Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth Review
The Etrian Odyssey series is an imposing one. Even beyond the punishing difficulty, a lot of potential players are turned off by the simple aesthetic presentation and rudimentary story. You have to fill in a lot of blanks, both in the maps and the narrative. There are a lot of high walls to scale in terms of challenge. You may find your resolve weakening at times. The labyrinth is not for the faint of heart, but each new iteration of the series makes things a bit easier. There’s a lot of fun to be had, assuming you’re the specific kind of gaming masochist this series is designed for.
Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is the latest entry in a series famous for its brutal difficulty and limitless depth. You start at a hub town, create five party members and venture inside the first floor of the maze. Once you prove you can survive by mapping out the first floor, you’re given permission to explore the rest. Unless you’re a series veteran, that first floor will almost certainly kill you. That’s totally fine! Let death be your teacher. Mark all the resource points and traps on your map, explore every square and take note of every locked door. In time, the rules of this maze will make perfect sense to you.
Like the previous games, your experience outside of the labyrinth is a spartan one. The ‘town’ is merely a list of menu options. The story is equally bare, with your whole impetus for exploring the maze boiling down to what might be inside of it. There’s no over-world or travel involved in completing the game. Everything extraneous, everything beyond the maze is treated with impatience and disdain. Rather than feeling bare or empty, this level of focus gives Etrian Odyssey V a strong sense of efficiency. All of the fat has been trimmed. The features this game keeps are present in almost overwhelming amounts, however.
“Beyond the Myth is swollen with level grinding.”
Case in point, Beyond the Myth is swollen with level grinding. This is an homage to the genre and a major draw for the hardcore fans, but it’s still pretty overwhelming. You may be tempted to optimize the auto battle settings and space out, to let time and patience get you to your destination. This will definitely kill you. Once you have a skill setup in place that keeps your health in the green, maybe resort to auto battles. Otherwise, you’ll be catching up on some TV or listening to a podcast and seeing an unusual amount of game over screens. For me, getting my passive skills and classes set up in such a way that I can fearlessly hit the auto battle button is an integral part of the challenge. This is only something you can pull off on a floor you’ve already completed, though. Trying to autopilot your way through a floor you haven’t even mapped out yet is an absolute death sentence.
Another unfortunate reality you’re going to have to face? You probably put your party together wrong. The wrong skills, people in the wrong positions, the wrong class combinations. It’s okay. I did the same thing. Sometimes it takes me two or three tries to get my party just right. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve made a mistake until you get to the first boss and he sweeps your team aside like crumbs on a computer desk. The nice thing about Beyond the Myth is that fixing these mistakes isn’t too costly. For the low, low price of five levels you can reset a character’s classes and skills. Yes, this means more grinding. However, isn’t success worth a little extra time? For what it’s worth, there is no single correct party loadout. So long as you have a healthy balance of offense, defense and support, you can succeed.
“Beyond the Myth is a game with the potential for obsessive investment.”
As a series veteran, I’m somewhat more sensitive to any changes made to the Etrian Odyssey formula. Beyond the Myth takes away the hospital from the town menu, erasing the need to pay extra for resurrecting fallen fighters. For me, this is amazing news. No more putting off buying new equipment in order to bring someone back from the dead! If you’re new to the series, maybe this just feels natural. Punishing players with extra costs for resurrection seems draconian and cruel. Certain healing items are still a luxury commodity, but at least the mana costs for healing magic are less severe. Getting back to a higher floor is less time-consuming. FOEs are still horrendous encounters to endure, but they’re avoidable if you’re careful. Aside from these minor fixes, your experience is still more or less what it was playing the first game back in 2007. Which isn’t a bad thing! The team at Atlus had the formula down pat from the beginning, everything that’s come afterward has been pure polish.
The drawbacks to this game are numerous and ugly. If you can’t stand the grind, taking tons of notes and performing costly experiments as you go, this will be torture for you. But! For a certain kind of gamer, this is bliss. If you’re especially invested, you can even make paper maps with more detailed notes. You can create the perfect party of unstoppable warriors. Beyond the Myth is a game with the potential for obsessive investment. Whether the game clicks for you is a matter of particular personal taste, but if you’re part of the target audience? You’ll love this game.
***A 3DS review code was provided by the publisher***
- Numerous quality-of-life improvements
- Making maps is still awesome
- Combat is challenging yet satisfying
- The grind gets pretty savage at times
- Gameplay is eerily similar to previous entries in the series
- Can’t overstate how hard this series is