It's been a couple years but Atlus' dungeon-crawling series is back with a new adventure. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is a solid entry in the decade-old franchise so recruit a party of capable explorers and let's head to the dungeon.
I must admit, it's been a while since I played an Etrian Odyssey game although I have fond memories of the recent Untold remakes and Legends of the Titan. Having recently enjoyed the phenomenal Mary Skelter: Nightmares, I was definitely ready for more dungeon crawling adventures when I started Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth.
Newcomers to the series and gamers who aren't willing to put in the effort to learn the inner-workings of its gameplay mechanics may initially be put off by the somewhat steep learning curve. That being said, once you get into the groove then Etrian Odyssey V begins to shine as a truly immersive and ultimately rewarding dungeon-crawling experience. It doesn't hold your hand and you have to use your wits in order to overcome its often high degree of difficulty but that makes it all the more rewarding. Factor in the intuitive yet multifaceted battle system and you're left with one satisfying journey.
The game loop basically involves heading out to the dungeon and recuperating at town. Within the dungeons, you'll be surprised by how much variety there is. As you explore, you have the option to draw the floors and walls yourself or have the game automatically do it for you (which I highly recommend toggling as soon as you boot it up). Either way, you'll want to drag markers to point out where harvest points, doors, stairs, and other points of interest are. The floor layouts themselves are surprisingly clever in their designs. You'll find yourself solving puzzles as often as you explore new areas which is an underutilized dynamic in the genre. Rotating statues to open the correct sequence of doors to collect a treasure and activating the odd shortcut is very rewarding. There are also super-tough foes lurking around that you'll have to avoid by luring them behind you or by watching their patterns.
As I previously mentioned, Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth features an intuitive battle system that has some cool features. Besides commanding each character to attack, unleash a skill, defend, or use an item, you can also perform a Union Skill that a character can use whenever their meter is full. Most of these must be used in tandem with at least one other party member and can be extremely useful whenever you're in a sticky situation. Learning how to take advantage of Union Skills effectively is necessary during tougher fights.
One of the most rewarding components of Etrian Odyssey V is its character growth mechanics. In town, you can heal, save, and talk to the locals for information between trips to the dungeon. You'll also unload your collected materials at the shop and upon doing so; the delightful Syrik will give you money as well as expand his selection of available goods to purchase. You can also upgrade weapons and recycle fully-upgraded ones that you no longer need. Going to Twilight Tavern allows you to take on optional quests and you'll also have main missions to complete via the Council Hall which both award you with plenty of experience and perhaps some extra goods.
Once you level up, you can spend points on a couple of grids per character. One pertains to their race (Earthlain, Celestrian, Therian, or Brouni) and the other, their class (Fencer, Dragoon, Pugilist, Harbinger, Warlock, Necromancer, Rover, Masurao, Shaman, or Botanist). Doing so unlocks and upgrades nodes that may contain field skills, battle skills, passive skills, and stat increases (or a combination of them). For example, you may unlock a new spell, the ability to counterattack, or learn how to fish (which unfortunately isn't a mini-game). When you combine this with the intricate shop system and array of quests, it makes every trip to the dungeon worth the effort.
Although Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is an undeniably fantastic experience, it does have a few downsides. The first of which is that some aspects are a bit too old-school. For example, there can be a person that you can talk to in a dungeon but they're completely invisible. The only hint that they're there is a notification that pops up when you step on their square telling you that you can talk. Talk to who? Oh, the invisible man. It's strange stuff. Also, if you forget to mark something important on the map then you can wander around aimlessly not knowing what to do. As a result, you have to meticulously mark every little thing that you come across.
Another aspect that I found took away from the fun factor is that the stratums (sections within the dungeon) go on for far too long. It took me just under ten hours to get past the first one. Keep in mind; I did all of the optional quests, too. Anyway, this isn't essentially a bad thing but the lack of visual variety within the environments makes them become stale almost immediately.
Finally, some menus can be rather unintuitive. For example, selling your goods at the shop can take a long time as you select each individual type of material. Also, interacting with the map via the touchscreen is often frustrating. Drawing an incorrect line or accidentally deleting something is stressful and figuring out how to use systems like auto-walk is a cumbersome endeavor indeed. Even little things like assigning upgrade points can be irritating. Considering each character has two screens, you'll find yourself tapping L and R to swap between them but that changes the character so then you have to go back again then tap left or right a few times.
When it comes to rewarding dungeon exploration, you can't do much better than Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth. Even with its frustrating aspects, what's here is a treat for gamers who love old-school dungeon-crawling adventures.
- + Highly rewarding dungeon exploration and satisfying battle system
- + Cleverly integrated puzzles
- + Addictive character growth
- - Some aspects are a bit too old-school
- - The stratums can go on for far too long
- - Menus can be rather unintuitive