Thanks to ATLUS for the review code
Title: Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 10/17/2017
When a mysterious dungeon in the tree of Yggdrasil is waiting to be explorered, an Explorers Guild seeks out and recruits several members to help aid in the investigation, which leaves you and a team of other custom recruits to explore the massive tree maze and all the sanctums within.
As someone who started with Etrian Odyssey Untold, but was aware of the story-less nature of the main series, this basic plot is pretty much a massive downgrade from Untold, but on par with Etrian IV and Etrian Mystery Dungeon, with more of a focus on the world building and gameplay than a serious plot, which may or may not impact your enjoyment of the game.
While all the menus, battles and exploration are still done from a first person perspective, there has been some minor tweaks to the UI since Etrian Odyssey Untold, mostly in terms of cleaning up some HUD elements, but also by organizing some of the menus a lot better, and adding more detailed backgrounds to the battle scenes. The UI of the touch screen map didn’t change too much from the last few games, but I did notice the auto-walk feature was a bit worse than in Untold, now that it uses some strange arrows that you place on the map to have you move like a conveyor belt to wherever you decide to end the path. Overall, the visuals still get the job done, and the anime artwork for the character classes looks just as sharp as ever, even if some of the enemies you encounter can still look a bit boring.
The music was surprisingly good, being a lot better than in Etrian Odyssey Untold, which also had a good OST, solely because of the fact that nearly every single song I heard in the game managed to stick around in my head even when I wasn’t playing the game. While not every single song is as epic or serene as I would like some of them to be, they were still very well composed, from the basic battle theme, to the FOE theme, and even the themes of the stratums you get to explore, which led to the entire soundtrack being something I could easily recommend for a soundtrack CD.
Similar to the other numbered entries in the series, (and not the Untold series) you start the game off by creating custom characters from four different races in order to build a party of up to five travelers to take with you on your quest. Since each race has their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to certain stats, (for example, an Earthlain can gain a ton of HP as they level up, but won’t be getting as much TP as a Celestrian would) picking the right race and class to build a well-balanced team is very important. While you technically can go ahead in the adventure with one or two explorers if you lack creativity or want a challenge, this is really not recommended as on the easiest setting enemies will overwhelm you, and being without a back line of party members will cause a huge disadvantage on the very first floor of the dungeon, so building a full team is recommended.
Unfortunately, for those like myself who aren’t that good at making up character names, there’s no option to just have the CPU randomly generate names for certain classes, so you have to enter them all yourself. In the end, I just took the names of a Gym Leader from Pokemon Gold and Silver, the name Aelita from the show Code Lyoko and the name of a soon to be departing Aunt in my life, in order to build my team past the standard Connor/Lillian Duo I usually use in games like this. Outside of name and classes, you can also change the hair and eye colors of your characters as well as their voice, since the game gives you an insane amount of options to choose from, to the point you can pretty much go crazy with them and give them completely silly color combinations, if you so desire.
The good news about the character customization, for those who have difficulty deciding exactly what a custom character should be like is that if you happen to change your mind on a character’s name, voice, color or class you can return to the Explorers Guild in town to make the desired adjustments, (Before I named the character after my Aunt, the Dragoon I had in my party was just three question marks as I couldn’t think of a name for her) so there’s no need to worry about a decision being a permanent one you may regret. Once your team is ready to go and you equipped them with the bare minimum sets of equipment you can afford, it’s off to the dungeon of the game, which uses most of the same mechanics from previous installments, with a few new additions and tweaks here and there. Handy features like the auto-map, (where instead of having to take a break from the exploration to draw boring lines and make your own walls to track where you’ve been, the game will do most of the map work for you) skill trees, branching pathways within them and of course the battle system the series is known for returns as well, so if you’ve played a prior Etrian Odyssey game before, you’ll be right at home using doing most of the same things as before, while newcomers can use this as a good starting point.
Battles in this game, like in the other entries are done a first person perspective, where you do standard RPG actions such as a normal attack, special skills, your items, guarding from an incoming attack, and running away from enemies, and you can choose the pacing of these battles through the options menu to make them go by incredibly quickly, which is still a much appreciated features for players who do not like battles to drag out forever, and like always defeating an enemy will give you materials that you can sell to the town’s shop in order to buy better items and equipment, which still makes it important to defeat every enemy you come across.
New to Etrian Odyssey V’s battle system is the ability to pull off what’s known as a Union Skill. These are determined by the classes in your party and are learned by distributing a skill point to a specific skill, like you would do in order to learn an ordinary skill. Unlike the normal skills that you can use as long as you have TP remaining, however Union Skills require you to select more than one party member at once, and depending on if any Union Skills were used in the same battle already, the success rate can vary, which discourages you from using them more than once in a battle if you want them to be at a 100% success rate. These skills range from more helpful things such as the ability to restore the TP of your entire party, analyzing an enemy, or teleporting all the way to the beginning of the floor if you happen to get trapped in a dangerous battle in a room surrounded by powerful enemies. They don’t really add a lot of new strategies to the mix, but they are helpful and also do a great job of getting your team out of a tricky situation, so it’s important to learn new ones every now and then as your characters level up. (Since with every five levels you gain, a character can learn a new set of skills dependent on their class.)
Also like in the previous games, the option to take on addicting sidequests are back, and with them come a new, similar feature that you can encounter during a dungeon. While you can easily go to the town’s bar to take on the standard requests that task you with going on a basic fetch quest or defeating a specific type of enemy on a certain floor and stratum to gain crucial EXP bonuses for your party, you’re also able to get smaller quests done entirely within the dungeon that will give you a similar EXP bonus. For example, I had one of my characters try a mysterious berry in the forest, but then they got sick, and I had to constantly heal them as I walked back to the entrance in order to give them proper healing. After a while, my character stopped getting damaged, and a notice popped up mentioning how we found out that you shouldn’t just go up and randomly eat a berry you find on the ground, which gave my entire party EXP! These aren’t made as apparent as a normal sidequest, instead being something that the game rewards you for discovering on your own by looking at every nook and cranny in a floor, even if the events you end up encountering aren’t always as beneficial as you like.
In conclusion, Etrian Odyssey V does some good things for the franchise, improving the UI a bit and continuing to provide an enjoyable RPG adventure with addicting sidequests and a fun battle system. While it does lack the engaging stories found within the Untold series, I was still surprised that I enjoyed the game just as much as I did with Untold, despite the lack of a developing plot. The little additions, from the improved character customizations, the in-dungeon sidequests and Union Skills also help to fit within the series, and I hope all of those features return for future installments. While the 3DS may be dying, this is still a well-made adventure worth taking on the handheld, and I sure hope that Atlus brings over Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 before long as well, and whatever else the Etrian team decides to do next.
I give Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth an 8 out of 10.