For over a decade, Atlus' Etrian Odyssey franchise has been delighting amateur cartographers so let's see how the latest game holds up.
Etrian Odyssey has always been an older than old-school first-person dungeon crawler series and Nexus is no exception. For folks like me who enjoy these grid-based adventures, this is great news as uncovering the elaborate multi-floored dungeons within the colourful world is incredibly rewarding to do. Even though it doesn't differentiate itself much from previous games, carefully mapping out the dungeons while facing off against goofy monsters, deciding your fate in various situations, and solving the odd puzzle is great fun.
Although it plays undeniably old-school, Etrian Odyssey Nexus thankfully looks fantastic with charming character artwork, lush environments, and imaginative enemies. The 3D implementation is top-notch, too, and seeing how they layer the menus and artwork is impressive. Plus, it makes navigating through the dungeons all the more immersive. When it comes to audio, Etrian Odyssey always has great music but I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack here. The welcoming orchestral pieces on the world map and within town are wonderful while the dungeons are complemented with suitable tunes that always fit their atmosphere. Meanwhile, the Japanese voice acting is expressive and helps to flesh out each personality that you'll meet along your journeys.
The battle system in Etrian Odyssey Nexus is rather simplistic but it also requires a great deal of strategy to take out particularly tricky foes and bosses. While Etrian Odyssey 5 featured a nifty Union Skills system where you can have your party cooperate to unleash a devastating attack, Nexus has a Force Skills system that isn't quite as satisfying but it does provide some welcome complexity. Basically, each character's Force Gauge builds as you fight and once it's full, you can enter Force Boost mode which applies certain affects as well as allows you to use a Force Break which is a powerful move that disables your Force Gauge until you return to town. Other than that, you'll basically just attack, defend, and use skills and items. In the end, it's simple stuff but it does the trick.
When it comes to character growth and customization, Etrian Odyssey Nexus takes a few steps forward and a few back. Etrian Odyssey 5 allowed you to create characters from 4 races as well as 10 classes which equates to 40 combinations. Meanwhile, Nexus simply has 19 classes to choose from. On the plus side, this simplifies things and it offers a great variety of party composition possibilities. However, it also makes party setup and growth feel a bit too basic. This is especially true when you consider the fact that all you do is level up, equip better gear, and assign Skill Points to upgrade and learn new passive and active abilities.
One thing that I found exceptionally frustrating in Etrian Odyssey Nexus is how certain events and situations ended up in my demise due to either bad luck or a simple mistake. These sorts of occasions are commonplace in the Etrian Odyssey series but for whatever reason, I struggled much more with them here. One example is when an undefeatable monster was chasing me around then I ran away only to end up at a dead end. After successfully escaping the resulting battle with one alive party member who had 2 HP remaining, I had no choice but to enter battle again as the monster was blocking my path. Also, one choice that I was presented with seemed safe yet after picking it, my whole party got poisoned. Finally, the boss battles can be brutal and require a ton of grinding before you can successfully defeat them. Needless to say, overcoming these obstacles feels great but dealing with them can be exceptionally annoying.
Finally, Etrian Odyssey Nexus still features certain mandatory old-school aspects that can be irritating to deal with. For starters, ensuring that you mark everything on your map as accurately as you can is crucial to navigating the dungeons and making a slight error can cause plenty of confusion down the road. Also, backtracking can be a huge pain. More than a few times, I accidentally began on the second floor of a dungeon then in order to return, I had to navigate through the first floor all over again. On the plus side, the menus are more intuitive in Nexus and selling gathered loot in order to earn cash and have more items become available is much easier.
Although I prefer Beyond the Myth by a slight margin, Etrian Odyssey Nexus offers a familiar and rewarding dungeon crawling adventure that retro RPG fans will surely appreciate. Now that the series is done on 3DS, here's hoping we can play the next one on Switch!
- + Satisfying dungeon exploration
- + Awesome artwork, well done 3D implementation, and great soundtrack
- + Loads of cool character classes
- - Character growth is a bit too basic
- - Easy mistakes and random events can have devastating consequences
- - Can be too old-school for its own good