So there’s this new game out called Etrain Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl. Maybe it’s not that new as it’s a remake of a game that came out on the original DS only a few years back, but I never played that game. In fact, the last first person dungeon crawler I played was Mazes of Fate for the Game Boy Advance. I enjoyed that game a great deal, so I was hoping for something similar with Millenium Girl.
Let me say that Etrain Odyssey Untold (EOU) is a very different game than Mazes of Fate. In old-school first person dungeon crawlers, there was no auto map feature. As such, a lot of players would rely on ASCII maps or simply use graph paper to map out the dungeons themselves. The Etrain Odyssey series has grown a huge following based on the fact that the game asks that you draw up your own maps using the touch screen. There are a bunch of icons and tools to help you do just that. None of the icons are labeled or indicative of what they were supposed to be used for, leaving the player to use them however they feel.
I mapped the entire first stratum on my own before I figured out that I could set the game to auto-map the walls and floors. Much to my chagrin, it doesn’t map treasure maps or dangerous floor panels. I still had to map those myself or suffer the consequences of not doing so. Another gripe I had with it was that it doesn’t map the panel in front of you so when you come to a treasure chest, it just paints the panel you’re standing on green while leaving the one in front of you (that you cannot stand on) empty. Being a bit of a completionist, I couldn’t leave these empty and had to stop my adventure and draw the damn walls, treasure box, and floor panel. It’s such a minor complaint when mapping dungeons is actually the game’s main claim to fame.
Games of this nature rarely give the player reason to explore the dungeon other than the actual act of exploring. Etrain Odyssey Untold does, at first. Let me clearify a bit. There are two modes to choose from: Classic and Story. In story mode, you take on the role of the fearsome Highlander called to aide Etria. Highlanders in this world are noble warriors who value justice and like to keep their enemies at the tip of a sharp spear. Shortly after the tutorial, you are matched up with a group of adventurers from the Librarium. Since you don’t get to create your own party, it’s important that this party be balanced well, and with a healer, alchemist, protector, and a gunslinger, you get exactly that. I felt that the highlander was set up to be a berserker type with the majority of his skillsets coming from Spear Mastery. Each class does something that the others can’t and they all compliment one another very well.
More than that, the characters click well with one another. Perhaps this feeling comes from the exceptional cut-scenes done by Madhouse Studios that really sell the characters. Each one fits a particular anime trope. Chie…err…Raquana is the tomboyish protector from Ontario. She comes complete with an over-helpful nature and an extremely annoying accent. Arthur is the overzealous little kid alchemist who’s ready to jump in head first into any situation without any preparation and yet somehow manages to come out on top anyway. Simon is the learned know-it-all healer who, quite literally and conveniently, knows it all. Frederica fills the amnesia role and is a whiz with firearms.
Aside from the awesome animated cut-scenes and how well the characters mesh, the story falls flat. What little bits of story that have been peppered throughout the game come after hours of grinding through numerous floors of a forest. Why does the forest have floors and where is the light coming from after the first? While these games tend to be grind heavy, it doesn’t feel right when your goal is to explore Gladsheim, but the game keeps making you delve deeper into the forest. The game would be really short if all you did was explore that particular area, but I did feel like it the exploration of the forest was a bit forced and I lost interest in the story quickly. In a way, I wish I started out in classic mode.
Speaking of which, classic mode offers all the goodies fans have come to love about the series, but with brand new maps for each dungeon and new things that were added in later games like Grimoire stones that allow you to use skills from different classes. These are included in the story mode, but really shine in classic mode as you can get some really great skill combinations out of them. Unfortunately, they are locked behind a fairly tough boss fight. For some, these stones make the game too easy, but I loved creating and using them in both modes.
I played the Etrain Odyssey IV demo and got a glimpse of the open world exploration. For some, it’s exclusion may be a turn off. Personally, I enjoyed just being able to jump into the dungeons without such tedious endeavors.
In the end, I was really hoping for a solid story and mediocre gameplay, but what I got was an excellent dungeon crawler with amazing voice acting and cut-scenes for a rather lackluster tale. If you liked previous games in this series, I can’t imagine why you haven’t already picked this game up. If you’re looking for a game to get your feet wet with the dungeon exploration genre, this is your game. If you’re looking for an epic tale of heroes who risk everything to save the world, look elsewhere. If my review sounds negative in any way, I think I just played the game with the wrong expectations. I experienced hours of enjoyment, but I just wanted it to be something it wasn’t.