Etrian Odyssey (the first one) was an interesting RPG by independent developer Atlus. Rather than focus on traditional RPG elements such as story save X kingdom from Y evil wizard, Etrian was explicitly a dungeon crawler. A giant dungeon has appeared near a city, adventurers flock by the dozen to be plumb the depths looking for treasure while mostly being savagely killed.
And that’s about all the plot you get. Instead of a standard plot driven party, you had an entire guild you could fill with various classed adventurers, and off they went into the meat grinder. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was an interesting concept, particularly on a portable device where entertaining time killing is the primary motivator for many people. And one could plausibly assume, if one were naÃ¯ve and trusting, that the franchise would be built upon and gameplay refined in future installments.
Unfortunately, Atlus thought that Etrian Odyssey 2 was a Halloween Masquerade, and Atlus showed up disguised as Electronic Arts. EO2 is sadly just a glorified retread of the first game, with more classes, better graphics, but ultimately the same major flaws and in some cases, steps back instead of forward.
EO2 has a plot similar to its predecessor. Apparently Etria wasn’t the only city to have random dungeon problems. EO2: the Heroes of Laagard takes place in – you guessed it – Lagaard. Except in Lagaard–get ready for this–the dungeon goes up, instead of down, as the adventurers seek the magical floating citadel of legend. I’m curious where EO3 will go–perhaps sideways?
Beyond this, a detailed review isn’t needed to explain the basic premise of gameplay–Jay covered it in his review of the first. The biggest change is the addition of several new classes, and one unlockable class, combined with rebalancing of existing classes. Unfortunately, class balance was not one of EO’s strong points to begin with. In EO2, the new classes are largely overpowered, with the notable exception of the unlockable class, which is so flawed as to be nearly useless. So while there are new classes, many of the same issues from EO remain: some skills are useless, others are ridiculously overpowered, and there are overpowered classes. Although new classes are usually a good thing, balanced classes are a better thing.
There are minor changes to the game, some of which are nice, others less so. When selling items, the shop now tells you what else you need to make a new item available, which is handy. On the other hand, FOEs, the minibosses that roam about happily sodomizing your party and forcing you to grind levels, no longer yield experience. I’m not sure who’s idea this was, but I’m pretty sure that person is an idiot. FOEs now present an obstacle which exists solely to make you go back to town.
Fortunately, trips to town are made easier, by the advent of “Geomagnetic Poles” which accelerate dungeon exploration. Unfortunately, either Atlus is stupid or lazy as certain items treat the poles like the strata markers, making warp stones buggy and useless. “Quests” remain asinine wastes of time that yield worthless rewards for significant effort. There are some interesting quests that demonstrate more creative use of the engine than in the past game, but with useless rewards, the novelty is limited.
When a game franchise has a strong debut, both lucratively and creatively, a developer has two options. They can refine the good, tweak the bad, and make a superior sequel that makes the game and the franchise worth following until games # 5-7 are worthless sell outs and the franchise dies. Or, they can ride the name and mail in the effort, leaving their fanbase as sad, sad pandas. Unfortunately, Atlus decided to do the bare minimum and ship out what can barely be called a sequel.
There were so many places they could have taken the game: better quest system, refining the resource gathering system, balanced classes, more interesting plot, a crafting system, you name it. But, in short, they didn’t. If you absolutely loved Etrian Odyssey, and more of the same sounds wonderful to you, pick up a copy. If the same game is not fun for you, stay away. And I won’t be purchasing any additional installments of this series without reading other reviews to see if Atlus has created a new game, as opposed to a to another 30 levels and a few kludged together classes, as one can describe EO2.