Thank you Atlus for sending us this game for review!
The Etrian Odyssey series has always been a throwback to earlier days in gaming, with a very solid first person dungeon crawl along with map making tools for the bottom screen to complete the experience. Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is no exception. While I have only played two of these games to completion so far, each time I have been more and more impressed at the quality and attention to detail. This is a seriously meaty adventure that dungeon crawling fans should not miss.
Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight is the second entry in the Untold series, which is a set of remakes of the Nintendo DS Etrian Odyssey games. This one is a remake of Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard. These remakes update the graphics for the 3DS, and also add a new story mode, along with significant mechanic and balance changes and updates to make it a bit more user friendly. All of these games, but especially the early entries, demand a lot from the player. But the newer ones, especially the Untold ones, can be made easier with difficulty settings and other things.
The main character, which you can name, and his best friend Flavio are both orphans from the Midgard Library. You are sent on a quest to assist Arianna, a princess of Caledonia, to aid her in completing a ritual that has to be performed every one hundred years, in order to keep the kingdom safe. In the process, they meet two others who become close friends, Bertrand and Chloe. Together, they uncover the secret of the Ritual and the Fafnir Knight.
This storyline seems rather simple and cliché at first, but becomes more than that and quite interesting in its own right. Same thing with the characters; at first they seemed stereotypical, but I found myself caring more for them as time went on. Their friendship becomes a bond that keeps them together, and most of the characters have some aspect of their back story that is explored, which helps you get to know them better. Some of my favorite parts of the game are these sequences.
Classic mode is available as well, which allows you to make your own team from a large set of classes. In this mode you choose everyone's name and character portrait. There is no voice acted banter between teammates or anything else of that nature as story mode has, but in return you have wide latitude on how you create your team. There is also a significant amount of story mode content that is missing. On the other hand, it is a much more streamlined experience, so you can beat the game much more quickly. It took me ninety seven hours to beat the story mode campaign. I have read about others beating classic in a much shorter fifty to sixty.
The first Untold had many quality of life improvements, and this one continues the tradition of offering even more. The auto-map feature returns, though this time it can automatically mark dangerous floor tiles when you walk on them first. But even the auto-map does not get everything, and meticulous map-making is still required. It just takes some of the tedium away, by making some floors and walls drawn for you.
Like Untold, there is a quasi-multiclass feature called Grimiore Stones. Each stone has embedded an ability into them of various levels, and by equipping them, you can use that ability not normally available to your class. These are massively improved over the implementation used in the first Untold game. While getting them is still random, each stone contains just one skill, and you can equip up to six stones, with any combination of skills you wish. Also, you can link skills, to make your existing skills even more powerful. For example, if you have a master level skill, which is level ten, you can equip one Grimiore stone of the same skill, thereby increasing the skill level over ten, to a maximum of twenty. Done correctly, this can make you very powerful indeed.
The core gameplay of the Etrian Odyssey series is all about the dungeons. As you explore a dungeon, there are random battles, where you fight off the enemy in simple turn-based combat, similar to classic RPGs where you assign each character an action for that round. There are also sometimes avoidable F.O.E.s, which are much stronger than a normal enemy. These F.O.E.s (Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens) can be quite powerful, and may take much more skill, sacrifice, or advanced level grinding to defeat. They also usually offer much greater rewards, in the form of experience, or loot drops.
Loot drops are used in a somewhat unique way: rather than getting weapons or other items directly from enemies, they drop raw materials that are used to create better and more powerful items. Some items, once you have the materials, can be purchased as much as you like. Others, you must have a certain number of specific component(s) to make them. Everything, from weapons, armor, accessories, and used combat items, are purchased in this way. And saving up the money for some future payoff is rarely an option – this game is no cakewalk.
Classic Etrian Odyssey had one difficulty level: punishingly hard. This game, and indeed this series, is known for it. Untold 2, like its predecessor, offers three levels: Picnic, Standard, and Expert. Expert is modeled after that classic experience, where patient leveling and nearly perfect strategy is required. Picnic is much easier, with unlimited retries upon death, and unlimited uses or purchases of certain items. Standard is supposed to be like a typical RPG, with challenging bosses and F.O.E.s, but normal enemies that are easier to handle. You also get one retry per excursion to the dungeon. I played on Standard, and even then, I saw plenty of game over screens; it would have been much worse on Expert, no doubt.
For the first time in an Etrian Odyssey game, there are now multiple save slots. One of them is in the cartridge, with the other eight on the SD card. This is great because, if for no other reason, you can have both classic and story mode saves. It is probably best to beat story mode first, because the story characters are unlocked in classic mode after using a new game +. There is a Highlander DLC, which is the special class from the first Untold game as well, which is a nice touch.
Some of the DLC is really good, like the aforementioned Highlander DLC. There is already a lot of post-game content, and much of the DLC adds even more. Typical post-game stuff includes a whole other strata (five level dungeon) with massively more powerful monsters, and extremely powerful dragons which, when defeated, each unlock ten additional character levels past the default seventy. The DLC adds even more, with some of the bosses from the first Untold featured once again.
Other DLC includes bigtime cheater DLC, of which there is three. One massively increases the experience you earn, another greatly increases your Grimoire chances, and a third greatly increases your rewards from field harvesting spots. These are all bad, and at one point I was greatly overleveled as a result. But the worst is that the rewards for one of the quests is 'big money that scales with progress'. This massively upsets the balance of the economy, and not only makes virtually anything affordable with just a few minutes of effort, but takes significant challenge and grinding out of the game. Did I use them? You bet. If I had not, you can easily add some more hours to the ninety-seven I needed to beat the game.
One DLC to be aware of is the Hot Springs DLC. This DLC offers an additional quest, with some storyline sequences, and the usual banter that comes along with them. Unfortunately, this quest involves a hot spring, where the female characters are ambushed, and seen naked by the other characters. With the 'cat out of the bag', the girls decide to let the boys enjoy the hot spring with them (though there is some modesty still, the player can see them all). The player can see much from the waste up, with only arms and/or steam blocking the necessary parts, but not too much is left to the imagination. Replaced character portraits are also available for the two girls that make it so that they are always in their bath 'outfits' for the rest of the game if you choose. I would suggest Christians avoid this DLC.
On a more positive note, the music in this game is fabulous. The Story Mode defaults to the new, orchestrated music, which I thought was just great. I found myself with those tunes stuck in my head many, many times. Classic Mode defaults to the classic FM synth versions of the songs from the original game. These are also very nice, but I have to admit I prefer the redone versions. I didn't think they could do much better than the music from the first Untold, but I was wrong – this one is even better. The more I find out about Yuzo Koshiro, the more I find that I love his work – some of my favorite game soundtracks ever were composed by him. Unlikely a coincidence. Great stuff here.
The graphics are also excellent, as they were in Untold. The 3D mode is also used to great effect. Only cut scenes are 2D; the rest has depth and uses it naturally, such that it never feels out of place or gets in the way. I greatly prefer it on. The art is also good, and it never felt cheap or uninspired. There are some enemies that are palette swaps from other ones, or that are reused from previous games, but they mostly feel unique.
The voice acting is very well done. Classic Mode characters do not feature any, but all of the Story Mode ones do. Several of the NPCs also have voice acting. Every word is not voice acted – most of the time, text is used, with accent sound effects or words in each character's voice. There are a few lines fully voice acted, if they are really important to the story. During battle, there are also some well-timed lines that help remind you of enemy weaknesses, or show emotions on how the battle is going. Unfortunately, cursing is heard, with things like 'What the H*ll!' and 'D*mn it!' when things get tough during battle. The bar owner, Cass, also says quite a few words I wish he didn't, like 'Godd*mn' and others. He is probably the largest source of foul language, as he also uses occasionally inappropriate word pictures as well. The worst that I noted was saying 'she's colder than a witch's...' and doesn't finish it. But it probably finished up in your head.
Beyond the language problem mentioned above, there are also some characters who dress inappropriately. Thankfully, the game doesn't dress female warriors in skimpy outfits – if they are supposed to wear armor, they are shown wearing it. (Unless you enable partial nudity with the Hot Springs DLC...) But some Classic Mode character models show a bit more skin than I would prefer, including one with the bottom portion of a breast showing. One in particular, the Dark Hunter, is skilled with the whip, and their character portraits hint towards bondage-style whips. The skill names themselves (and descriptions) remove all doubt with choices like Gag, Shackles, Cuffs, Ecstasy, and Climax.
NPCs in this game dress appropriately, but not always for the enemies. The worst example is one boss that covers her chest with long hairs. *spoilers* This is explained in the story as the 'Ruler of Heaven' gathers the souls of deceased warriors and grants them eternal life by turning them into monsters. *end spoilers* Most of the enemies are fine, though, as few are humanoid.
One really strange case is that one of the NPCs, Regina, who runs the restaurant you help support, causes unusual reactions to people around her. She is a strong, driven personality who wants to cook well more than anything else. But she seems to attract both male and female admiration, as she (rightly) complained about a male patron tapping her bottom, and later, women and girls talk about how handsome and attractive she is. One girl has a heartache over her but is not sure why, while an older lady says she would have fallen for her if she was younger (and she is currently married with a daughter). When you say to her you find a female party member cute she agrees, though that could easily be innocent.
Regina plays an important part in one of the new features of this game, with the restaurant she opens up. The local government asks you to help support this place with ingredients and recipes that you find throughout your adventure. Each of the meals that you can eat with ingredients gathered through defeating monsters and gathering confers onto your team some benefit in battle or otherwise. Some of them can make a significant improvement to your power, and can easily swing the tide of battle or aid in your longevity. You are also asked to invest into the development of the town, and in doing so, reap the rewards in the form of more customers for the restaurant. Done properly, this can be a significant source (and destination for) income. Other than making more money, well placed advertisements, which help draw in customers, also bring in adventurers who are willing to trade for Grimiore stones, which can be a huge help.
Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight is another very solid entry into the Etrian Odyssey series, and one that I highly recommend. I would not give it to younger players, and as always, consider the content before making a decision on whether it is right for you. This is probably my favorite Etrian game yet, and a must play for classic dungeon crawling fans. The best part is, there is a demo in the eShop which allows you to play the first 5 levels of the labyrinth, and you can transfer your progress to the final game, with no loss in progress. So, what are you waiting for? Give the demo a shot!