ameliorating niceties the series developed over the years in a gradual shifting of the design priorities, and in an anomalous streak, even compared to the famously rigid first game. Neither game innovated quest, exploratory or passive experience rewards, but II sees fit to take one of the few existing sources away in eliminating FOE experience as well, and while this can feel like a brutal difference when expressed in a vacuum, in actuality it's one of the rare sources toward an individual identity the game possesses. FOEs no longer present a mostly optionally avoidable threat and design element; they are far stronger on an average with their movement patterns denser and more intricately involved in routine exploration, so avoidance is made into an integral part of treating the labyrinth with caution instead of sheer exploitation of its denizens for resources at every turn. There is little incentive in antagonizing FOEs in this game, and so the act of dancing in their shadows helps craft the idea that for once, living and letting live is the path to undertake and should the going feel unreasonably harsh if unheeded, then the ordeals are of the player's own making.

Monotony, and mistakes made as a result of it, can be the greatest foe contended with in Etrian Odyssey II, again in a sense that feels applicable to every game in the series but is made a more pressing concern here than in any of the siblings because of the reality of what the game is and how it came to be. It's separated from the original by only a year, when others in the series invariably had a development schedule at least twice that duration, and the distinction shows in the end result. There is an air of superfluity about it that pervades nearly all facets of the production: the strictly additive instead of reinventive class selection; the design tics that profess a for-super-players-only kind of attitude about themselves; the genuinely broken game mechanics that simply had no time to be identified and properly addressed; the storytelling thematics that mirror the first game a little too closely; the even more pronounced abusable skills or little tricks that rise up in place of the ones stomped out since the prior game. The single biggest deterrent in investing of myself in this game was the first stratum itself, the Ancient Forest, which just felt like the Emerald Grove all over again, only a colder shade of green to distinguish itself by. Etrian Odyssey is a commitment, whether taken as individual games or the massive serial totality that they now comprise, and so the worst feeling they can leave one with is the sensation that the particularities of a given game in question are interchangeable to the others, and nowhere is that felt more keenly than with the second game.

It's also this sense of almost creative boredom that redeems the game, or lends itself the character that it so very much needs. Sometimes, I don't want to puzzle over party composition and fine-tune synergy so much that the act of actually playing the game feels like an afterthought or coda to the main event of fuzzing about with skill sims and character sheets--in II, the builds are so straightforward and limited that analysis paralysis cannot begin to take root. Similarly, maybe I don't want to be beholden to quest and event experience through all those long hours--as nice as being rewarded for one's efforts is, there can also be a side-effect of gamifying the innate joys of charting branching points and dead-ends, or interacting with the quests themselves that in the first two games are so often derided for being "useless" in function as their rewards aren't significant. When let go of the carrot dangling in front of one's vision, they can be instead approached or ignored for their innate interest and intrigue instead of how they might benefit the player by the end of the process. This is the hardest habit to unlearn--not necessarily in being able to let go of the instinct to do every quest offered, but in internalizing the choice to walk away as equally valid and acceptable by the media interacted with. The absence of hard numerical boons makes it a more identifiable alternative to realize if so desired, and it feels right for the kind of game this is, where the choice to disengage feels thematically sound to where the headspace of the rest of the game happens to be.

There is a sensibility of austerity to Etrian Odyssey II that is not present in the rest of the series, and it's landed upon through that odd mixture of old concepts and meager new offerings, and perhaps that's why the conservatism on the aesthetic end also ultimately benefits the game. Yuji Himukai as a character designer has excesses that are well known and endured, and it's difficult to find a safe median in his oeuvre--the highs are very high and the lows very low. It makes him an always unpredictable artist, just as ready to disappoint as delight, with each game providing plenty of examples of both extremes. II is significant as a collection of artwork and character designs in that it's likely the least sexually exploitative game in the series on that front through the concepts portrayed in it. High Lagaard is populated by a host of unremarkably middle-aged or elderly townspeople, and the new classes and characters are attired for the colder weather of the setting in ways that just speak to an uncommon functionality over flair, and as a result become all the more memorable for the contrast. That's the association that forms over time, in how the game's setting and climate reflect on the shaky identity of its patchwork self: it's harsh and often grueling in how much it takes and how little it gives back, but perhaps alluring for those same uncomplicated and unadorned principles that hold it down just as much as they root it to the stark, unforgiving earth below.

 
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