Etrian Odyssey is an archetypal RPG that succeeds in pleasing the niche market. Make no mistake, this game will grab you by the balls, twist them and scream for attention. In essence, Etrian Odyssey is the marmite of the videogame world. The callous difficulty gives no room for error and the reward for playing the game is not the visuals but your increasing prowess in cartography.
The game begins with the player's discovery of Etria, and as with most enchanted worlds, there's a labyrinth. Yet around this evil a town has been forged and it's the hero's haven as it contains the taverns, temples and creature comforts that are found in towns. After creating your guild, and being shown to the front of the labyrinth it iss the player's duty to navigate around the first floor of the labyrinth.
Upon entering the labyrinth the options on what to do are limited. There are no saving options aside from saving at the town and the main quest is to record the path that has been taken as a strong map is the key to success in the game. Once the first floor has been mapped out sufficiently, the effective increase in difficulty can be noted and the real enemies of the Etrian Odyssey will come to fruition.
FOEs. These creatures are classically known as "bosses"; however, there are multiple FOEs spread out across the varying floors of the labyrinth and there is more than one style of FOE to battle. The majority of FOEs follow the same navigation path; however, fall under the eye of a unique FOE and they will follow your direct movement for some distance. Loosing to a FOE means that you're only allowed to save your map. It was once said that "fail to prepare means prepare to fail", with Etrian Odyssey the new spin to this archaic phrase is "fail to map means prepare to fail". Cartography is a key concept in this game and an ill prepared map will cause the demise of the character.
Despite there being few locations, the graphics are still commendable. With strong visuals from the labyrinth itself right through to the character design. Although the emphasis on the graphics is secondary to the actual quest, the designs are simplistic although appealing. Especially as the designs are anime stylised which will appeal to the majority of the niche the game targets.
Although, the lack of a basic save function is one of the major turn offs with the game. The concept behind the lack of a save function at will makes sense with the style of game; however, it's very prohibitive on the whole. With unholy amounts of backtracking to complete quests it makes the game a lot harder and longer but in an unnecessary way.
The omission of any real battle animation makes the game feel like more of a text based RPG, which will make many people, outside the niche market, discontinue playing the game as it makes the game feel very bulky and old.
Finally, the game is clearly made for the niche audience. If you're fed up with being spoon fed through your adventure and you want the difficulty that "Eastmost peninsular is the secret" provides, then this game is a treat. But for many users the lack of a strong storyline and help will make the game fall onto the back burner.
Final Verdict - 8/10
Etrian Odyssey is not for the faint of heart, there are consequences of falling in love with this game - lack of free time, as it will capture you. Yet the lack of appeal for the general audience is a big turn off for most. This is a solid addition to any collection and will makes a welcome change from the other RPGs on the market.