Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Renan Fontes 16.10.2017

Review for Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS

There's one common problem that tends to plague most RPGs - difficulty. All around, difficulty seems hard to balance within the genre. Poorly paced challenges can lead to unexpectedly lengthy grinding periods, while not enough can result in many of the mechanics either going unused or never reaching their full potential. There's also the fact that many RPGs are story driven, and too much difficulty can severely limit the plot's potential. With less emphasis put on story, Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is naturally more gameplay focused. With combat, exploration, and dungeon crawling at the forefront, it's crucial for there to be enough challenge without it ever feeling unfair. Thanks to a variety of different ways to customise the party, it does just that.

What makes Etrian Odyssey V particularly endearing is the feeling that every action matters and requires self-imposed responsibility. Events demand careful reading in order to determine the best course of action, the map needs to be drawn in manually, and new items to purchase are only available after certain requisites are met. This has no interest in streamlining the genre, and it's better off for it. In most RPGs, the simple act of selling is just that: simple.

The result is money, and that money is used for new equipment. Here, selling also unlocks new equipment for purchase. Therefore, selling monster drops is rewarding since it has two main purposes. Along with that, purchasing new equipment occasionally involves trading in materials along with currency, preventing the traditional JRPG trope of getting to a new town and simply equipping the party with whatever the best gear available is. It's a simple change, but it's one that adds a degree of resource management.

Exploration and battles occur exclusively in first-person. Unfamiliarity with first-person dungeon crawling can be jarring at first, but it doesn't take long for immersion to kick in and for it to feel as natural as any other third-person RPG. Moving around a dungeon is simple, smooth, and fluid. Random encounters are relegated to a respectable amount of steps before triggering, making it easy to get lost in the atmosphere and take in the scenery. Furthermore, since every map needs to be drawn in individually, the layout of each area gets a fair deal of attention.

Screenshot for Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS

It's possible to skip drawing the map entirely and winging each floor, but doing so only serves to make things harder. Patience and attention to detail bring Arcania to life, and drawing the map creates a level of intimacy with the in-game world that simply isn't present in most RPGs. Occasionally, in the overworld, the party will stumble upon interactive events. These are more than just flavour text, though. Along with expanding the game world, these events reward experience and sometimes an item. They are almost like instant side-quests but, more importantly, they act as a brief respite from the dungeon crawling.

Unlike in most RPGs, where the bulk of battles can be easily spammed through, combat in Etrian Odyssey V is far more demanding. Losing focus and underestimating enemies can easily lead to party members falling. Refusing to use skills and relying entirely on attacks yields similar results, especially when combined with a misunderstanding of classes and the role lines play. In battle, the party is separated by a front row and a back row. Certain classes work better in certain rows, so it's important to have an understanding of each party member.

Tougher characters should be on the frontlines, while squishier characters who rely on ranged attacks should sit comfortably in the back. As there are five party members available at any given time, there can be a sense of information overload, initially. Thankfully, the early parts are forgiving enough for trial and error to be used to figure out a suitable party formation. Since the party is fully customisable, the onus is really on the player to build a competent team. With four races and ten classes to choose from, there's a great deal of variety in creating a party. Characters' voices and colour schemes can be edited for added individuality, but the bulk of customisation comes in each member's skill tree.

Screenshot for Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS

Everyone has access to a Race skill tree and a Base skill tree. Base skills are tied specifically to a character's class, while Race skills are tied to their race, with the first being the traditional in-battle skills that most RPGs utilise. Warlock characters can learn fire spells as a Base skill, for example. Race skills, on the other hand, are more complicated in nature and are equal parts beneficial to the overworld and in battle.

Overworld-based Race skills are passive and don't need to be activated, but the in-battle ones are utilised by filling up the Union gauge and activating the Race skills as a Union skill. Union ones are used in conjunction with another character and can do anything from attacking an enemy twice, to restoring the party's TP, or reviving a fallen party member. It's important to plan out a course of action through the tree. Race skills only require one point per skill for mastery, but Base ones have multiple tiers to upgrade.

Since there will be racial overlap within the party, no matter what, a beneficial strategy for the early stages of the adventure would be to have one character focus on Race skills for overworld purposes and the other focus on Base skills. Of course, part of the fun of Etrian Odyssey has always been discovering how the party works together and building them appropriately, thus experimenting as much as possible is encouraged. Shortly after the first mission is completed, characters unlock the ability to class change. Changing a class requires a character to lose five levels, but they are rewarded with extra stats and skill points to use in their new tree. Resting can also be used as a way of reallocating skill points, although at the expense of a few levels.

Screenshot for Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS

Just like the party, enemies also have access to a front and back row. As a result of this, battles are more than just swinging a sword at an enemy repeatedly. Determining the best order to get rid of the enemies is critical. Occasionally, it will even be impossible for certain characters to attack particular foes until others are killed and their rows shift around. While random encounters will remain challenging throughout the whole story, though, it is the boss fights where parties truly get tested.

These battles are endurance matches that require strategy bred from critical thinking, and actual resource management. Since the inventory is limited, it's crucial to come prepared for a boss fight with resources that can actually prove beneficial. Most RPGs tend to discourage the use of items due to sporadic difficulty that tends to lean towards the easy side of things, but there's no shame in exhausting the inventory here - in fact, in most cases, it's the difference between life and death.

Etrian Odyssey V is a commitment, and a demanding one at that. When it comes to RPGs, its story falls on the lighter side, but it has hours upon hours of gameplay to wade through. Filling in the map requires patience; battles demand an understanding of the mechanics; events and side-quests expect full attention to detail. This is an RPG that offers a legitimate challenge in an immersive world. It can seem overwhelming, at first, but that just makes mastering it all the more rewarding.

Screenshot for Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Immersive, challenging, and personable, Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth on Nintendo 3DS is an excellent RPG that balances both difficulty and customisation with a considerable amount of care. Total freedom over what classes and races are in the party gives a clear identity to each play-through, and even if two guilds end up with the exact same party, skill trees and class changing ensure each character has their own individuality. Patience and preparation is the key to surviving Yggdrasil. A legitimate demand for strategy and a lack of grinding ensures that the challenge never fades. Light on story, heavy on gameplay, and more than enough content to wade through, this is one of the finest RPGs available on the 3DS.

Developer

Atlus

Publisher

Deep Silver

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Oct 2017   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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