Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why You Should Be Playing Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (DS)

The Etrian Odyssey series as well-known for being "old school"-- in other words,deep and interesting, but grindy. I played the first installment in the series, and ultimately tired of the sameness that surrounded me after about five hours.

This time, though, it feels different.

I've played 10 hours of Etrian Odyssey III, and it's terrific. It's still deep and complex--the skill trees seem practically endless, and there are infinite strategies available when it comes to combat-- but it doesn't feel repetitive or grindy anymore.


Well, there's now an entire "sea mode" that makes it possible to sail as a fishing vessel. It's hypnotic, really, just tooling around the ocean, finding fish. Plus, there are a ton of additional quests that are included with this mode.

And there are whales.

They're not called whales, but that's what they are, and when you catch one, the rewards are tremendous.It may take several trips, though, because your boat might get damaged instead of a successful catch.

There are many different upgrades available for your fishing vessel-- better sails, better nets, a good luck statute help you find rare fish--and it becomes very strategic, deciding what equipment to outfit for a journey.

Oh, and there's this: you also have a multiplayer mode where you can cooperate on sea quests, if you'd like.

It's all quite fantastic, and quite addicting. It's also an excellent break from "dungeoning" (although you're outdoors, that's really what you're doing), and you can go fishing any time you have enough money to outfit your boat.

In town, there are interesting characters to talk to, and sometimes, there will be side quests. I like that everything in town is set up as a hub--there's no walking, just location selection from a menu, and it's quick and easy.

When you do go dungeoning, there's a new auto-pilot feature that is absolutely brilliant. The way the game displays is that your map is always visible on the lower screen, while everything else happens on the upper screen. It's easy to mark the map along the course you want to travel, then touch the auto-pilot button, and off you go. So if you need to go to the third floor, and you've marked out auto-pilot paths for the first two floors, you move along the path automatically, only stopping for encounters.

It's a fantastic feature, and I'm surprised that no one has thought of it before (or maybe they have, and I'm just not aware of it). Again, though, it greatly diminishes the grind feeling--well, it takes the grind feeling away entirely, really.

Of course, mapping is a huge part of this game, but in a good way. Mapping out a level is very friendly, because there are so many tools in the map editor that it's easy to customize a map in any way you want. At sea, it feels like I'm preparing a nautical chart or something, and it contributes to the appeal of the game.

It's a tremendously appealing package--complex, and deep, but very user-friendly at the same time. It's very fun and very addictive, and even as I write about the game, I look forward to playing.

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