Etrian Odyssey Untold: Millennium Girl markets itself as a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey game. Interestingly enough, given that a remake is usually released decades after the original, Millennium Girl’s release comes only six years after the first Etrian Odyssey game. This poses the essential question: Do the improvements within Etrian Odyssey Untold: Millennium Girl warrant a re-purchase of a game that came out so recently?
Fortunately, I’m inclined to say yes.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Etrian Odyssey tasks the player with exploring several dungeons filled with monsters, similar to any other RPG. The party fights in a turn-based battle system resembling most other RPGs as well. What truly makes the Etrian Odyssey franchise stand apart, though, is the way that a player explores a dungeon. Instead of the game automatically making a map for the player, the player is responsible for tracking their own progress across a dungeon on a grid-based mapmaking system. Ultimately, success and failure within dungeons solely rest in the player’s hands, as the mapmaking abilities of a player often become a lifeline during gameplay.
Unfortunately, this unique system poses a problem for the franchise as a whole. Since the game’s most unique mechanic lies solely on grid-based mapmaking, the games can often feel too mechanical and similar to one another. Most times, the games of Etrian Odyssey share the same monsters in each iteration and even environments can often seem copy-and-pasted. This makes the decision to purchase each sequel even more challenging.
Etrian Odyssey Untold combats these presumptions in an unexpected, but excellent, way. Although the first stratum (dungeon) still feels akin to the first stratums of all the other games, it really starts branching off afterwards. Standing at the very center of Etrian Odyssey Untold are its new combat mechanics. In addition to the usual skill points that are allotted after each level gained, the game also introduces a new phenomenon known as grimoire stones. These grimoire stones serve an incredibly unique role, as they allow players to attach skills to characters that usually would not be able to attain them. For example, if your medic often lulls around because he has nobody to heal, attaching a spear grimoire will allow the medic to attack enemies with a spear, a skill that he otherwise would have never attained. These grimoire stones mix up combat as we have never seen it before in Etrian Odyssey. Character classes can now take on roles that they never had access to before.
The grimoire mechanic goes even deeper, though; grimoire stones can be combined to create even more desirable varieties. Players can get into the nitty-gritty of grimoire stones by combining three different stones, each with different properties and skills, in order to create a something unique for their character.
Grimoire stones are not the only new feature within Etrian Odyssey Untold. The most notable addition to the game\’s new story mode is an actual story (blasphemy, I know). Before, Etrian Odyssey games were always known for their nonexistent storylines, which often took away motivation for completing an over sixty-hour quest. Untold, on the other hand, actually includes an interesting story, although not completely unpredictable. Even this is much better than what we have seen in previous games and actually provides an incentive for players to continue playing. The writing accompanying the story is superbly written and each character’s personality feels truly different from each another.
Unfortunately, a few shortcomings exist in the way the story is told. Voice acting, when it is present, is very well done, but the performances are missing for a vast majority of the conversations, leaving me wishing that they were present. Another feature that I longed for were cinematics. The opening scene was absolutely gorgeous, but after that, there were only a few more for the duration of the game. This felt like a missed opportunity, as I was hoping for more scenes resembling those found within Fire Emblem. Fortunately, the developers did a good job in the graphics department with bringing the game into 3D. Although I hoped for more animated scenes, the graphical treatment was still a nice addition.
The biggest addition, exclusive to the story mode, is an all-new dungeon. This dungeon is one of the most unique I have played in an Etrian Odyssey game. It features several simple, yet unique, puzzles. This stratum also introduces several brand-new enemy types and even a few boss battles. In a series that so rarely introduces new enemies, it was incredibly satisfying to have five to ten extra hours of brand-new gameplay featuring new enemies. It is unfortunate that the extra stratum is only available on story mode, though, since many players hoping to play on classic mode will miss out on the innovative new dungeon.
There are a few complaints that need to be addressed, as not everything within done within Etrian Odyssey Untold was for the better. In an attempt to make the game more accessible, the difficulty of Untold feels much lower than previous games in the franchise. This is disappointing, since most of the audience for the game is expecting a challenging JRPG. Although Untold is harder than the average game, it does not reach the precedent set by previous games in the series. Another problem to consider is the fact that the first ten hours of the game are pretty stale and incredibly similar to Etrian Odyssey IV. The environments, enemies, and dungeon design is nearly identical, but after the first ten hours, the game becomes much more interesting.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: Millennium Girl is an excellent game, not just an excellent remake. The sixty-hour campaign provides more than enough content for the $40 asking price. The several new added features, both large and small, provide for a much more streamlined and expanded experience. Grimoire stones are unlike any mechanic we have seen before; the new story and dungeon added are awesome; and smaller details, such as floor jumping, make Untold feel like a truly modern RPG. Package that in with an incredible music score and very good-looking 3D graphics, and you’ll almost forget the reduced difficulty. For those who loved the original Etrian Odyssey, and especially for those who never had the chance to experience it initially, Etrian Odyssey Untold: Millennium Girl is a JRPG that will not disappoint.