Throw away the grid paper – You won’t be needing it here.
The Etrian Odyssey games are well known for making the player map out each dungeon as they progress on virtual paper. This is one of the highlights of Atlus’ popular series, but also one of the barriers to entry for players who lack the interest in cartography. However, through teaming up with Spike Chunsoft for Etrian Mystery Dungeon, this Etrian title on 3DS steps into the realms of the Roguelike, and with randomised dungeons, there can be no mapping.
Although there have been quite a few Mystery Dungeon games before, the one that many gamers will recognize would be the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles. If you happen to have played any other Mystery Dungeon games, then you will have a fair idea of what to expect in Etrian Mystery Dungeon.
There is a loose story to tie things together, but basically you arrive in town to explore dungeons, fight monsters and gather loot. With a single melee character, which has some minor customization options, the player will be dropped into their first dungeon before being introduced to a vast array of other character types which can be used to build up parties ready for the next dungeon. The number of different character classes is quite impressive, and more are unlocked as the player progresses.
Gameplay is turn-based within the dungeons, with the player mostly controlling only one character while the other team members are handled by the AI. However, for many turn-based RPG players, the pace will feel quite quick as each individual movement or action will lead to any enemies making their individual movement or action. Things move quickly, and clearing out an entire dungeon will take both strategic and cautious planning.
Unlike most Roguelike games, Etrian Mystery Dungeon seems to be doing the player a favor by not making characters lose all of their experience once they die in the dungeon. It’s not all good though, as any equipment or treasure being carried will be left behind, but the player is able to mount a rescue mission to retrieve their gear if they wish. Of course, the other Roguelike symptom is that the game is quite hard and will involve a large amount of grinding.
But at least the player can level up their party and make them more powerful. One of the highlights of the game is the sheer choice when it comes to which character types to include in their party, and how they progress them. The substantial skill trees mean that there are plenty of options for building that perfect team.
Two other interesting inclusions are forts and food. Players are able to build a fort inside a dungeon and man it with heroes in order to both gain experience for the hero and lock the dungeon, preventing it from being randomized the next time they visit. Food is important as the heroes will get hungry during their dungeon crawling, and if their gauge empties, they will start losing health, adding even more caution to the players experience.
Outside of the dungeons, the Kingdom is mostly dealt with through a series of menus. From here, the player can pick up new missions, do some buying and selling, and prepare for their next dungeon. It doesn’t have much by way of depth, but it serves as a good hub for dungeon exploration.
Visually, the game is bright and colourful, and brings many of the themes from the Etrian Odyssey titles. The sprites are cute and easy to identify, and the environments are varied. A special note should be made of the music, which is really quite enjoyable in the game. The music from veteran composer Yuzo Koshiro suits the mood at each step, be it calm and relaxing, or intense and action-packed.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a great title on the 3DS. While it may lose the key map-making from the Etrian Odyssey games, it still manages to be a very “Etrian” game in the Mystery Dungeon style. The Mystery Dungeon games have always worked great on the mobile console, and Etrian Msytery Dungeon is no different. If you enjoy your dungeon crawling on the go, or have played and enjoyed any of the previous Mystery Dungeon games, then Etrian Mystery Dungeon will be well worth checking out.