I always wanted to be a Chaos Maker when I grew up. Instead, I got stuck with gaming journalist.
Etrian Odyssey, Atlus's newest dungeon crawler for the DS, is a throwback to the days when the words 'dungeon crawler' automatically brought up images of Wizardry. These were the days where plots were less than epic and focus was mainly on exploring dungeons in first person perspective. Don't expect something frantically paced like Doom or Quake though. It's not that type of first person game.
The story begins in Etria where a mysterious labyrinth is discovered. Naturally, this attracts all sorts of adventure seekers, including yourself, wanting to gain fame from tackling the labyrinth. Most of the game takes place in either the town in Etria, where you shop and pick up quests, or the labyrinth, where you'll be busy trying to avoid having your whole party die out.
The developers of Etrian Odyssey were merciful enough to provide an onscreen map on the touch screen to draw your own route as you explore the labyrinth. This comes in handy for marking down traps. There's also the inclusion of a colored orb which tells you when bad guys are near, but accept the fact that you're going to die often if you're not well prepared and you'll feel much better the first time you have to go into town to heal your party up.
The game boasts nine character classes to choose from: Ranger, Swordsman, Medic, Alchemist, Dark Hunter, Bard, Bushido, and Chaos Maker. Combat uses a turn based system, which gives you plenty of time to decide how to best attack an enemy. The game also encourages putting different classes in different rows during battle depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
We've come a long way since the 80s, at least I hope so, and what do we have to show for it? Good looking games, that's what. Etrian Odyssey's visuals are an interesting mix of sharp anime-like characters and monsters in the foreground, polygon-filled backgrounds in the labyrinth, and detailed seemingly hand-painted settings in towns. In contrast to the better graphics, the music in Etrian Odyssey is a homage to the games of yester-year when synth was king.
Etrian Odyssey was formerly known as Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Perhaps the publisher thought that 'labyrinth' was too intimidating and may scare off the casual player. Even with the name change, the game has a fairly high difficulty level, which might account for its cult-like following, especially in Japan.
The game certainly fills the void of portable first person dungeon crawling games, but it's not for everyone. The difficulty might be too high for someone new to the genre, but if you've been craving for some type of Wizardry game you can play on the go, Etrian Odyssey is definitely the game to pick up.