Back in 2013, Atlus released two Etrian Odyssey games in distinctly different flavors. Earlier in the year was the fourth entry in the series, while later in the year was a remake and reimagining of the first Etrian Odyssey game in the form of Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl. Unlike the build-your-own-party and story-light aspects the series was known for, Untold introduced a new story mode to the series, a predefined party of characters, and more emphasis on an overall narrative. There were mixed opinions on the attempt, especially from the hardcore base of the franchise, but it did well enough for Atlus to create a second title in the Untold series: Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight.
What most people will notice right away that played the original Untold is that EO2U plays a much better balance between the classic and story-centric approach. There's an initial story-heavy period at the beginning of the game, where you (playing as the Fafnir Knight, who can be named whatever the player wishes) and your friend Flavio (Survivalist) are tasked with escorting the Princess of Caledonia, Arianna, to the ritual site Ginnungagap.
Everything appears to be normal until you run into a giant enemy inside the ruins and meet up with fellow explorers Bertrand (Protector) and Chloe (War Magus). All of a sudden your character obtains a mysterious beastly power that manifests in your right arm that helps take out the enemy. Realizing that your new power and Arianna's mission are tied together, your party delves further into the nearby city of Lagaard's Yggdrasil Tree to gain more power to delve deeper into Ginnungagap.
It should also be noted that the interactions between the characters in EO2U feels much more natural than it did in EOU. EOU's characters had their own backstories, but Frederica's backstory felt forced and heavily overshadowed the rest of the cast. In EO2U, each character tends to have their own spotlight whether in the main story portions or the side events through investigating inside the stratums. The English voice acting also feels much more natural and fitting this time around, with only a few minor NPC voices that felt slightly off. It's a clear improvement over EOU's voice acting.
So initially there's a bit of world building, but generally the story mode follows a set pattern of exploring the current stratum until you beat the stratum's boss and obtain a new Fafnir power, which in turn unlocks the ability to delve further into Ginnungagap so Chloe can get closer to performing the ritual and the party finding out the true source of your newfound mysterious power. There's usually a midway point in the stratum exploration where you'll need to head back to take on a task from the city to fulfill to explore further, but for most players except the most hardcore this would be around the time you would need to return to the city to regroup regardless. This during my time playing the game for review I never felt like I was being restricted artificially by the game for progressing too much for its liking, something that occasionally happened when playing through the prior Etrian Odyssey Untold title.
This in part has to do with the fact that Atlus made things tougher than the prior Etrian Odyssey Untold game, but not in the way one might imagine. Generally, outside of a few select floors, EOU's FOEs --- Etrian Odyssey's infamous boss-like creatures that will tear a team to shreds the first time they encounter them on a given floor --- felt like they followed more simplistic patterns and the environments themselves were filled with generalized corridors and wide-open spaces. This is something EO2U fixes as the majority of the floors have inventive floor layouts, FOEs that require brawn to move around, or a mix of both. This is especially true in the Ginnungagap floors which bring some new techniques to them that I'd like to see future games in the series take inspiration from.
The developers also increased the difficulty in the strength of the end-of-floor bosses at the end of each stratum floor compared to EOU. Generally, in that game as long as you had the right skills learned by the new Highlander class, you could breeze through most of the fights. The new Fafnir class does have some overpowered attacks while in the Burst state (introduced in EOU), but said state only lasts three turns (unless you spend skill points to obtain skills which extend it slightly) and thus it doesn't feel overpowered like the Highlander tended to be. The boss AI feels much more brutal than EOU's did, as they can and will perform combos such as inflicting negative status and then dealing attacks that are made unavoidable by said statuses.
Series veterans who have played the original Etrian Odyssey 2 already know how to approach these bosses, but for newcomers to the series Atlus included a new feature to EO2U in the form of cooking at character Regina's restaurant. You'll start out with an initial set of recipes, with the catch that you need to forage the ingredients from the stratums and then select the correct ones based off the recipe's description. Some of them are quite obvious, but there was a few I ran into that either were a head scratcher or I needed to take down an FOE to obtain the right ingredients. It's worthwhile to try to create as many of these as you can, as generally one or more of the recipes would give me that edge I needed, whether increasing my HP enough to survive an otherwise mortal blow, or decreasing the chance of getting that deadly status effect during my fight with a stratum boss. Of course, outside of a few optional quests this entire mechanic isn't necessary to progress further, so series veterans can feel free to ignore this mechanic if they want keep things like they remembered back in the day.
One major point that EO2U rectifies over EOU is the mired Grimoire mechanic. The original Untold game tended to give out Grimoire Stones at random skill-wise and thus became generally useless for most players as it wasn't worth the time investing in getting the good ones. EO2U fixes this by making it more clear when a Grimoire chance will occur and what type of skill you will learn, whether it be a skill you're using that turn or an enemy skill, to name a few examples.
EO2U also introduces new trading and recycling systems for Grimoires. The former allows you to trade with random explores that pass by the town, or if you're lucky other EO2U players you've StreetPass'd with. The latter allows you to turn in unused Grimoires in exchange for a random Grimoire, with the rarity and value being equivalent to what you put into the exchange. I still personally prefer the sub-classing option found in Etrian Odyssey IV over the Grimoire system, but the changes in EO2U made me take another look at the option instead of ignoring it like I did back in EOU.
But for series veterans, you're likely already going to choose classic mode from the start and want to hear what differences are present from the original game and what differences there are compared to EOU's classic mode. The major new addition is that unlike EOU, the new Ginnungagap section is completely playable in its entirety in Classic mode. Additionally, unlike EOU you can now create up to eight extra save files on the SD card, so there's no need to overwrite your Story mode save just to try out Classic mode and vice-versa. Also a minor note is that one point is automatically added to newly unlocked first-level skill trees, which now allows players to test out skills without having to go through the skill point reset process if they didn't care for the skill.
Atlus also is releasing a variety of free DLC (some permanent and others free for a limited time) that Classic mode players will enjoy. If you preferred the classic portraits over the new ones in EO2U for the classes, there's a DLC that gives the ability to use the classic ones from the original Etrian Odyssey. The Highlander class returns but in classic portraits instead of using EOU's male hero, so if you wanted a female Highlander in your party, you're in luck.
That said, some of the other paid DLC ranges from useful to game breaking to a degree. Normally extremely rare encounters, three of the paid DLCs allow you to easily farm the super-rare Yggdrasil Buds for special ingredients that unlock new recipes inside Regina's restaurant. Two of them just increase your rare Grimoire and material gathering rates, but the other gives out gold in ever-increasing rates. By the third Stratum I was able to obtain around 20,000 Gold in one request, all three of which can be infinitely repeated. The rewards for this one in particular felt a bit too game breaking and broke away from the "always close to not having enough money" feeling the series is intended to invoke. It's paid DLC of course, but the scaling of the rewards feels way too unbalanced.
The other contentious DLC, which is temporarily free for about a week after the game's North American release, is the "Hidden Hot Springs!" DLC. This DLC opens up an otherwise hidden area in the third Stratum that has a hot spring hidden in it. The boss is a decent challenge and the music has a highly amusing musical modification to it I won't spoil in this review, but the rewards following the fight I had an issue with. There's a cut scene showing all of the characters in hot springs attire, but only the female characters get a switchable portrait option. The portrait designs feel like Atlus was catering to the male-specific fan service market instead of providing something for fans who want to see male portraits alongside the female portraits.
Like in Etrian Odyssey Untold, the music can be switched between the original retro music found in Etrian Odyssey 2 and the new style first featured in Etrian Odyssey IV. All of the themes felt like they fit in well, with the new Fafnir music playing during the knight's transformation period being one of my personal favorites. The enhanced 3D graphics that make that mode easier to look around in return again as well. Another feature the hardcore fans will enjoy is that saving/loading and suspending the game doesn't take the several seconds it did back in Etrian Odyssey Untold. And one other key note to mention is that the enhanced map marking tools found in Persona Q return here, including more map colors and icons that change their status based on your activity, such as denoting if you've foraged that spot for materials and if they're replenished.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold takes the criticisms of the original game to heart and delivers a game that does a much better job of catering to both the new and old wings of the series. It keeps the things newcomers liked like the instant floor jumping after successfully marking the map and adds new features like cooking, but makes the player works in unlocking them instead of handing them out. For veterans, maligned mechanics such as the Grimoire system are reworked and the new features that make things easier can be completely ignored if one wishes. The Grimoire system still feels like a weaker version of sub-classing and some players might find issue with some of the DLC, but Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold is a worthy sequel to both Etrian Odyssey 2 and Etrian Odyssey Untold.
|The developers fixed a lot of the criticisms from the original Etrian Odyssey Untold.|
|None of the new newcomer-friendly aspects are required, so veterans can make the game as difficulty as they wish.|
|Outside of a few voice overs, the English voice acting is excellent.|
|The randomization when attacking enemy groups can be unnecessarily unfair at times.|
|The Grimoire system is better implemented this time, but it still doesn't match EOIV's sub-classing mechanic.|
|The hot springs DLC might feel ill implemented to some players.|