PAL territories have struggled to maintain pace with other regions when it comes to the Etrian Odyssey series, with subsequent instalments already available in Japan and North America while Europe has only just received Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan. It’s understandable, as a turn-based first-person role-playing game (RPG) developed exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS isn’t exactly considered an easy sell in the modern marketplace, but it just takes one publisher with the confidence to take that leap of faith to prove the industry otherwise.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan tells the take if the Yggdrasil, a mysterious tree which has remained unexplored until this day. The Count of Tharsis has let his curiosity get the better of him, and has instated a reward for any adventurer who takes it upon themselves to visit the Yggdrasil and uncover the truth behind its many mysteries, including the rumours of a spirit that lives within. You are one such adventurer: an uninteresting face amongst the many travelling through Tharsis with the hope of finding fame and fortune. The difference is that you’ve got a better chance than most of finding success.
The videogame begins at the Explorers Guild, a location which will become a key hub of your adventure. It’s here that the player can create new characters and organise their party. All characters are created by your own hand – their class, appearance and name chosen directly – so it’s a good idea to create a number of different characters early on so that you may allow yourself the opportunity to experiment with formations while building experience levels. Leaving it til later can leave you with a weak link in your party.
The combat is structured similarly to most turn-based RPGs: the player chooses the move that each team mate will execute and these are then conducted in-turn. The traditional formula is delivered in a very straightforward manner without time limitations or agility bonuses, it’s simply an alternating series of turns between your team and the enemy’s. This gives the player the opportunity to experiment and plan their moves two or three turns ahead; if you know you’ll soon be needing healing but your mage has the most effective attack on the field you can attempt to find balance and walk that fine line between survival and aggression.
As enjoyable as the combat is however, it’s the exploration that is Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan’s trump card. Movement is turn based also, much like the mobile classic DOOM RPG, which affords the player the opportunity to pre-empt potential encounters. Furthermore, it allows the player to adequately examine the areas through which they travel for future reference. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan features a map system that automatically updates with each step that the player takes, but only with the most basic information. Blocked passages, points of interest and alternative routes must all be marked out by the player using an intuitive system of symbols via the touchscreen. You will revisit most areas more than once, and you’ll quickly become aware that taking the time to make a few notes now will be of great benefit later on.
The visual quality of Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan is well placed without ever truly pushing the Nintendo 3DS hardware. The character designs are of a high quality and the 3D models of enemies have and appealing solidity too them despite their cartoon-inspired violence. The environments follow this pattern, too. Gorgeously dense forests and ominous looking evil empires stand alongside the bright and colourful 2D representations of the videogame’s hub, Tharsis.
While gamers in Europe may be left behind by the Etrian Odyssey series, it’s a welcome change of pace to have Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan made available both at retail and via the Nintendo eShop. It doesn’t rewrite the RPG rulebook but there are a few keen ideas riding alongside the more traditional mechanics, making it more than worth a look. The Nintendo 3DS has received some fantastic titles this year, and while Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan can’t compete with the likes of Fire Emblem: Awakening or Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it’ll happily settle for a podium finish.