Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight Review

Atlus’s Etrian Odyssey series is a niche JRPG title based around a combination of dungeon crawling and map building that has seen a progressive increase in popularity across its various releases. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is the sixth game in the series but is for all intents and purposes a remake of the original Etrian Odyssey 2 with some additional content, extra options and some upgrades to make it more accessible to the masses.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Etrian Odyssey is a 3DS series that is part first-person dungeon crawler, part JRPG and part cartography simulator. The goal of the game is to explore a set of labyrinths/dungeons, completing a variety of tasks within them and mapping the various floors of the dungeons as you go. Of course the whole region is as hostile as they come, so you’ll have to complete your tasks whilst defending yourself against a range of unfriendly creatures making the dungeons their home.

From the beginning, players have a pair of options as to how to approach the game. The brand new ‘Story Mode’ is an attempt to appeal to a broader market and in this mode players are given some set characters and are tasked with working their way through the various dungeons according to inter-character dialogue and an overarching narrative. Alternatively, there is the more difficult and fan base friendly ‘Classic’ mode that reflects the traditional Etrian Odyssey experience in which the story is minimal and players start with blank characters that players are given the opportunity to mould into whatever classes suit their gameplay style.

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight places a large emphasis on combat and the fighting system turn-based JRPG combat reminiscent of SNES/PlayStation era titles. Whilst exploring dungeons, invisible enemies will frequently attack the party at random at which point they’ll be transitioned away to a combat area, in a manner which will feel familiar to most JRPG players. At this point it’s a matter of trading attacks/skills, applying items or buffs and keeping the characters alive whilst taking down the aggressors by whatever means at your disposal.

Whilst the random encounters will keep you on your toes, the most challenging of fights comes from the FOEs; powerful enemies that will be visible in the dungeon’s first person view and on the map – they’ll frequently try to intercept your party as you move through the area and players will be required to do a bit of strategic footwork to avoid fighting them (which you’ll want to do to begin with!) before the character levels and abilities have been developed enough to be up to the task.

As mentioned earlier, players control an adventuring party of up to five members comprised of a diverse group characters, each with their own skill sets, development trees and array of attacks, special abilities and support skills to experiment with. Although the game starts out relatively easy, it quickly escalates in difficulty, so spending time examining characters, special abilities and how to use them together is imperative to survive continued visits into the Labyrinth.

The other major emphasis on the game is on its exploration and mapmaking. The labyrinth itself is, well labyrinthine, and as players are locked into a first person view in which they can only move in any direction one tile at a time it is easy to get lost. This is remedied by having the lower screen of the 3DS being solely dedicated to drawing your own map of the dungeon where players can mark the dungeon wall outlines, locations of points of interest, entrances/exits and other object/areas that could require backtracking.

As players venture further and further into the dungeons, the game’s cartography feature becomes increasingly important. Despite the mapping element sounding like it would be tedious and uninteresting – it actually proves to be quite the opposite. A lot of satisfaction can be garnered from exploring each dungeon to the fullest, marking down all of those special locations, treasures and points of interest. The mapping tools are incredibly easy to use and have plenty of assists to make it as pain-free as possible.

When players aren’t exploring the dungeons, they’ll spend their time in town. The hub area features a guild hall where you can manage your party and characters, multiple areas from which to pick up side-quests, a shop to sell acquired items and re-gear with better weapons/equipment and a restaurant which you can assist by gathering ingredients from dungeons for specific recipes and paying a small fee in exchange for buffs when the recipes are completed. The abundance of optional content is a great addition for fans of the game and will add many, many hours to the already significant time investment that finishing the core game will require.

The game’s presentation is great for a 3DS title. Visually, it features some slick character artwork, nicely crafted dungeon environments, interesting enemy designs and sleek looking menus which all look impressive for the handheld. The audio side of things also fares well with some the various melodies working well with the in-game happenings whilst the occasional snippets of voice acting are quite well done, if underutilised.

2 Untold is a good game, but it does have a few flaws from its niche status that hold it back from mainstream appeal – firstly the gameplay feels repetitive with players continuously being sent back into the dungeon/s to perform the same few tasks over and over again. Progression through the various levels of the dungeon adds new challenges and enemies which negates this criticism somewhat, but the feeling of ‘been here, done that’ still lingers in the background. The difficulty can also be overly difficult for newcomers, but again this is also addressed by being adjustable at any time from the menus to cater for any difficulty level. My biggest gripe with the game however comes in the form of its story which drags in far too many of the all too familiar JRPG story tropes and does very little to attempt originality or break new ground.

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is an entertaining game despite its accessible but somewhat underwhelming story mode.  The game itself will take in the neighbourhood of 45-60 hours to complete and even longer if players take an interest in attempting the large amount of side-questing. Having not played an Etrian Odyssey game before, the unique combination of polished mapmaking and JRPG combat made for an addictive and enjoyable experience that was hard to put down. Recommended for all of you handheld JRPGers out there!

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