Game Review

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Don't call it a comeback

When Etrian Odyssey arrived on the DS in 2007, it was something of a revelation. A dungeon-crawler that traded in dusty catacombs for organic, open-air environments and prized cartography and character customization over narrative, it combined the best of pen-and-paper RPGs with Nintendo's new touch-screen hardware to create something truly special. Six years and three successful sequels later, Atlus has decided to revisit Etria's origins with Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, a remake of the first game with an expanded, character-driven narrative and updated graphics and gameplay. If you have fond memories of the original, this massive upgrade is the perfect reason to revisit the game — and if you're at all interested in RPGs and managed to pass this one up the first time, don't let it slip by you again; Untold is a polished, absorbing, and wonderfully unique experience.

Like all the Etrian Odyssey games, Untold is a first-person dungeon-crawler. You'll make your way through dozens of massive floors of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, and multiple levels of a mysterious ruin known as Gladsheim, battling monsters and heading as far as you can into the maze before returning to Etria — the game's single, menu-based town — to regroup and rest up for more. In that sense, it's fairly traditional for the genre, but The Millennium Girl takes this series in a brand new direction by framing your exploration with a prominent story and persistent characters.

As stories go, Untold's tale tramps through relatively well-trod territory: you play as a highland warrior summoned to Etria to investigate earthquakes and vaguely-worded "abnormalities" in the area. Before too long, you'll join forces with a ragtag team of explorers (Simon the Medic, Arthur the Alchemist, and Raquna the Protector) from the far-off Midgard Library, and awaken the enigmatic, amnesic Gunner Frederica, whose lost memories seem to be connected to the mysterious happenings in both Yggdrasil and Gladsheim.

It's full of anime and RPG clichés, but in truth that doesn't make it any less fun. And while your party of five initially appears full of characters you've met before — an amnesiac heroine, a borderline-alcoholic mercenary, an erudite healer and a brash young mage — there's actually quite a lot of charm to the cast that takes them beyond simple tropes. Shield-wielding Raquna is not only steadfast in battle, for instance — she's also steadfastly, stereotypically Canadian, hailing from the Kingdom of Ontario and receiving care-packages of maple syrup from home. The story sequences feature dialogue reminiscent of the Tales series, with frequent vignettes of everyday, often humorous interactions between the characters steering the story well clear of any doom and gloom, and there are lots of conversational choices for your character.

Veteran explorers scoffing at the very idea of an Etrian Odyssey with pre-set characters needn't worry, however — Untold's story can be left just that thanks to Classic Mode, which provides a more traditional Etrian experience with characters of your own creation. Here, you'll assemble your own party from the nine available classes: the sword-swinging Landsknecht, the agile, arrow-slinging Survivalist, the defense-heavy Protector, the whip-wielding Dark Hunter, the merciful Medic, the elemental Alchemist, the supportive, singing Troubadour, the self-sacrificing Ronin, and the darkly magical Hexer.

Customizing the perfect team is as fun and involving here as in the other Etrian Odyssey titles, but it's worth noting that by playing in Classic Mode, you'll miss out on Untold's substantial Story Mode-exclusive dungeon. Sadly, there's only one save file shared across both modes, so you won't be able to play both Story and Classic modes concurrently; it's a choice you'll have to make from the beginning.

Whether you choose to play in Story or Classic mode, the core of the Etrian Odyssey experience remains exploration, and mapping out the journey as you go. The series' signature hook is that - just like in pencil-and-paper RPGs of old - you'll navigate by drawing your own map on the touch-screen, using an empty grid and a full complement of digital cartographic tools. Untold's labyrinths are sprawling, complex mazes filled with traps, secrets, and hidden passageways, so drawing up a good guide is absolutely essential; happily, it's also incredibly fun. Mapmaking scratches a special itch in both the meticulous and the creative sides of the brain — most things you'll plot on your chart have an accompanying symbol in your toolkit, but you're always free to use them however you like — and the satisfaction of progressing from a blank slate to a lovingly detailed, personalized plan is immense.

Of course, not everything living in the labyrinths will be happy to let you go poking about as you like, and random battles with enemies, bosses, and FOEs will constantly keep you on your toes. A FOE — apparently short for "Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens" — is an enormous enemy that's visible on the map, is usually much, much stronger than your party, and moves around in a distinct and regular pattern, taking one step for each move you make. The first time you encounter any FOE it will be able to knock your entire team flat in a few turns, so survival hinges on learning their movement patterns and avoiding them until you're strong enough to take them on. Returning to face a once-omnipotent FOE and finally besting it is as satisfying as it sounds, and the tense, lengthy battles with these giant beasts are some of the best moments in the game.

Even if you manage to avoid the dreaded FOEs, battles with normal enemies occur quite frequently, so it's a good job that combat in Etrian Odyssey Untold is strategic, engaging, and fun. Along with normal attacks from several different weapon types, each member of your party has access to a wide range of class-specific skills that allow for a huge range of tactics. You could choose to lure a powerful enemy into attacking a hardy (and heavily-armored) Protector using Provoke, leaving the other members free to attack without fear, for instance. When facing a group of foes, you might put your Gunner into a Vulcan Stance, allowing her shots to hit multiple enemies at once for three or more turns. And in an all-out assault, you could command your Highlander to use Bloody Offense, sacrificing his own hit points to raise the offensive power of the entire line.

These techniques are just scratching the surface, and even though the characters themselves are ready-made in this instalment (in Story Mode, at least), their skills can be customized extensively in the branching Skill Trees. Each time you level up, you'll earn a Skill Point, and you can spend these unlocking and leveling up individual skills to create a character tailor-made for your play style. Certain skills need to be learned - or leveled up to a certain degree - before other ones become available, so planning out a character's move-set becomes a labour of love where every level counts. And if you end up changing your play style, you can easily re-allocate all of a character's Skill Points for a two-level penalty.

Regardless of which direction you take your characters' Skill Trees in, you can always branch out with Grimoire Stones. These equippable new additions let your character use weapons and skills from different classes — or even from defeated enemies. It's not a perfect system though; Grimoire Stones can only be swapped out with the help of the Guildmaster at your party's home base, and it's tough to tell exactly what each Stone's skills do before you equip them. You can also synthesize two or three Grimoire Stones to create newer, more powerful ones, but unfortunately this process sounds more compelling than it actually is. It's poorly explained in-game, and though the manual fares slightly better, it still feels needlessly obtuse.

The Grimoire Stones are fun to play around with, but if you're ready to fully commit your characters to a new walk of life, you can head to the Explorers Guild to change them to an entirely different class once they reach level thirty. Class changing works in Story Mode too, so if you decide that young, impressionable Arthur would be better off as a Hexer, or that you'd like to try out a Troubadour instead of a Gunner, you can easily make it happen.

Between battle, exploration, and customization, all of Untold's elements come together to create a game with a fantastic rhythm: you'll head out to explore and chart your new discoveries, battle monsters and gather materials from enemy drops and mining points, then head back to Etria to sell your gains and unlock new equipment in the shop, outfit your team with the latest gear, distribute Skill Points, report completed quests and accept a few new ones, heal, save, and hop back into the maze. On paper it sounds repetitive, but the constant discovery of new items, quests, monsters, and areas gives the game an addictive sense of momentum.

It's also commendably adaptable to different skill levels; there are three difficulty levels to choose from — Picnic, Normal, and Expert — and players can switch between them at any time outside of the labyrinth. Normal and Picnic both forego the dreaded Game Over screen by letting you restart from directly before the battle if your party is wiped out, but the aptly-named Expert setting offers no such quarter.

There's also a Full Auto-Map option that will fill in floors and adjacent walls as you walk, leaving you free to chart out the interesting bits as you see fit, as well as a new Floor Jump feature that lets you warp to the staircase at the end of any floor in the labyrinth you've mapped out completely. It's a welcome option that feels long overdue — Floor Jump takes out a ton of backtracking, and makes quests requiring materials from specific floors much less arduous and more fun.

For first-timers looking to comb Etria's labyrinths, one potential consideration is the fact that Untold's release comes so close to Etrian Odyssey IV. Both are excellent games and well worthy of the considerable time you can easily sink into them, but it's worth noting some important differences between the two for players who only have room for one adventure in their lives at a time.

First, Untold's prominent story and consistent characters make it both unique among Etrian Odyssey games, and the more immediately accessible of the two 3DS titles. You're guaranteed to start with a well-rounded party, for one thing, and you'll have access to helpful skills — including techniques which regenerate HP or TP after each turn in battle — from the very beginning. The dialogue and character-driven narrative also means you'll always know where to head next, so while you might get lost in the labyrinths, you definitely won't get lost in the game.

On the other hand, playing Untold in Story Mode means you'll miss out on the deeply satisfying character creation that's at the heart of the series, and while Classic Mode is always an option, a single save slot means you're essentially stuck with one or the other. As a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey game, Untold is also missing some of the fantastic new features from Etrian Odyssey IV, like the overworld airship exploration that adds variety and a massive sense of adventure to the maze-combing formula.

Untold is also potentially the easier of the two, depending on how you choose to play — Etrian Odyssey IV's Casual option relaxes some of the game's more punishing mechanics (like the map-erasing Game Over screen) but leaves the difficulty of combat largely intact, while Untold's Picnic difficulty makes battles significantly easier, to the point where most standard enemies can be defeated on auto-battle with little trouble.

Like Etrian Odyssey IV, Untold is a great looking game — it's stylish, soft, and absolutely lush. The interface is drenched in deep blues, and the natural imagery of the labyrinths is completely enchanting. There are some blurry textures to be found, and not everything in Yggdrasil holds up to close visual scrutiny, but the whole package is so disarmingly pleasant that it's easy to forgive any flaws. The three-dimensional enemy models look great, and their designs are nearly always appealing, with colourful, alternate-reality animals making up the majority of the bestiary. They're also lovingly animated; even without checking their HP bars, you can tell if an enemy is close to defeat by the way it's moving. Excellent character art rounds out the package for your party, and several different portraits for each member of the main cast gives the story sequences the feel of a visual novel, while milestone moments are told through crisp anime cutscenes.

A poorly-implemented 3D effect was one of our few gripes with Etrian Odyssey IV's graphics, and we're happy to report that it's much improved in Untold. Menus and user interface elements float cleanly in front of the action, the three-dimensional labyrinth sequences now feature several different layers of depth, and even the two-dimensional town backgrounds have pop-out elements that make them well worth seeing in 3D.

One small issue with Untold's presentation is that the narration and dialogue text are nearly indistinguishable. They're both blue, while the system text is in red, and it's easy to misread narration as a character quote, or vice-versa; the only indication besides context is the sporadic appearance of quotation marks. It's not a huge problem, but it did lead to a lot of confused rereading in the opening hours.

Etrian Odyssey has always excelled in atmosphere, thanks in large part to Yuzo Koshiro's soaring soundtracks, and the first game's music is among the series' best. The original's soundtrack has been remixed, expanded, and fully orchestrated for Untold, and it sounds absolutely fantastic. The background themes for exploration are beautiful, varied, and surprisingly soothing, the battle theme is catchy and high-energy, and the jazzy shop tunes show off Etria's funky side. Everything is undoubtedly enhanced by the new instrumentation, with soothing strings, punchy horns, lilting lutes and electric guitars all coming together to craft Etria's unique aural ambiance. As a great bonus, you can switch between the newly arranged music and the FM synth soundtrack of the DS original at any time; the first is a perfect match for the sweeping, sylvan settings, and the second a wonderful nostalgia trip that gives the game an instant old-school RPG feel.

There's lots of quality voice acting (and a convincingly Canadian cadence for Raquna) to help bring the story to life, with short spoken clips ala Fire Emblem: Awakening that relate to but don't directly correspond to the written dialogue. The voice work isn't confined solely to the story sequences, either; teammates will chime in to tell you when to expect monsters in the field, keep up a string of background commentary during battles, and even let you know when you're near a wall with a secret passage, all of which adds a lot of personality.

Finally, personalized Guild Cards let you swap data, gameplay statistics, and an encouraging word with other explorers over StreetPass or via QR codes. If you're playing in Classic Mode, you can attach your favourite character for players you pass to recruit, and in both game modes you'll earn decorative badges for your Guild Card by checking off certain achievements.

Conclusion

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is not only a great example of how to remake a classic, it's also a fantastic game in its own right. Fans of the original will be thrilled with the updated graphics, sound, and gameplay — whether playing with the newly added story or keeping it simple in Classic Mode — and new players are in for a real treat: this is one of the most engrossing RPGs available on the 3DS, and the beginner-friendly Picnic difficulty and character-driven narrative make it the most accessible Etrian Odyssey yet. It lacks some of the refinements and innovations of the recently released Etrian Odyssey IV, but it makes up the difference with plenty of heart and charm.

If an atmospheric mix of cartography, character customization, deep combat, and exploration sounds at all up your alley, Untold is a story well worth telling.

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User Comments (59)

HappyHappyist

#1

HappyHappyist said:

looks great! i wont buy it immediately, but i'll definitely pick it up eventually after i buy everything i've been looking forward to this year.

GuardianKing

#2

GuardianKing said:

Meh... EOIV didn't really resonate with me...that said, the last ATLUS game I doubted was SMTIV, and then it totally broke me with its endings... :_:

Speaking of which, does anyone know if Soul Harckers' story/endings are as morbid and scarring as SMTIV's?

gamr4life

#4

gamr4life said:

The demo for this was incredible! The demo combined with this review has convinced me to get this game!

6ch6ris6

#5

6ch6ris6 said:

too many rpgs where you have to manage a team. i hate that. i want ONE character to which i can relate to and build up.
too many round-based rpgs, too. cant there be some more action and intense fighting like in an mmorpg?

bezerker99

#6

bezerker99 said:

I want this game desperately. I will probably have to end up downloading this title from the eShop at some point because I won't have the money for it next week. Awesome review!

antipop621

#7

antipop621 said:

@GuardianKing I beat Soul Hackers a few days days ago. The first ending was pretty tame. Unremarkable actually. Nothing scarring. I don't think I'll play the game again to see the alternate ending.

Morph

#8

Morph said:

Is this coming to europe, never been interested in etrian games, but I could be persuaded to pick this one up

Captain_Toad

#9

Captain_Toad said:

Heh, I may have to get both versions Etrian Oddysy games if I get the money.
Something about drawing out maps and Untold's ease of first-timers, (heh well at least for me) Seems oddly good.

Spoony_Tech

#10

Spoony_Tech said:

Exceptionally detailed review of one of my favorite rpg series. Love the comparasion between this and EOIV. Now with this one I own everyone again come next week! I still need to beat a few games first before I dive in. Too many games already out and October doesn't help that any!

MERG

#11

MERG said:

I'm in the same boat as Berserker...I want this so much but just don't have the funds for the limited edition. I'll have to get it down the line.

KingMike

#12

KingMike said:

I played the demo, looked great though I never played an EO game before (thought I did buy EO4).
As I understand, the difference in the Game Over rule is that Picnic mode is like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest while Normal will only offer to forgive one death before making you reset.
Though it did allow you to save your map at Game Over. Is that also a difficulty-related change?
Good thing for the Full Auto Map. I can see drawing a map being fun the first time but tedious if you decide to play a second time.

Spoony_Tech

#14

Spoony_Tech said:

@KingMike No it always let you save your map at game over screens even the very first one. If you count the original 6 years ago I've played them all and I'm a bit tired of drawing in the map tbh. Gald I don't have to this go around. Also the options in this game are unheard of for the series. You can speed up everything from walking to auto battle. I love it!

Hunter-D

#15

Hunter-D said:

I just started EOI a few days ago. Think I'll just stop my playthrough and wait for this. I know it will be worth it.

LDXD

#16

LDXD said:

Looks like I'm gonna have to get this I didn't even realize it was a remake of the first one, I remember trying to get a while after it was released and couldn't find it anywhere except online for ridiculous prices EO2 was the first one I played
Great review

Rerun

#17

Rerun said:

I got this pre-ordered because of the bonus. I like that ATLUS takes the time to package bonuses. Playing it on a later date though since I have other games lined up.

Gen0neD

#18

Gen0neD said:

Wow. A well thought out and expertly written review. I have no intrest in the game or its genre and i'm debating buying it, simply from reading this. Well done.

WiiLovePeace

#19

WiiLovePeace said:

Awesome, awesome review! I was going to buy EO: Untold anyway (since I absolutely love EO4) but this review definitely solidified my purchase in concrete :D Now all I have to do is "patiently" await its release in my region...

Morpheel

#24

Morpheel said:

Great review Morgan!

I really want this, but I think I'll wait until I actually beat IV!
The demo was great so I'm totally getting it sooner or later.

FadedSun

#26

FadedSun said:

@6ch6ris6 Wut? It's been tried and tested format for JRPGs that you have a party of which you build up. If you want to play a game where you only have one character to take care of, then play an action/RPG. Or you could even play this game on Classic Mode and go solo if you want a challenge.

One-Winged-Pit

#29

One-Winged-Pit said:

@Pixel-Perfect It has a New Game+ mode, I mean 4 did so this one should. You get to carry over a lot of stuff like your equipment, money, map data, etc. I will probably beat the story mode first to unlock the extra classes then play Classic mode. I doubt you can carry over between modes though. :/

slidecage

#32

slidecage said:

So can anyone give me some MAJOR REASON to buy this game if i already own the first one for the DS... Its the same game mostly isnt it going to be hard sell when pokemon hits 10 days later.

One-Winged-Pit

#33

One-Winged-Pit said:

@slidecage Try the demo. This is probably one of the best remakes ever though. It is practically a new game with all the changes but lets you play it like the original if you want.

ReaperX30

#35

ReaperX30 said:

I wasn't sure at first of the story mode but after trying the demo my mind was changed. The characters have all so much charm and add a lot to the game....and a Canadian inspired Raquna....Awesome! That's pretty funny, a Japanese game with a character inspired by my country is just plain cool. Can't wait to get my copy next week.

thatguyEZ

#36

thatguyEZ said:

Nice, can't wait to pick it up Tuesday. I'm pretty proud of myself for not playing the demo, trying to save all that EO goodness for the full game lol.

Zodiak13

#37

Zodiak13 said:

As with all EO games, this will be a day 1 purchase. This has become my favorite RPG series of the last 10 years. Anyone that has never played this before should give it a whirl. You may be amazed at how fun this game can be.

slidecage

#38

slidecage said:

have the demo downloaded. Just dont see enough of a change to say its worth a 40 buck purchase when you have the first one for the ds. I may change my mind later but i think i keep the 40 for pokemon. EO4 just took a nose dive to 20 brand new at gamestop in the states. i expect this one to do the same (it be 20 around black friday)

Rei7

#43

Rei7 said:

Should I really try this game? I like Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei, Persona and Final Fantasy and a lot of other RPG games. But i'm not really sure if I will love this one. Let me know what is unique about EO compared to Fire Emblem at least. I have a lot of mix feelings about this game.

One-Winged-Pit

#44

One-Winged-Pit said:

@Rei7 Have you played Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey? It is like that. You go through large dungeons in a first person dungeon crawler. In this one the characters can have personality in story mode but what the usual is that you create blank slate characters. There is a demo for this game too.

Maxobiwan

#47

Maxobiwan said:

@GoombaJMR Atlus USA said they are unable to make dual audio (because they don't know how to code that kind of option). Patching a cadridge ROM, it's well... a little impossible (expecially for them).

Only advice if you want multiple save : take it on eShop and swap SD card to swap save

GoombaJMR

#48

GoombaJMR said:

@Maxobiwan Nothin worrying about dual audio (since I understand both languages), It is possible to patch a cartridge ROM though..I believe through my experiences with nintendo.

Remember that Mario Kart 7 update that got rid of online glitch on that island track? I had the game on cartridge, and it successfully patched and removed the ability to do that. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that could be a way for Atlus to add something to their game too right?

I was thinking of buying the game twice (I'm obsessed with EO lol), and playing one save with each, but I think a patch with the game would be a nice fix...if possible of course

c1pher_c0mplet

#52

c1pher_c0mplet said:

@Rei7 You should TOTALLY try Etrian Odyssey Untold. And like @One-Winged-Pit said, there's an eShop demo that'll allow you to transfer your save data to the full retail/digital release should you decide to take the plunge, so there's really nothing to lose. If you do end up liking it, I wouldn't wait too long; the Etrian games (and Atlus games in general) tend to go out of print really fast. In fact, I recently had to order Etrian Odyssey IV online because it's not in any retail stores near me due to it already being out of print and it just came out not too long ago! @.@

Ickaser

#53

Ickaser said:

Holy crap. This looks like it is right up my alley. I don't know how I managed to miss the rest of them entirely.

elbcen

#56

elbcen said:

I am a little sad that I picked up the original DS game a while ago. I think I would have enjoyed the Millennium Girl more because of the narrative, but I would feel a little sorry to buy this version of the game even though I basically already own it on the DS.

Justaguest

#57

Justaguest said:

There seems to be a lot of recyclation ..of monsters I mean. I hate that. I will wait with this one as I finished Titan not so long ago and dont wanna see same kind of enemies anytime soon.

Algus

#58

Algus said:

Yeah, they've reused the same assets since the first game. EO4 animated them but it was still a lot of the same artwork as a base. It wouldn't be an Atlus game if they didn't exploit all of those visual assets to make about 50 games lol

Justaguest

#59

Justaguest said:

@Algus ugh they even took 2d models they already used and recreated them instead of making new ones? that sucks.. I am probly ditching the series then.

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