The Etrian Odyssey series has been a personal favorite of mine since the first game came out on the DS back in 2007. Etrian games are dungeon crawlers, use a lot of the same mechanics from RPGs of yore. Minimalist stories, party creation, lots of side-quests, and a hard-as-nails difficulty make up only a portion of things that make Etrian enjoyable. With each entry, the series grows a little. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is the newest numbered entry in four years, and its recently released demo does a pretty good job of giving you a feel for what to expect from the full game.
The demo opens with you, a nameless explorer, walking into the city of Iorys. With barely an Ental to your name, you’re told to head to the adventurer’s hall and start up a guild. It’s standard fare for an Etrian game, but once you’ve named your squad the first new features start to trickle in. Previous games had simple setups for building your team, at least aesthetically. Characters were divided into classes, and each class had 4 different portraits. It offered some customization, but not much. Etrian V feels a bit more modern in its approach and gives you full reign over what your characters look like after you’ve picked their base sprite. Hair, eye, and skin color can all be altered via color sliders to get exactly what you want, but for the non-artistically inclined there are plenty of presets you can choose from. V also gives the first opportunity to choose character voice and lets you choose from about 20 male and female options.
Combat classes are initially divided by race, a somewhat new thing for the series. There have been race-exclusive classes in past games, but those were mostly locked behind story missions. Etrian V takes things a little bit further and gives each race its own specific set of skills on top of their combat class skills. Each race is set apart from one another by what they can accomplish. The human-like Earthlains are well-rounded in every aspect. Beast-like Therians are natural hunters with incredible strength and reflexes. The elegant Celestians are adept in all-things related to mana and magic. And the small Brounies are skilled collectors and botanists.
Venturing into the densely wooded Tutelary Forest, you find yourself surrounded by lush green trees and calm blue lakes. The calming sound of the background music sets the stage for the first stratum, the training floor. The game does a good of introducing you to its new mechanics, such as food and the various food-gathering points. Each race has its own specialty when it comes to collecting, and the higher you go the more unique stuff you find. One of the series’ biggest draws is its collection quests, which Etrian V rewards the player for when they reach milestones in their encyclopedia.
It’s not long into your trek that you are met with your first encounter. Battles in Etrian are traditional turn-based deals. There’s a lot of room to set up combos in the game, the Fencer class even builds itself around doing follow-ups to your other teammates’ attacks. Team balance is pretty important, but the game leaves a lot of room to experiment. You can go with your traditional set of beefy tanks and fast damage dealers, or delve into combos with Fencers, Necromancers, and Masurao. Etrian V experiments a lot with traditional roles. A good example is the Dragoon, a bulky defender that operates from the back line rather than the front.
The demo version of Etrian Odyssey V caps your level 10 and stops your adventure pretty early in. There’s still a good month till the full version comes out, but the demo gives more than enough options to experiment and mess with character builds. It’s possible to transfer your data from the demo to the full game, so it’s worth it to get as much done as you can.
Etrain Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth releases on October 17, 2017, for the 3DS in North America.