Etrian Odyssey was quite a unique game. Dungeon crawlers aren't unheard of, but Etrian Odyssey was defined by its combinations of class and characters and its innovative map-drawing system that allowed players to create and customize their maps. It was an unexpected hit and spawned three sequels. The original game has aged remarkably well, and while it lacks some of the polish of the later games in the franchise, it's still a very solid and playable game. Perhaps that is why Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl feels a little unnecessary. It's a remake of the original game, and it's not a bad remake, but with Etrian Odyssey IV still fresh on the market, it's hard to say that Untold manages to stand out.
If you played EO4 or any games in the franchise, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Untold. Very little has changed — actually, almost nothing has changed. Much of the polish and additional features, such as rare golden monsters or auto-walk paths, have been retained in Untold. The combat mechanics, map-drawing, and general game structure are also similar to previous games in the franchise. If EO4 felt like an upgrade, Untold is more of a side-step, for all the good and bad that implies.
The biggest change to Etrian Odyssey Untold is the addition of a Story mode, which is basically a heavily modified retelling of the original Etrian Odyssey game with a pre-defined cast of characters. You play as the unnamed Highlander who ventures into ruins at the request of the local guild hall. You encounter a mysterious gun-wielding girl named Frederica, who's frozen in cryogenic sleep. As expected, she has amnesia and doesn't know why she is there or why she was frozen. The Highlander, Frederica, and a small cast of characters set out to figure out whether she has anything to do with the mysterious earthquakes plaguing the land.
The Story mode is clearly designed to be an introduction to Etrian Odyssey's style of dungeon crawling. The pre-defined characters gives you a solid and by-the-numbers cast, and the structure and design of the story gradually introduces you to gameplay mechanics and concepts. Much of the story is designed to ease you into the game's basic concepts. Your characters comment and talk constantly while venturing through the dungeon, and most of their comments contain hints or tips. They'll point out when enemies are near, a hidden passage is close, or a dangerous event occurs. In short, they are guides as well as plot delivery vehicles. Personally, I find the story to be a step back from the original Etrian Odyssey, which was very much about showing before telling. Untold drives the plot points home and spoils one of the franchise's coolest twists in the first few minutes of the game.
The helping hands don't stop with the guided story. The gameplay mechanics have also been revamped to make the title easier to play. For example, there's the new Floor Jump feature. Once you've explored a good chunk of a floor in the dungeon, you gain the ability to instantly teleport to any set of stairs on that floor. This cuts down on a lot of the backtracking and makes it easy to escape from a dungeon or venture back to deep areas. It's a very good feature for beginners because it allows them to jump back into the action after leaving a dungeon. You'll also find that the game can't stop tossing free items at you. Your Guildkeeper showers you with bonus items and gear, and there are several new quests that seem to exist just to make sure you're loaded with items at all times. There are lots of little features that give novice players the little extra push they need to get deeper into the game.
Perhaps the single largest difference from EO4 is the addition of Grimoire Stones, which are equippable items that offer skills from other classes — or monsters. They're dropped semi-randomly in battle, and their contents are also semi-randomly determined by the characters you have and the enemies you're facing. They're a neat idea, but they fizzle. For a good chunk of the game, they're not very useful. The skills are entirely too random and finicky to be worthwhile, and you'll get a bunch of useless stones for every one or two worthwhile ones. You can fuse them to create slightly better stones, but even that is iffy. Like the other mechanics, they exist mostly to help novice players. Alas, this is one mechanic that just doesn't seem to work. The mechanics behind creating and evolving Grimoire Stones are so poorly explained that a newbie is not going to understand it while long-time Etrian Odyssey fans will be disappointed in the simplistic system.
The biggest problem with Untold is that it offers very little to long-time fans of the franchise. Most of the new features exist to help newcomers to the series. The constant barrage of helping hands, free items, and friendly reminders are great if you're a novice, but they're rather tedious if you've been playing Etrian Odyssey since the original title. Once you've grasped the mechanics, EO4 is a better game than Untold.
The Classic mode removes the story from the game and lets you use a wide cast of classes, but its offerings pale in comparison to the last game in the franchise. This isn't a bad game; it's just much weaker than its predecessor.
Untold does have some good features that I hope will appear in future games in the franchise. My favorite is the Auto-Wall feature for the map. Previous Etrian Odyssey games asked you to draw each line of the wall maps as you walked, but Untold allows you to automate that process, making dungeon exploration a much faster processes. There are a few minor mechanics that are smoothed out or made easier to understand, and I think that is good for newcomers and veterans alike. A theoretical Etrian Odyssey 5 that blended some of Untold's user-friendly sensibilities with Etrian Odyssey 4's level of quality would be the ideal game indeed.
Visually, Untold is not much of a step up, either. The graphics are fine and noticeably better than in the DS original, but they're still basic and by the book. Nice-looking enemy models, simple 2-D artwork for the characters, and some repetitive environments remain from EO4. The music is quite good and offers the choice between the original Nintendo DS music or remixed versions. EO4 had a better soundtrack, but Untold is still quite good.
The voice acting is a mixed bag. It isn't terrible, but it also isn't very good, and it's annoying to hear the same few cries over and over again. It quickly gets tiring to hear your characters shout, "A monster!" for the fifth time in a few minutes. It isn't precisely bad, but it doesn't help the game.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl has a limited audience. It exists for people who want to get into dungeon crawlers but find the mechanics confusing and the plots lacking. It isn't a bad game, but following so closely on the heels of Etrian Odyssey 4, it's hard to not see it as inferior. Most of the mechanical changes are good for newcomers — at the cost of making the game too easy for veterans. If you've been curious about the franchise and are looking for a newbie-friendly starter title, Untold is ideal. Anyone else would be better off picking up Etrian Odyssey 4 instead.
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