Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth (3DS) Review

A Different Kind of Odyssey

In an age when role-playing games continue to expand in size and scope, it’s a delight to see Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth hold on to its old-school, dungeon-crawling roots. As a first-person dungeon exploration RPG that asks players to draw their own maps, the game has a specific appeal. But for devoted fans and interested newcomers, this is one of the most refined sequels to date.

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Fellow traditional JRPG fans unite!

The story is rather light since your party is comprised of your customized characters. As a result, there isn’t much in the way of party development or interaction. Rather, your collective guild of characters has a shared goal: to climb the world tree Ygdrassil, which is rumored to offer power, treasure, and other nice macguffins. While there is a good helping of worldbuilding throughout the adventure, the plot takes a backseat to its true attraction: its classic RPG gameplay.

The dungeon crawling is wonderfully old-school. Your party of five characters travels up a tall tower of wildly varying areas, known as Stratums. Each Stratum has five floors within it, and each floor is an elaborate labyrinth. Seriously, you’ll need to allot at least an hour or two for each one, so you’re looking at a meaty length of 40-50 hours. If you’re coming from Etrian Odyssey IV, note that this game completely removes the overworld airship mechanics that it tried to set forth. As a fan of connected overworlds and adding more variety to the standard grind from floor to floor, I’m disappointed by this “step back.” As a plus, the gigantic mazes resemble the more drawn-out designs from the first couple of games. This return to series roots will likely please anyone who preferred the larger dungeon structures.

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I imagine this is how Tingle makes his maps.

The series’ standout mechanic is the ability to draw out the dungeon maps on a touch screen grid. In fact, it’s a requirement. It’s easy to get lost in these complicated mazes, and playing cartographer is the only way you can remain sane here. This means marking every single wall, walkable piece of land, and area of interest. If you get bored finding your way through dungeons in any other RPG, this game isn’t for you. But for those who appreciate the art of making maps for old NES games like The Legend of Zelda, drawing a personalized map is engaging. It completely immersed me as I searched every tile, making sure I didn’t miss anything.

There are many ways to markup your map, including arrows, symbols, and numbers. The user interface is pleasantly more dynamic than it was previously. You can arrange the menu of symbols however you like. You can also draw multiple paths throughout the maze, and your characters will automatically follow them. Thanks to the flexible interface, it was easy to make my map and it didn’t feel like a chore. What impressed me most was how the game created situations where it was vital to have that map handy. Indeed, every environmental puzzle requires you to keep track of where everything is on-screen, usually to hit switches or avoid FOEs, huge enemies that follow set movement patterns and are usually impossible to beat at your given level.

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Teams are divided into front and back lines.

On that note, battles follow a traditional turn-based structure: you set all your party members’ attacks and then watch them unfold. Just because it’s an old-school system doesn’t make it simple, though. Elements like binding enemy body parts and chaining attacks make encounters interesting. New to this game are Union Skills, combining your party member’s powers to unleash greater abilities. Overall, I found most Union Skills underpowered, considering you have to use up multiple characters’ Union gauges just to achieve a one-turn power-up that likely won’t change the flow of battle. I’ll admit that they helped with the games’ bosses, all of which are tough, even on the Normal difficulty setting.

Overall, Etrian Odyssey is hard. And my biggest annoyance was having to constantly leave the dungeon and return to town just because I ran low on limited technique points or got trapped by a relentless, unbeatable FOE. Luckily, you can warp back to the same floor easily, albeit at its starting area. It beats the alternative of losing your progress upon death. Grinding was a necessity, though interestingly enough, it was the party build and set skills that mattered more than the levels itself.

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FOE stands for Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens

. Not even kidding.Indeed, character customization remains at the top of its game here. In fact, I’d wager that creating a strong party that suits your playstyle is one of the most fun and important aspects of Etrian Odyssey. Before you begin your journey, you are asked to create your members. Like previous entries, you have ten class options, ranging from the sword-wielding Fencer to the magically trained Warlock. These classes are technically new to the series, though most are similar to ones found in earlier titles. The only ones that felt fresh were the Necromancers and Rovers, who summon wraiths and animals, respectively, to the field.

Each character now belongs to one of four races: the Earthlains, the elvish Celestrians, the beastlike Therians, and the dwarvish Brounis. This affects several factors. One, when starting out, each class is specifically tied to a race. For instance, the Warlock class is exclusive to Celestrians…at first. Very soon, that limitation becomes arbitrary once you can change classes, even to one belonging to another race. But that begs the question: why even limit it at the beginning? Race also affects the already polished skill tree system. As you level up, you gain skill points. In addition to allocating them towards class-specific skills, you can now invest them towards special abilities unique to each race. Many of these skills feed into new Adventure Episodes. In these special party events, you make decisions and the game immediately tells you the outcome, reminiscent of choose-your-own-adventure books. These frequent vignettes helped immerse me in the world, despite being told entirely through textboxes.

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…and all they do is use online walkthroughs.

Since stats are also tied to race, mixing and matching classes and races lead to a variety of potent combinations, further deepening the rich customization system. The only downside is that the skill trees are visibly smaller. At the same time, they’re less complex and more inviting to newcomers. For those longing for the more multifaceted skill trees, the game eventually allows characters to inherit Legendary Titles, which let you shape class specialties. For instance, the healing-focused Botanist can either follow the path of stronger recovery magic or offensive poison attacks. It’s not as deep as the series’ subclass and grimoire mechanics, which let you learn skills belonging to other classes. It’s a more laser-focused progression system that, when combined with the race skills, produces incredibly in-depth character creation.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I was hoping this entry would be the one to allow truly robust avatar creation. But alas, you’re still limited to choosing from a set of predesigned portraits. Still, you have more options than ever now that you can give your party members voices and alter small details like eye color. Otherwise, the anime visuals look good but aren’t much of an improvement from previous titles. The 3D dungeons look dated, though, and textures sometimes take a while to load on screen. At least the game features all novel enemy designs, which is a breath of fresh air if you’ve played the series long enough. The addition of voice acting for most everyone, including your own party, is a plus. And Yuzo Koshiro continues to deliver a brilliant orchestral soundtrack of ethereal themes and rocking battle beats. The music is utterly beautiful.

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Odyssey, Ya See! Wait, wrong game.

Conclusion

Etrian Odyssey V might not have changed much over previous installments, but it has refined the already sophisticated cartography to a T with its clever environmental puzzles and great user interface. The addition of race skills and Legendary Titles only contribute to the game’s excellent sense of character customization. And it remains a fun challenge to grow powerful and destroy the toughest FOEs in classic turn-based gameplay. I only wish that there were bigger steps forward, and the removal of an overworld doesn’t help. Perhaps now that the series is a decade old, we can see larger improvements in Etrian Odyssey VI. But as for this fifth entry, it’s an odyssey worth taking for hardcore dungeon-crawling RPG fans.

Score: 9/10

A review copy was used for this article. This review was written for DarkStation.

Have you played any games from the Etrian Odyssey series? What are your thoughts on it if you have? Share with me your favorite 3DS RPGs and favorite traditional dungeon-crawling RPGs for any system! Please share any thoughts or questions you have about Etrian Odyssey V in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading!

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24 thoughts on “Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth (3DS) Review

  1. Great review! It’s not easy to play through and review long J-RPGs. I’ve heard about Etrian Odyssey but haven’t played it myself. I’m a J-RPG fan, but I’m not sure if I want to draw my own map. I guess I’m not joining the cartographer’s guild any time soon. Kupo! Oops, wrong game. It’s cool that you can customize your whole party, but I’m sad to hear there’s not much of a story to flesh them out. This sounds like a special kind of RPG indeed. Have fun with your map making!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot as always!! I had a lot of fun with Etrian Odyssey V, but it’s definitely a harder turn-based RPG. I really like the customized party aspect, even at the cost of story. There’s always the Etrian Odyssey Untold games that have a more proper story mode. They also double as remakes of the first two EO games! Kupo Kupo Kupopo Kupo! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I love the Etrian Odyessey series but I’m never able to complete them, since they’re agonizingly hard at times. Grinding gets boring easily too, but I absolutely love the battles and exploration. Your party is pretty awesome, though I’d have preferred Aegis over Kanji 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! They are really hard, I agree with you! I’m still grinding on Etrian Mystery Dungeon myself. I know, different game but really difficult. What I love most is the party customization. I had a lot of trouble with one of the bosses in Etrian Odyssey V and decided to respec some of my characters, which, of course levels them down. But instead of leveling them back up, I went in again with my new skills. Lo and behold, I was able to get through it. Gosh, I love the skill trees.

      Also, regarding the party names, those pictures are from Atlus’ website, so I’m sorry to disappoint you that it’s not my team. But I’m glad you appreciate the names haha! What’s your favorite Etrian Odyssey game?

      Like

  3. I have to admit I’ve only heard of the Etrian Odyssey series in passing, though I do know it was made by Atlus, so it has a great team behind it. They’re also the ones behind the Shin Megami Tensei series, though the only game of it I’ve played is Persona 4. Still, it’s my favorite JRPG, so I should probably play another one of their games as some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Atlus makes excellent RPGs. I have Shin Megami Tensei IV for 3DS, but haven’t gotten too far. I like the monster collecting and fusing there, though. I do really want to play Persona 4 and Persona 5 someday, especially the latter. I do have P4 Golden, at least. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, sadly. But if it’s your favorite RPG, then I just know I’m in for a treat!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely forgot that this game comes out very soon for me! And I’m in the middle of playing Dragon Quest IV now! Crapppp!

    Great review. I’ll get around to you, my dungeon-crawling dream, Etrian Odyssey V! I will! …Just after another dungeon crawling adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! And yes!! It should be out tomorrow, I believe. I hope you enjoy it! Have you played the other Etrian Odyssey games? How’s Dragon Quest IV going for you? I remember enjoying the DS version of that game!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dragon Quest IV is going pretty good. I’m playing the DS release of the game, and the battles are neat! I’m at the fifth chapter now, and I love how I’m running into the previous protagonists of the chapters. It feels cool. I wish they kept the party chat thing in the game though. It was one of my favorite things in 8.
        I have played a bit of Etrian Odyssey 3 and the two Untold games (I beat Untold 2 on classic mode), as well as 4. They’re pretty tough at times, but they’re extremely addicting.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s awesome! Glad you’re enjoying DQIV! I have very fond memories of that game. It’s the one I brought with me when I studied abroad in Japan years ago. The different chapters is a nice touch that I feel was ahead of its time. My favorite is Torneko the shopkeeper!

        You have quite the extensive history with the Etrian Odyssey series! I think you’ll enjoy EOV as more of a great thing. 😉 Do you have a favorite?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Want to be a cartographer? Didn’t know I wanted to as well, but lo and behold this game seems really interesting to me. Though I will admit that Etrian Odyssey was only a few trailers, gameplay videos, review articles…and that’s pretty much it. This series always circled around but never had the same allure that Shin Megami Tensei or Persona series had, however after reading this I might keep my eye out for a price drop on ds store or if it has a physical copy.

    Dungeon Crawlers are one of the aspects I enjoy in an RPG, regardles if it’s Western or Eastern. Yet it has to be made good, something that can keep you hooked and want to go back for that extra chance of better loot or encounters. So we’ll see how this one holds up in the end.

    Really enjoyed reading this review mate, you made me interested in wanting to at least try this game out when it gets a price drop at some point.
    Stay Cozy and have a nice day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would like the Etrian Odyssey series at first until I tried it out years ago. Making a map seemed tedious and I had heard it was hard. Well, it turns out it IS really hard, but it’s that much more satisfying when things go well. And the mapmaking. My goodness, it is so much more engaging than it seems at first glance. It feels more personal. And I like that getting through the dungeon essentially depends on how accurate my map is. And the puzzles revolving the map are genuinely neat. It’s very much in that vein of making maps for old NES games, and it works especially well for dungeon crawling.

      I’ve played a bit of Shin Megami Tensei 4 and Persona 4. SMT’s dungeon crawling got tedious over time for me though I enjoyed the monster fusing. And I really want to play more of Persona 4 and more of 5. But as far as EO’s dungeon crawling is concerned, it’s excellent if you enjoy old-school 1st person RPG or adventure games.

      I might recommend the Etrian Odyssey Untold games or IV if you potentially want a similar experience with a possibly lower price. I know Atlus discounts all their 3DS games, and I bet you those are cheap now.

      It’s awesome that you’re a big dungeon crawling fan! I feel like you’d get a kick out of the series!

      Like

      1. Oh! Adding on to my previous reply, it completely slipped my mind, but there IS a demo for this game as well as the previous Etrian Odyssey titles. Anything you do in the demo can be transferred over to the full game. So that might be worth checking out if you’re interested in the series.

        Like

    1. Thank you very much Lightning!!! This is a really fun RPG series, but I wouldn’t say it’s better than the story-driven Final Fantasy games, but it’s a nice old-school series! I love the character customization. It’s what drew me in even more than the mapmaking. Yeah, shame about the overworld. The overworld was something they added in the more recent games, which is why it seems odd that it was taken out of EOV. It ends up feeling like the older games, though, which I’m sure is a plus for many fans.

      Liked by 1 person

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