September 23, 2013
For those unfamiliar with the series, Etrian Odyssey allows players to build their own party of five from a variety of classes. This includes your standard healers, mages, swordsman, etc, each of which can pick from a variety of skills as they level up via a branching skill system.
Unlike Etrian Odyssey IV, Untold forgoes the dual-classing system for grimoire stones which hold the essences of alternate skills and weapons that allow players to dual-class their party members. This stops them from being locked into a particular skill path and makes for easier customization, although players are limited to what skills they get from the stones they collect. One minor issue with this system, however, is that unless you spend money for specific items to better your odds, the skills and weapons available from the grimoire stones are essentially random. And creating stones requires three stones (the last being destroyed in the process), so it’s hard to make the exact stone you want with the random assortment you’ll have available.
Players still are able to re-class their characters, although this does provide an issue for the game’s new story mode (more on this later). And of course, players can still revert back two levels in exchange for reverting their skill points allocations as was the option in Etrian Odyssey IV.
As mention, Untold’s big new addition is the story mode. This expands on the existing narrative from the original Etrian Odyssey with five playable characters being pre-set classes, each with their own unique backstory. Purists may initially balk at this change, even if it’s an alternate option to the classic mode they know and love from the original. However, in practice it’s quite well implemented. Atlus wisely used this new mode to enhance and expand on the original mode’s narrative and bring a little more flavor to the various sub-events that occur inside the dungeons.
One major change in the new story mode is a brand-new dungeon called Gladsheim (Norse mythology buffs and those who played the original Etrian Odyssey might notice some interesting connotations in this name) which the player goes back and forth between as they explore the main dungeon via the use of the geomagnetic poles. Without spoiling too much, the backstory in this area does a lot to expand on the narrative that was previously exclusive to the main dungeon much later in the game. It also helps to keep players new to the series and the genre interested as the original game was quite brutal and kept some players from getting to the good story material later in the game. The scenes when players interact with objects in the dungeons, such as reaching for a sword that’s stuck in the ground in a corner of the map, have also been expanded on as the characters will have banter with each other.
There are a few minor issues with how this was implemented, however. You do have the option to change classes entirely in the story mode like you do in the normal mode, but your stats stay the same. So in practice you can end up with an alchemist who performs poorly as an attacker-class because their strength is too low. There really isn’t much of a need to do this as the default classes mesh well with each other, but for those who want the new features and also want to experience class changing, it’s a disappointment.
Untold, like its predecessors, has players use the Nintendo 3DS’ touch screen and stylus to draw the map as they progress through the dungeons. How it differs with Untold is that the 3D effect introduced in Etrian Odyssey IV has been tweaked so it’s easier to tell exactly how far away objects are. For those who played the previous game, this should be a welcome change as it’s much easier now to avoid floor traps and those dreaded F.O.E.’s the series is notorious for.
Many of the features we detailed in our review of Etrian Odyssey IV also return in Untold. The new casual mode makes its return again, allowing players to ease their way into the game. However, it does prevent certain features from unlocking when it’s in use. Some of the music and graphics from the previous title is reused here, but once players get further into the game that lessens somewhat. One addition purists will like, however, is the ability to switch to the retro chiptune music from the original game in place of the new orchestral soundtrack.
Untold can sometimes feel a bit too much like Etrian Odyssey IV, but it does offer an experimental in how it delivers the game’s story. Untold also manages to improve on its source material without losing what made it great for its fans originally. If you’re a hardcore purist, you can still play through this game as you remember it with better graphics, but for newcomers and those normally turned off by dungeon RPGs it’s easily worth your attention. If Untold is a look into the future of the series, things are looking up, indeed.