Getting Lost in Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl (Review)
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: the Millennium Girl is a hardcore first-person RPG, set in a vast and mysterious Labyrinth that hides many secrets, and many terrible monsters. Players delve ever-deeper as they do battle with ferocious beasts and explore the hidden nooks and crannies of the Labyrinth, returning to town to share the bounty of their travels with the folk.
Etrian Odyssey Untold has two main modes. The first is Classic mode, in which you create a team of five explorers, defining their classes, skills and strengths before you begin your adventure in the mysterious Labyrinth. This is the way the game has been presented throughout the Etrian Odyssey series, throwing you straight into the action. In Untold, newcomers daunted by the complex interface can turn to Story mode.
Story mode gives you five pre-made characters. They have fairly archetypical anime personalities, but they’re interesting and have their own flavour to them. The first is your player character, a strong and silent young Highlander. He is a sworn man from a tribe that values justice above all, and has been summoned to Etria to investigate earthquakes in the Labyrinth. As the Highlander, you are the leader of your party, called a Guild, and will be asked questions by your Guild members and by NPCs. You usually get three different responses to each question, so you can choose what sort of mood and personality you want to express, and tell your own story through your decisions. Some characters will even grow closer to you based on how you respond, so it is good to be considerate!
The next characters in your Guild are members of an investigative party from the Midgard Library, the largest archive in the world. Their leader is Simon, a doctor. He is a physically strong but slight man, with long grey hair and a calm demeanor. His physical strength is moderate and his medical skills give him the ability to heal your Guild – and debilitate foes.
Arthur is a young alchemist with blonde hair and a red coat, reckless and discourteous, but good of heart and deed. He uses elemental attacks: alchemical formulae that conjure the power of fire, ice and lightning. As a back row attacker, he is defended from danger and can rain down destruction on any opponent. He also loves to eat strange fruits and swing on vines!
Frederica is a blonde amnesiac girl whom you find in a cryogenic tube early in the game. Simon believes that the earthquakes have some connection to the ruins, and believes that Ricky will be able to help your Guild to understand them. She is a gunner, carrying two powerful pistols that let her blast through enemies and to fire Medic Bullets at allies. Throughout the story, she has flashes of her memory coming back to her, and guides the Guild through the strange technology of the ruins.
The last member of your Guild is Raquna, a Protector who is part of Simon and Arthur’s investigation team. She is an armoured woman with a strong shield, who throws herself into danger to protect her companions. Slender, with long red hair, she is a cheerful noblewoman from a northern kingdom, who loves to drink and eat maple-soaked foods.
Important scenes and conversations in the story are fully voice acted, and there are voice clips throughout the game. Your Guild members have the most lines, and NPCs will always have a voiced greeting for you. The voices are all very charming and friendly. Shilleka, who runs the item shop, has an especially fun personality; her dark skin and light, red clothing make her look like she’s taken style tips from Nadia of Blue Water; and her bubbly, cheeky Caribbean accent always greets you warmly and makes you feel like a citizen of Etria. Raquna’s is by far my favourite, with her enthusiasm showing through her charmingly familiar accent: “Izzat so, eh?”
Throughout the game you will interact with NPCs, carrying out quests on their request and even building relationships with them as you go along. You will take Shilleka on a few tours of the Labyrinth, and help out the barmaid at the Golden Deer Pub. But the story itself is very meagre. Most of the quests and missions that move the story along have little to do with one another; the story is really about Frederica and the earthquakes, but most of the quests that are supposed to move the story forward are about hunting some monster or other. These monsters are presented as obstacles to your investigation of the Labyrinth, but the missions don’t really move forward character or plot development.
Characters are developed more by their casual conversations with you and with one another. Their interactions with the environment and with the characters of the town also develop their personalities. Occasionally, you will return to the ruins in which you met Frederica, and these rare expeditions are the ones that move the mystery plot forward – and not by much, at that. The plot is practically nonexistent for most of the game, and the story is almost entirely about your Guild’s rather disjointed adventures. The story really isn’t the focus of Etrian Odyssey Untold; it provides a way to make the world more approachable and to draw in players that may be turned off by the hardcore RPG play at hand. It does have occasional anime cutscenes, and plenty of conversation with lovely characters, but it is less an epic saga and more a chronicle of the adventures of you and your friends.
Etria feels like a town of pioneers on the frontier of the rich, primordial Labyrinth. Throughout Story and Classic mode you are leading a party of explorers, registered as a guild with the town council, to bring the wealth of the Labyrinth to Etria. As you clear out the dangers below you enrich the town and are enriched in turn with new goods and more money. You’re really a band of hunter-gatherers, helping to tame the land.
You’ll notice that weapons and treasures are scant in the labyrinth. You’ll not find much of manufactured or of crafted goods. Treasure chests are rare and often contain rare resources or life-saving medicines. Sometimes you’ll find a poison dagger or spear, but for the most part your equipment must be bought at Shilleka’s Goods in town.
For Shilleka (the smithy girl to make your weapons, armor, accessories, and potions), she needs you to provide raw materials. In the Labyrinth there are places where you can chop wood, mine for ore, or gather other goodies. You also earn loot by killing monsters, which usually yields pelts, teeth, wings, bones, and the like. Selling loot to Shilleka is your main source of income, and as you sell her more resources she will be able to fashion newer and better equipment and items for you.
The other way to make money is by completing quests offered by people at the Golden Deer Pub or by the council, the Radha. The Pub quests vary; you may need to gather insect eyes so that a jeweller can make a new accessory. A merchant may hire you to retrieve the bag he lost in the Labyrinth. A botanist may hire you to find the place that certain flowers bloom. The Radha’s missions are scant, with difficult tasks and high rewards. Radha missions may require you to clear out savage monsters that are attacking explorers, or to secure items that most explorers are not strong enough to find – like stealing a dragon’s egg from right behind her!
The game play is really pure role playing. You are a hunter-gatherer, both in your persona and in your actions. In first person perspective, it is you who explores the labyrinth, not some mediating character. And it is you who responds to questions and gives orders to your guild. The Radha may give you missions and your friends give you guidance, but ultimately you are free to play as yourself, delving as deep into the maze as you can.
In Etrian Odyssey you are responsible for drawing all of your own maps. This is what makes the Labyrinth a real maze; it is uncharted territory. You get drawing tools similar to a PC paint program that let you draw lines on the bottom screen which snap to a grid. You paint in floors, using different colours to indicate different areas and possibly floor hazards. You drop icons on the grid to show treasures, doors, locks, shortcuts and much more. You can make notes everywhere, and must do so if you want to keep track of hidden fountains, fruits, and friends.
Keeping an accurate map is essential, and because you make it yourself you must be very careful. Mistakes can take you well off the proper course and leave you lost with no idea where to go. You would have to redraw your whole map, unless you stumbled upon the spot where you had drawn a wall instead of an open passage! Mapping adds a huge mystery to the labyrinth. There is no way to know what lies ahead until you see it for yourself! And it is so gratifying to have a complete map that you will explore every nook and cranny that you see.
There is an encyclopedia built into the game as well. Every monster and item that you encounter is added to it, so that you will never need to memorize the weaknesses and stats of the numerous foes and resources in the Labyrinth. After your first encounter with a monster, its stats will be recorded in the encyclopedia, so that you can refer to those stats the next time you encounter the monster. This is most helpful for finding out what sort of attack will work best on the monster, be it a stabbing, slashing, or smashing attack, or even an elemental one.
Speaking of foes, there are enormous and terrible creatures wandering the Labyrinth classified as FOEs (Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens). They are so fearsome that they appear on your map, with flaming auras that show how strong they are relative to your Guild. Learning the movement patterns of different types of FOEs is essential to survival; you cannot fight them all, and every turn that you spend in battle with them gives nearby FOEs a chance to take a step forward, and try to join the battle. Stealth is important so that the hunters do not become the hunted!
Etrian Odyssey Untold is a game played in first-person perspective, and you can feel the scale of the Labyrinth all around you. The massive trees, colourful flora, and towering FOEs can make you feel like a mite in a lost world of giants. The characters and monsters in the game have a very cute-yet-fierce appeal, from the grizzled Guildmaster in Etria, with his eye patch; to cheerful Arthur and Raquna; to the ferociously beautiful monsters in the maze. The simplicity of the in-game graphics gives it a certain elegance, especially when you wander the forested Labyrinth. Untold opens with a gorgeous anime intro that sets the scene for you. You see glimpses of the Highlander’s life with his tribe and of his journey to the town walls of Etria, amid many pilgrims seeking fame and adventure. There are battle scenes, showing just how large the FOEs can be, and shots of your Guildmates goofing around or doing research. There are occasional cutscenes in the Story mode, giving you a longer look at the scenes from the intro and much else besides.
Despite the dangers in the Labyrinth, the soundtrack of Etrian Odyssey is very peaceful and idyllic, as if there is nothing to fear in this savage garden. The theme of the first Stratum of the Labyrinth is full of chimes, smooth strings, and an easy-going rhythm. In Shilleka’s Goods shop there is a funky bass line playing under a saxophone and jazz flute. The battle themes are catchy and tension is built by electric guitars; the strings stop singing birdsong and start screeching and crying out for victory!
Besides the weak plot, Etrian Odyssey Untold has one serious flaw, and that is that it only allows you one save file whether in Story or Classic mode. That means that you can’t switch between the two, unless you want to delete your progress in one mode or the other. The digital download version of the game allows you to back up your save data to the SD card, which would let you continue with a new adventure while you save your progress in another. Still, it is a backdoor solution to something that shouldn’t be an issue, in terms of data storage.
As an intense and deeply rewarding adventure, with fantastic landscapes and a seemingly-bottomless dungeon to conquer, Etrian Odyssey Untold: the Millennium Girl is a fantastic RPG. Its loveable characters and deceptively inviting environments will call you back for more, more, more!
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