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Etrian Mystery Dungeon Review: Deeper and Deeper

/ Apr 10th, 2015 No Comments

Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Crossovers can be a good way to create something new or breathe fresh life into a series. This isn’t an exact science, but when crossovers work, it results in a product that is better than the sum of its parts.

Melding the Mystery Dungeon and Etrian Odyssey series together for Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a shining example of a successful crossover. By combining the RPG elements and aesthetics of Etrian Odyssey with the roguelike dungeon crawling of Mystery Dungeon, players get a game that is addictive and satisfying.

Aslarga Redevelopment Fund

In most RPGs, a squad of heroes develops over the course of the game, but in Etrian Mystery Dungeon, guild members act as blank slates for players to mold as they see fit. The game builds its narrative in the town of Aslarga and focuses on its citizens. As players build their guild and the characters becomes better at exploring dungeons and handling the monsters propagating them, players get access to more of the town and are introduced to more townsfolk. It is important to learn what each townsfolk has to offer, and their unique personalities will increase your attachment to Aslarga.
 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon

You create and choose the gender, look, and class of adventures your want to add to your guild.

Players also play a huge part in rebuilding the town after the catastrophe caused by a powerful monster a year ago. Earnings from hard fought dungeoneering can be put toward the redevelopment of Aslarga. This means that players will take a fiscal interest in the town as well as a genuine interest in the people residing in it. By embarking on major dungeon exploring missions for the town and assorted quests for villagers, you become connected to Aslarga and grow into an integral part of its survival. The Etrian series is not known for narrative, but this is an effective way draw players into the game and cause them to develop an emotional interest in the setting.

The Walls Keep Shifting

Learning the basics of Etrian Mystery Dungeon isn’t too strenuous. Players are walked through key portions of the game early on in order to prepare to fight through dungeons on their own. However, figuring out the more nuanced aspects of the game takes some time and experimentation. It makes Etrian Mystery Dungeon easy to pick up, but difficult to master.

Boiled down to its simplest terms, Etrian Mystery Dungeon involves sending a party of four warriors into a dungeon. The goal of exploring the dungeon is to exterminate the monsters inhabiting it, gather loot, and reach the bottom floor. There is more to it in many respects, and the goal is not always easily achieved, but that is Etrian Mystery Dungeon in its simplest form.
 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Most of your time will be spent dispatching enemies in shifting dungeons.

The first thing you’ll find a hindrance to your dungeon adventures is the dungeon’s always changing layout. Even if you are only heading back to town to unencumber yourself, you will find the dungeon has changed when you re-enter it. This is where the game’s roguelike elements come into play; you are always entering dungeons with different monsters, items and floor configurations. It makes nailing down a strategy for a specific dungeon impossible.

Instead of mapping out a strategy based on trial and error, players will need to focus on building a foundation of essential skills. Building a repertoire of habits and strategies for exploring dungeons will serve you well as the difficulty ramps up. Trying each warrior class is important, as it allows players to get a sense of what combination of guild members work best, and gives them a chance to form a four person team that takes advantage of their play style.
 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Things are going to get hairy from time to time.

Inventory management is extremely important. Characters cannot carry a ton of items, so selecting what to take into a dungeon is important. Loading up on food and potions can take up valuable space necessary for gathering loot. Knowing how to tailor your inventory to the type of mission you are embarking on will be vital for long-term survival. If you’re grinding, focusing on food is necessary for lasting stamina, but if you’re endeavoring to take on powerful monsters, loading up on potions and scrolls should be your priority before you embark on your journey. Forming a good combination of warriors and managing your inventory are the two most important elements for maintaining success.

Grinding is also something players will need to do in order to experience success. Despite the game’s roguelike elements, this is an RPG, and you will need to level up effectively in order to handle the more difficult monsters. These RPG elements make the roguelike gameplay sections more manageable, allowing players to feel some sense of progress. However, the game’s RPG aspects also take away the instant gratification often experienced while playing roguelikes.

Dungeons do not remain permanent, but players are able to lock a dungeon’s layout later in the game. Building forts inside a dungeon allows players to keep the layout consistent. Monsters, loot and room geography will still change upon return, but the rooms on a floor will not change after making the dungeon’s layout permanent.
 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Knowing when to use Blast Skills is an important strategy to master.

Forts are necessary to level up additional guild members when not in battle, and they serve as a defense for DOE monsters. These hugely powerful monsters roam dungeons as they please, but forts prevent them from reaching Aslarga and give players a chance to take them down in battle. Losing against DOE monsters in a fort battle doesn’t have the high stakes as normal exploring because you will not lose experience or items if you lose. The fort will be destroyed, but your hard earned goods will be fine.

Learning the ins and outs of Etrian Mystery Dungeon is not easily done, but doing so is immensely satisfying. Becoming strong enough to explore dungeons without fear of death is a rewarding experience, and it is when players begin to feel strong that trouble occurs again. There is always a monster angling to wipe out your entire party. Deciding to take on a dungeon boss only to be annihilated and lose a mountain of gold, important gear and a sack full of loot reminds you there is a lot at stake. However, nearly losing everything is when the game truly begins.

Overall

Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a fun game that blends the most satisfying parts of RPGs and roguelikes into an addictive dungeon-exploring adventure. The pick-up-and-play nature of roguelikes becomes more compelling with smart narrative hooks and the feeling of progression found in RPG systems. Even if you are not familiar with the Etrian Odyssey or Mystery Dungeon series, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is worth a shot. Chances are, it’ll surprise you.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon was reviewed on 3DS using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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ETRIAN MYSTERY DUNGEON REVIEW: DEEPER AND DEEPER

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall81%

GAMEPLAY8.5

It takes time to learn the basics of the game. Mastering techniques and strategies for tackling dungeons is no easy task, but it is addictive to aim for mastery.

GRAPHICS8

The game features good looking. charming chibi-style character models and a variety of diverse dungeons to explore.

SOUND8

Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a good orchestral score, which makes exploring dungeons properly adventurous.

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