Disclaimer: This review was completed using a review code from the game’s PR agency. This is explained for the purposes of transparency, and will not affect my judgement of the game.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus is a game that immediately captured my interest. Everything screamed interesting; the dungeon exploration, the guild system, the dungeon mapping. Luckily I managed to get myself a review code, and played the game on my travels to work using my 3DS. Having spent many hours playing the game, and exploring it’s dungeons, I have to say I enjoyed what the game was throwing down.
The game’s plot is rather simple. The player controls a guild of adventurers that are following the decree of Princess Persephone of Lemuria. The explorers then set out to find the Yggdrasil Tree, and its treasure. And to be honest, that’s pretty much it. Truth be told I was happy that the game had a super simple plot to it. I was playing the game on my way to work, stopping and starting, and liked the fact that I could just sit down and enjoy the exploration of the dungeons. It was an easy game to jump in and out of, and I think that it fits the 3DS system perfectly.
When you begin the game, you must first build your guild. Each guild can hold up to 60 characters, each of which must first be created. If that seems tedious, it’s because it probably would be. I found myself creating 7 characters, and honestly didn’t feel that I needed to create any more. When creating characters there are 19 classes of adventurer for you to choose from, each with their own purpose and use in the guild. I created my first 5 adventurers as a mix of offensive and defensive; a Medic, a Protector (frontline defence for fellow adventurers), a Ronin (frontline offence), a Gunner (backline offence, can heal and deal damage) and a Pugilist (frontline special offence for binding enemy limbs).
I did create some other members, however I didn’t find myself using them. This was my core team and I stuck to it. The one thing I would change is that I would maybe use a Farmer, just for dungeon exploration. The Farmer class has certain skills that do things such as highlight key areas (such as stairs) and lower the chance of encountering enemies, both of which are extremely successfully when exploring the dungeon. Within the guild menu in the game, it is possible to set up multiple squads. It would be possible for the player to create one squad for boss fighting, and another squad for dungeon exploration. You would only need to change one member, to include the Farmer, but it is something I would highly recommend with hindsight. I myself am at the point where I am reluctant to grind and get my Farmer up to a level that matches my heroes, and can play the game without the Farmer. However it would help.
Once your guild is ready, and you have five members, you can go out and begin exploring the first dungeon. When you enter a dungeon for the first time, the lower screen of the 3DS will show a blank grid. As you take a step, one block will become green on the lower screen showing where you have walked. The player is rewarded for submitting a complete map of each dungeon to the Guild HQ, and so you find yourself exploring every avenue. More than that, you want to explore every avenue. I’m not sure why, but there is something about watching the map update as you walk that makes you want to explore every avenue.
The dungeons feature a first person view, in which the player press a direction on the D-Pad to progress one step in that direction. You may move backwards or forwards, and use left and right to turn the camera (and essentially the character). After a while you get used to how far away certain things are, and you may choose to draw those extra four steps using the stylus rather than walking there. I also found myself colour coding certain parts of my maps. Green meant paths I could walk down, blue was water (naturally), red meant a dead end and yellow meant treasure. I also added stairs to symbolise where I changed floors, or exited the dungeon, and dragged annotations onto the map to leave a message saying what the treasure was. Was it a chest with 300 yen? Was it water that will recover some HP? These are all helpful things to know, because of the way in which Etrian Odyssey Nexus calculates the probability of encountering an enemy in the dungeon.
You see every step you take fills up a small meter in the bottom corner of the screen. When the meter fills up it becomes red, and then it is just a number of steps until you encounter an enemy. It may be a solo enemy, it may be 5 moderately difficult enemies. I’ve had it before where I encountered 5 enemies, and one of them was a golden breed. Golden enemies are rare, but are much stronger than their brothers and sisters. They have the ability to become stronger mid fight, but their increased difficulty also means mean more XP which is always good!
Then there are the FOEs which you encounter in the dungeons. These FOEs wait in the dungeon, until you come close enough. They will then follow you, and should they reach you attack you. FOEs are extremely powerful, and the game even advises to avoid them at all costs. It is possible to run away from them, by turning enough corners and getting out of their line of sight. You can also use the doors to avoid them.
FOEs do have their uses though. The Cutter, which resembles a giant highly aggressive sloth for some reason, can be used to clear paths that have been cut off by collapsed trees, allowing you to further explore the dungeon. You have to be careful though, if you encounter an enemy while being chased by a FOE the FOE doesn’t stop. Every turn in the battle the FOE takes one step closer until eventually they are there with you! Times like these fleeing is a very viable tactic. Should you choose to fight Etrian Odyssey Nexus does have a nice combat system to it.
Each character has the usual statistics. Attack damage, defence for how much damage they take, HP for health and TP for points when using the skills. Each character has a standard attack, but they also have skills. These skills are purchased using Skill Points that are granted when each player levels up. You get to choose the skills you want to buy, allowing you to customise each character’s style to what you need. It’s nice to have that level of customisation, as it allows you to give each character in the party a role. Every time you use a skill, you lose some TP.
TP is hard to gain back though, so don’t go overboard with those skills. There is also the auto battle function, which comes in handy quite a bit. By simply hitting one button, you can enter this mode and have the battle take place for you. This may sound pointless, but if you only have one enemy and you only wish to use your regular attacks (which can happen when heading to a boss in a dungeon), it sure as hell beats repeatedly hitting A.
In terms of combat there is one last feature to discuss, and that is the Force system. Each character has the ability to enter Force Boost. This gives the character some form of boost for 3 turns, be it a defence boost or something to help beat the enemy. This can be activated once the meter reaches 100%, and once used it’s simply a matter of waiting for the metre to recharge. However, there is a next level to this; Force Break. These are fight changing abilities, and as such can only be used once per rest. Once you use it, you have to sleep, which allows you one more use of the Force Break. There is a reason these abilities are limited to one use; they are powerful as all hell. The Medic class starts with a Force Break that revives fallen allies to full health, as well as healing all other members and removing ailments. The Ronin class features a devastating attack which I used to one shot a party of five enemies. If these moves were readily available the game would be too easy.
As much as I love Etrian Odyssey Nexus, I do have some issues with it. Let’s start with the small issue; this is a good game, but a hard one. Should you die, you get 1 restart to just before the battle which just killed you. You use that restart then that’s it, game over and back to your last save point. It is worth noting this is only true for the mode I was playing on, which was the game’s normal setting. As you move difficulties this will get harder or easier depending.
When you die it is possible to save your map data, something that is handy. Hoever it can become very frustrating as I found myself dying and re-exploring a dungeon multiple times. The game does offer a save system, that allows you to save mid-dungeon and turn the 3DS off and continue from where you was later on. However, the core of the game relies on sending the player back to the previous save on game over. There is a bit of a learning curve with this game, so expect to die a fair amount in the early days of playing.
My next small issue revolves around the resting mechanic in the game. To recover your TP, as well as cure your guild members of any ailments and recover their HP, you must stay at the town’s inn. Now this costs money. It is possible to save your game without resting, but then you won’t recover any health. You must spend your money to recover yourself, which left me in a tight situation one time. I had no money to rest, and had nothing to sell to get money. I had to risk venturing into a dungeon to find stuff to sell just so that I could recover my team. Unfortunately loot is down to chance and not a guaranteed thing. It may be possible that when playing the game you don’t find yourself in this situation, however I found myself thinking that this shouldn’t be an option. I shouldn’t find myself unable to heal my team.
My only major issue with Etrian Odyssey Nexus is that, there doesn’t seem to be a speed mechanic. What I mean by this is that, there is no way to tell which character/enemy will take their turn when. It seems to change randomly. Some rounds my Ronin would attack first, then a few rounds later the enemy would be first. It makes planning a fight very annoying. For instance, it is possible to have one team member use an item (say to heal a team-mate) on another team member. Yet if you don’t know when that team member is going to act, and when your others will act, how can you plan a turn? If someone needs healing, should they heal themselves? Or is it better to have another character heal them because that character acts before the one that needs healing? Who knows?! Just hope and pray that the character gets healed because otherwise this fight just got a whole lot harder.
Yet overall, I really enjoyed Etrian Odyssey Nexus. It was difficult sure, and annoying at times. But exploring those dungeons, with the calming ambient music in the background while you do so, makes up for everything. And when you finally progress and beat that boss, or clear that level of the dungeon, it’s a feeling of success that fills you. There are a few small things about this game that annoy me sure, but it is a brilliant game and one that will make those journeys to work (or those lazy Sundays) so much more fun. A must play for dungeon crawler fans, or those looking to get into the genre.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus is a game with fun dungeon mechanics and a combat system that makes the player think about what the’re doing. The save system is a little stressful, however this doesn’t away from the game’s overall experience. Still an enjoyable game, and highly recommended for those who love dungeon crawlers or who are looking to get into them.