Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight takes the acclaimed dungeon crawler Nintendo DS title Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard, and brings it up to date on the Nintendo 3DS. There’s not just dungeons to crawl through; there’s recipes to make, new graphics to observe, a new story to experience, and team mates to love. For Etrian Odyssey fans, there’s nothing to worry about. Newcomers, however, have to hike up their adventuring pants and tackle unfamiliar territory.
Gameplay comes first and foremost in the Etrian Odyssey series, and Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold is no exception. Gameplay is split between dungeon crawling through various floors and mapping them out; you have to be part time adventurer, part time cartographer and draw the map yourself.
Navigating dungeons is easy enough, with pressing forward or back on the d-pad to move, and to turn with left and right. Each floor holds little secrets to discover, like pools of water or fruits to restore health and technique points, used for special moves. One-time events can crop up too, which can spur on humorous dialogue from your party. A coloured circle in the top right corner goes from blue to green to yellow to red to indicate when a random battle is coming up. Battling takes place like a traditional turn-based RPG, combined with line. During battle, your party and the enemy can be split between the front and back lines. Some weapons can only hit enemies in the front, there’s elemental attacks to consider, abilities tick over turns; if you’ve played a turn-based RPG before, this’ll be nothing new.
Early on, you have to learn how the game wants you to draw your maps without much prompting, not how you want to draw them yourself. Various tools must be used in the way the game permits, sometimes withholding content until you comply with the specific way it wants. For something like drawing a map, this is a bit perplexing. Certain floors, when completed, can be fast-travelled to by tapping the stair icon, but it’s not all that clear how this unlocks. The game almost presumes you played Etrian Odyssey in the past, caring only to explain the newer features, but not going into much depth with the recurring mechanics, such as the map drawing.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold features story mode, as opposed to the original game. The story mode features yourself as a Fafnir Knight and survivalist and friend Flavio as you escort Arianna, the princess of Caledonia, through Ginnungagap to perform a ritual. Along the way war magus Chloe and protector Bertrand are bumped into, and this merry band of five traverse through Ginnungagap and the Labyrinth. There’s nothing too complex here, and the game can be played in classic mode to circumnavigate this, but one of the strongest elements of Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold comes through the story; the writing. Besides the Fafnir Knight who’s nothing more than a silent protagonist, every line of dialogue adds a little bit more to each character’s personality.
Voiced character dialogue is a bit of a mixed bag. During conversation, characters will say something. They may say a sentence or three, but this happens rarely. More often than not, characters will say something, and the dialogue text will say something else entirely. What’s said usually contains the same connotation as the text, but it’s distracting to be reading one thing, and to have the character voice something else. It’s a shame too, as voiced dialogue was a heavily marketed feature of Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold. However, if the game is left to idle, characters randomly chime in depending on where you are, such as in the Labyrinth, in the main town, or at a menu. Like the writing, it just splashes a dash of character into the mix.
Everything looks quite a treat, especially with 3D turned on. In fact, I was scrambling for the charger because my battery was drained due to extended use of 3D. Graphically, everything’s received an overhaul compared to Etrian Odyssey II, released all the way back in 2008. 2D images, used to represent character portrait and screens outside of the dungeon have an incredible depth-of-field effect applied to them that really make them pop, and the 3D models used while exploring and battling look nice too. Cutscenes are also added to explore the story, but they’re rarely used. It would have been nice to have seen more cutscenes, as opposed to character portraits changing expression. It would have been nice though if a consistent art style was chosen between 2D and 3D.
It’s not just the graphics and the voices that have been upgraded from the previous title, but some gameplay mechanics have been changed too. The most notable is the introduction of the café. After discovering recipes and utilising various items from killing monsters, food can be cooked and prepared to give bonus effects while exploring, such as recovering HP or protection from various ailments. While it boils down to a dressed up shop that you have to give up items as well as money, it’s fun trying to discover what items are needed; each recipe hints towards the items, and the only way to find out what the hints are referring to is to read the description of items. For example, if a recipe calls for salting red meat, you’d have to put Rock Salt and Venison together. It’s something that didn’t require a layer of depth, but it works.