Published on September 26th, 2013 | by Christian


Etrian Odyssey Untold Demo – Again For The First Time

So I finally got around to finishing the eShop Demo for Atlus’s upcoming Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, hot on the heels of finishing my now leading contender for game of the year: Etrian Odyssey IV.  The contrast between these two titles was appreciable, and playing EOU left me with a lot to think about aside from the increasingly apparent fact that try as I might I cannot spell the word “millennium” without the aid of technology.  Based on the demo, this game differs from EOIV in more than a few ways, and although I thought some  better and some worse, I’m happy to report that I’m still looking forward to this game coming out next week more than any other title for the rest of the year.

Let us just run down the “back of the box” style differences first so we can get to the real meat and potatoes of what makes EOU different from the previous entry in the series.  For starters, this game  is a re-imagining of the first Etrian Odyssey which offers a new story mode that abandons the free-form party construction the series is known for.  Instead, EOU gives the player preset characters to complete the game’s story with.  As for the story, it’s immediately apparent that it is encroaching on the spotlight previously inhabited almost entirely by hardcore dungeon crawling, item crafting, and party/skill min-maxing, and in my opinion this is entirely for the better.  While previous games in the series had a very loose narrative, this one steps it up a notch by making the player characters integral to the main plot right away.  Even though the protagonist: the highlander, is still kind of a cipher, the rest of the party including the titular millennium girl Frederica have distinct personalities that lend EOU a lot more charm and character than previous entries.  Couple the new focus on narrative with fully voiced animated cut-scenes and partial VO during normal gameplay, and you’ve got a more modern feeling Etrian Odyssey experience that advances the story while still sticking close to its dungeon crawling cartographic roots.

EOU also has multiple difficulty options to cater to players who aren’t up to the extreme challenge the series is known for, which should hopefully broaden the appeal of this niche hardcore franchise.  While EO4 added a casual difficulty, this one introduces a third moderate difficulty that gives the player one chance to try again after losing a battle.  I played the demo on the hardest difficulty, and found that battling FOEs (sort of mini-bosses) on the 2nd floor of the labyrinth was extremely challenging and satisfying.  Some players might get frustrated with the difficulty, however, so for them the new difficulty is a great addition.

For me the real differences were in the skill trees and new grimoire stone system.  EOU’s skill trees are a bit more free-form and daunting than EOIV’s more staggered linear progression.  This makes distributing skill points feel a little primitive and unintuitive by comparison,  but it’s still just as exciting as ever to plop skill points down on new abilities and build towards desired party synergies.  EOU adds an additional layer of customization with the new grimoire stone system.  Grimoire stones can be acquired during combat, and allow characters to use abilities from outside their class; even monster abilities.  They can also be fused to make new stones that inherit some chosen skills, and can also grant the ability to equip weapons outside  of class restrictions, though unfortunately certain skills are still restricted to specific weapon types.  Overall, the grimoire system seems like a cool new feature  that further serves to scratch my obsessive compulsive min-maxing customization itch.  Collecting and synthesizing new stones seems likely to add a rich meta-game to the already deep EO experience.

While there are a lot of new features, EOU manages to feel the same as its predecessors in all the right ways.  I’m happy to report that the dungeon crawling still feels good.  So, if you’ve enjoyed mapping the labyrinth in previous entries, fear not, there are still maps to be made.  Drawing maps, leveling my party, and overcoming challenging boss battles are the most compelling features of Etrian Odyssey to me, and based on the demo all these things are still present in EOU.  I should also mention, that like EOIV, EOU is stunning to look at and has absolutely amazing music that ranks up there with some of my favorite JRPG music from the past 20 years.  Don’t just take my word for it, though, get on the eShop and download the demo. The game is out next Tuesday, so get going.  As with the previous EO, your progress in the demo will carry over to the main game, so there’s no reason not to get started exploring the labyrinth right now.

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