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July 2019

Etrian Odyssey Nexus

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2019


3DS Review - 'Etrian Odyssey Nexus'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 8, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Adventurers from far and wide, prepare for the odyssey of a lifetime in Etrian Odyssey Nexus, the final 3DS installment of the Etrian Odyssey series.

Buy Etrian Odyssey Nexus

Etrian Odyssey was a rare game that felt like it was made for a specific system. Originally debuting on the Nintendo DS, it used the two screens to allow players to explore dungeons while drawing their own maps on the touch-screen at the same time. It wasn't something that would work in the same way on any other system. More than a decade has passed, and we've reached the end of the series on the DS — or 3DS, in this case — Etrian Odyssey Nexus. While it's difficult to know what the future holds for the franchise, Nexus is an excellent celebration of the Etrian Odyssey series.

In Nexus, you play as a guild of adventurers who set out to explore a dangerous dungeon. In this case, the floating islands of Lemuria are home to a collection of mysterious dungeons. Your guild has to slowly explore the dungeons and discover the islands' secrets. There's not a lot of plot to it, but it's just an excuse to explore dungeons anyway, right?

Nexus has an absurdly large number of potential classes for your characters. There are a total of 19. Of those, 18 are returning from previous Etrian Odyssey games almost unchanged. It's sort of a who's-who of some of the most popular and beloved classes from the franchise's history. (Personally, I'm glad the Sovereign class has returned.) By and large, every class is viable, well designed, and can contribute to a team, which gives the game an overwhelming amount of variety. Honestly, the only downside I can think of is the inclusion of the Medic class, which has always been limited to healing. Considering the other healing-focused classes in Nexus are far more versatile, there's little reason to utilize a Medic.

The new class, Hero, is a solid addition that can fit into any team composition. It's a frontline class whose major ability is creating temporary afterimages that repeat the last skill that was used. With some planning, that can be incredibly effective at dishing out damage. The Hero class isn't required to finish the game, but it's designed to be a viable part of any party composition, and that means they're extremely good in all circumstances.

Nexus' dungeons are the same as they've been in other Etrian Odyssey titles. The huge, multi-level dungeons are filled with dangerous monsters, traps and treasures. The dungeons have to be manually mapped out by the player using the touch-screen, but there's a nice "auto map" feature that instantly fills in the walls and floors, so you only have to worry about items of interest rather than every single square.

The dungeon design is generally excellent. The game is designed so that each dungeon requires multiple trips to complete. You go in, venture as far as you can, and then escape. You'll find hidden paths, secret shortcuts, and powerful equipment to make return trips faster and smoother. It's genuinely appealing because you'll make noticeable progress in every trip.

The biggest barriers to progress are the dangerous bosses, which are represented on the map by glowing circles of doom. The bosses are extremely powerful and designed to be both an obstacle and a fight. Some bosses chase the player, others wait until you do something wrong, or some other trigger. It's often possible to beat a boss, but it's a significant expenditure of resources that usually ends your dungeon run. 

All of this probably sounds pretty familiar to fans of the franchise, and that's because Nexus isn't very new in any way. It's basically all of the games roughly packaged together and remixed.

Speaking of combat, Nexus retains the system's trademark combat system in perhaps its most straightforward form. It's a turn-based RPG combat system where players and enemies take turns attacking one another. It's a traditional dungeon-crawler, but buffs, conditional attacks, debuffs and status effects are all a huge part of the gameplay. The most interesting feature is the Force system. Each class has a distinct Force ability that it can power up by fighting. Once activated, the ability provides a temporary boost to power that's usually connected to the character's class (e.g, healers heal more, fighters deal more damage). You can also choose to use Force again in this mode to perform a Force Break, which is a powerful ability that prevents the character from using Force skills until they return to an inn and rest.

This doesn't mean combat is bad. A huge portion of the fun is building a butt-kicking team that synergizes. For example, you can create a team focused on debuffs, with one class doing more damage when attacking a debuffed foe, another constantly placing circles that refresh debuffs, and a third improving the hit rate of all bad status effects until your enemy is an immobile mess. Not every team is equally strong, but with so many different choices, you can find one that works for you. Some of the toughest bosses require specific skills (usually Binding skills) to defeat, but fortunately, the game is kind about leveling up characters. You even get an early item that grants XP to your benched characters.

You can't expect any massive changes or huge new features in Nexus. If you've played an Etrian Odyssey game, then you know what to expect. It's a very safe and familiar-feeling game, but that's almost universally in only the best ways. There are many references to previous titles in the series, but the sense of nostalgia doesn't dominate the experience, so newcomers can still enjoy it.

Nexus' biggest issue is that it feels almost too safe. It does have some original content, but what you're going through feels like a "greatest hits" of the franchise. If you've been following EO since the beginning, you'll see a lot of familiar stuff. The title often contains recycled or remixed versions of things from previous games. If you regularly replay the Etrian Odyssey franchise, Nexus may feel like a retread, even though it's technically new content.

This means that Nexus is a fantastic game if you're looking for a first experience with Etrian Odyssey or if you haven't played the franchise in a while. The "greatest hits" style means that you're getting a pretty comfortable lineup of the best of the franchise.

Visually, not much has changed for the franchise. It's still a basic-looking dungeon-crawler that offers static portraits for your protagonists and simple 3D models for enemies. It doesn't look bad, but the 3DS is showing its age, and Etrian Odyssey was never the best-looking game on the system. Fortunately, the soundtrack is still amazing. It contains both new and remixed versions of older Etrian Odyssey songs, and if you've ever played the franchise, you know that this is some must-have music.

All in all, Etrian Odyssey Nexus is a solid entry in the series. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but is sort of a grab bag of everything that makes Etrian Odyssey work. It's very familiar, and longtime series fans may find that this outing played it too safe, but casual fans and newcomers should consider it a near-perfect place to start the series. All in all, Nexus is a fantastic end to the long handheld history of the franchise, and it provides a lot of hope for whatever comes next.

Score: 8.5/10

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