Etrian Odyssey IV to Introduce Big Changes to the Series
Difficulty settings and visible enemies are just the beginning.
A recent trailer for Etrian Odyssey IV reveals that big changes are in store for the series. The trailer, which appeared several days ago, shows recognizable and visible enemies while exploring a dungeon. Additionally, these enemies patrol and lunge in a realistic manner.
Now it’s also worth pointing out that the meter that measures your odds of entering a random encounter is still on the screen, indicating that that system is alive and well. It would still appear that battles take place on a separate screen from exploration, but in that battle system, the enemies all appear to be fully animated and quite well realized.
There are other changes in store too. If an article at 1up is to be believed, gamers will now be able to actually choose their difficulty and adjust it mid-game, ensuring that players of different experience and ability levels will all be able to enjoy the game. Character classes have been simplified and limited. Sub-classing has not been confirmed and may not be required or even available.
More changes are brewing on the artistic front. Yuzo Koshiro (who you may remember from Ys and Actraiser) appears to be staying on soundtrack duty, making this another one to look out for. Typically, his Etrian Odyssey soundtracks are emulated chip tunes from a Japanese computer, but this may or may not change for this new hardware generation. A new addition to the franchise is artist Nizo Yamamoto, who was the art director on several famous anime movies such as Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies and was once a member of the famous Studio Ghibli. All we have seen from him so far are several background images, appearing thanks to Tiny Cartridge, but these are certainly nothing to sneeze at. Make sure to click on them for a detailed view.
If you aren’t familiar with the franchise, Etrian Odyssey is a first person turn-based RPG dungeon crawler that plays quite a bit like the classic games Wizardry, the original Phantasy Star, and The Bard’s Tale. These games involved traversing floor after floor of a multi-level dungeon or tower in an attempt to reach a final boss or reward at its end. Each floor layout was extremely complex, leading most players to map them out on graph paper.
The Etrian Odyssey spin on this game type adds a distinct Japanese flair to the art style and character classes while maintaining many of the old school conventions of its inspirations. Random encounters and turn based combat are the order of the day, while difficult enemies that are visible appear as a nondescript colored ball of energy moving around the map. Complexity was added in the form of several highly specific job classes, with Etrian Odyssey III adding the mentally exhausting, but potentially highly rewarding option to multi-class, which can quite literally make or break a character you’ve worked hours, or even days to create. Gone was the need to purchase a ream of graph paper to keep fiendish floor layouts from getting you lost, as cartography duty has been conveniently assigned to the DS’s touch screen. All this culminates into a gameplay experience equal parts simple and complex.
Atlus, perhaps realizing the limited audience they were appealing to, made some cuts to presentation and production. Random encounters are far easier to program than a myriad of enemies patrolling a map, and when enemies are encountered, they appear as static sprites with no animation whatsoever. The combat is presented mostly via text on the bottom of the screen circa 1980. Suffice to say, if you aren’t one who fondly remembers classic first person dungeon delving and painstaking map creation, all this may sound more like an unpleasant chore than a game, hence its niche appeal.
All in all, Atlus seems to be brewing one heck of a follow up to Etrian Odyssey III, and they look to be investing a bit more time, effort, and money into it this time around. To balance this, they also appear to be making it more easily accessible to those looking to take a chance on a genre which, prior to the original, hadn’t been very popular in over a decade.