Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, a thoroughly polished revival of the first Etrian Odyssey title from 2007, continues to solidify the series as one of Atlus’s latter-day best, albeit with reduced fanfare when weighed against Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, released earlier this year. As with every entry in the Etrian Odyssey canon, the game isn’t for those seeking a go-from-point-A-to-B, run-of-the-mill dungeon-crawler. A challenging JRPG experience from multiple angles, Etrian Odyssey Untold requires players to constantly pay attention to the tiniest of developmental aspects in terms of their attack team and overworld travel in order to prevail. The difficulty spikes arrive fast and furious; perfecting tactics in battle and being as diligent a makeshift cartographer as humanly possible are key to maintaining any type of long-term success. Progressively mapping paths through the game’s tricky dungeons on the 3DS’s bottom screen might be a struggle for some, yet the game does a solid job of educating the uninformed on how to manage the extensive skill set necessary to prevent shattering Nintendo’s latest handheld in frustration.
While Etrian Odyssey Untold is indeed, in the simplest of terms, a high-res update of the original Etrian Odyssey, the game boasts a number of distinguishing features that render it closer to a full-fledged sequel than a by-the-book remake. Story Mode is perhaps the most noticeable change, an ultimately less strenuous option of play that resembles traditional RPG structuring rather than the arduous strategy-intensive encounters the series is known for. Regrettably, the narrative presented here is moderately undernourished, paling in comparison to recent Etrian Odyssey installments. While the majority of the characters are interesting, the universe they inhabit is a bit bland, coming off like an amalgamation of countless JRPG backdrops and genre stereotypes we’ve seen time and time again. Story Mode also limits the amount of classes that can be selected, instead applying a cast of predetermined combatants of only the Highlander, Medic, Alchemist, Protector, and Gunner occupations. The newly added cutscenes and voice acting, however, are a delight, and do well to impart a significant amount of energy into an otherwise tepid tale, saving Story Mode from becoming somewhat of a snafu. Thankfully, Classic Mode is still intact, offering Etrian Odyssey veterans the opportunity to take on the unsubtle intricacies of the adventure as they were initially intended.
No matter how many RPGs you’ve dominated, the Etrian Odyssey series always finds ways to make even seasoned players feel like novices, and Etrian Odyssey Untold is no exception. Upon entering an unexplored dungeon, you’re presented with a blank map, encouraged to brave the darkness with little more than your wits about you, marking down carved pathways as advancements are made. It’s this peculiar dynamic that keeps the journey exciting throughout, layering on fresh obstacles as previously unseen enemies are introduced. The specific methods to conquering each area are up for interpretation, but emerging from any given stretch as the ultimate victor follows a basic eight-part configuration: investigate, grind, collect loot, make return trips to the hub, sell treasures, accept quests, backtrack to the field, and press onward. Along the line are Etrian Odyssey’s signature FOE (Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens) confrontations, extremely demanding throwdowns with baddies who walk prearranged beats, ready to pounce on anyone who happens to venture onto their route. These exhausting contests are typically the highlight of any given Etrian Odyssey chapter, emphasizing the importance of pre-planning and obligating players to sustain a meticulous understanding of their squad’s various strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the most precious items are obtained from these skirmishes, and the reward is invariably worth the risk.
The installation of Grimoire Stones, rarefied prizes that can absorb the techniques of adversaries and tender abilities from assorted character classes, raising attribute effectiveness to boot, is another differentiating trait of Etrian Odyssey Untold. These valuables keep the perpetual task of stat-boosting interesting with a partially randomized payout system that produces bonuses at unspecific intervals. As with every facet of the game, dealing with Grimoire Stones in the appropriate manner necessitates a balance of moxie and good fortune. The game never grants free passes, forcing players to preserve their patience for hours on end, and to keep in mind that with one minor lapse in concentration, their laborious efforts to triumph can and will wane with quickness.