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  1. #1

    [3DS] Etrian odyssey Untold 2 The Fafnir Knight

    I didn't know that Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 was due to in the past weeks in America if not for some tweets. I knew it was coming out, but didn't remember when - and if I preordered it already, leading to me purchasing two copies, one of which is on sale (wink wink).

    Anyway, I'm not the biggest fan of the first Untold, and remaking Etrian Odyssey 2 would require a lot of work: I judge it as the hardest of the franchise, with some classes in dire need of some serious rebalancing. While I'm far from being able to say if developers succeeded in this remake, impressions are good.
    Just like the first Untold, you can select story mode (fixed characters) and classic mode (player-created characters) and different difficulty modes. Unlike the first Untold you can save on the cart or on the SD card, allowing to play story and classic side-by-side; the easiest difficulty apparently allows to clear the game in a rather easy and quick way, although both modes share the same balancing, and according to many players enemies health has been balanced for the story party, which can grow quite powerful.

    As usual, I've started classic mode in expert (party annihilation means game over and resume from last save) with a party of Ronin, Protector, Alchemist, Hexer, and Medic. Classes include Beasts from the start (locked in EO2), plus Sovereign (from EO3), and Highlander (from EOU1). I can't hide that I had a lot of trouble with this starting party, with the Ronin one-hit-killed by essentially everything, forcing the Protector to abuse Provoke, and therefore the Medic to heal constantly. I did assemble the party knowing of EO2's late game, but skills have changed: for example the Hexer no longer has her all-powerful untyped spell based on her HPs, but a series of spells based on the party's HPs. At the beginning of the third floor I switched to a Highlander, Protector, Landketch, Alchemist, Medic party and things went a bit better thanks to higher HPs, defence, and attack. It's still tough as enemies can absorb a lot of hits and I'm finding difficult to build a decent economy (monster drops don't sell for much, and I require constant healing and resurrection). Progress is slow, but it's also due to the party switch, my first choices were at level 7 and benefitted from various quests, whereas the new arrivals had to work with monsters only.
    I'd say that the balancing is very close to EO2, with tough monsters roaming even in the first floors, still haven't beaten (or tried to) a FOE/boss so I don't know if they respawn (they didn't in EO2).

    Classes have a new skill tree closer to the first games, with no distinction between novice/regular/elite skills, you just pour points where you want. Browsing through skills highlighted a lot of follow ups (like first inflicts a status where all attacks create a second elemental strikes, second goes for an elemental attack, this gets element from that attack), along with new or modified skills to make full use of the new classes (the Highlander powers up by sacrifinc her or the party's HPs), so I doubt that combat, once up to speed, won't be fun. Even in the first floors enemies show different behaviours, and there has been a lot of running from FOEs to advance, sometimes using the labyrinth against them (a rather cool thing). The first three floors have been completely reworked as well.
    EOU2 has been unforgiving, but I've always liked Etrian Odyssey for being like that.

    Technically-wise, the game is very good. Now NPCs have voices, which I find very strange, the music still kicks ass, and the game looks very nice, with a tad more effects than EOU1; I'd say that it looks better than Labyrinth no Kanata, a technically impressive title in its own right, and several steps ahead of Ray Gigant, a dungeon crawler for the Vita.

    My biggest fear is that EOU2 will become exactly like EOU1, with a reworked first stratum, but the rest of the game exactly as the original. That doesn't mean it's bad, but for someone that went through all the EOs before (including the Mystery Dungeon spinoff), it's boring because there's nothing really new...and probably there's a bit of exahustion for dungeon crawlers, as I've been playing a lot of them recently. Still, I'd recommend Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 to new players, there are lenty of options for a smooth introduction to the game.

  2. #2
    The adventure into the labyrinth continues, and I've finally hit the point where the party might not be wiped out by every encounter. With the Highlander and Landsketch finally at level 10 the damage output has gone to decent levels, with the Highlander finally free to use her HP draining skills for some strong attacks. I'm speccing the Landsketch for sword use, I thought that the Falcon Strike would hit six times against at random against enemies, dealing six attacks to a single enemy, but I might have been wrong: the only time I used it, it stroke once against a single enemy; might be due to the extra attacks not triggering, requires more testing.

    I've also defeated my first FOE, a Ragelope on the first floor. Even at full HP and the Protector using Front Guard to enhance defense, it was able to one shot the Lands with its special attack, and of course it inflicted confusion. The battle was the first time I've ever used the new Force skills. Each class has two of these skills: the first is usually a buff (more damage, lower TP usage for skills, better defence, etc), the second is a powerful action related to the class (full revive, heal, and status debuff for Medics, no damage for the whole party for one turn for Protectors, untyped area spell for Alchemists, etc). Using the first skill only depletes the force gauge, which can replenished by battling in the dungeon; using the second will shatter the gauge, requiring to go back to High Lagaard and rest. Unlike the original EO2, going back to the town completely restored the Force gauge, allowing to tackle bosses and FOEs without spending a lot of time in the labyrinth to fill it up.
    This is a welcome change, especially when these two Force skills are actually useful...in the original EO2 Force skills were rather useless.

    Like in the first Untold, there are Grimoire stones; equipping stones will give a class one skill from an other class or even an enemy, though I've always find more useful to equip stones that enhace a class' traits. The rate at which you get Grimoires is rather high, and you can trade them with other guilds if you happen to streetpass them; you can also exchange guild cards via QR codes. Still, I don't particularly like Grimoire stones, they feel more like a device for the party in story mode.

    EOU2 adds a town improvement and cooking elements to the mix, and they are well developed, and feel less tackled on as the extra activities in the first Untold.
    Early in the game you are introduced to a new character, a cook, for whom you'll collect ingredients in the labyrinth; ingredients are either dropped by monster or collected at gathering spots in addition to normal materials. Treasure chests in the labyrinth, quests, and story events will give you recipes, and based on the recipe's description you have to mix and match collected ingredients to create new dishes. For example, a recipe asking for "soft bones" and "hard nuts" requires Howl Cartilage and Walnuts to be prepared. Once a dish has been discovered/created, it can be ordered at the bar (not the tavern from where you get quests) for effects, like HP recovery at every turn, more TPs, having your first attacks in every battle imbued with an element, and so on. Only one effect can be active at a time, they don't count toward battle buffs/debuffs and don't run out, they will remain active until you order a new dish.
    This new cooking mechanic ties in with a second and third new mechanics, advertising and town development. Advertising is used to get extra money, and town development to increase the population to advertise to. To advertise, you select a district, one particular demographic, a dish that appeals to them, and wait for the results. Developing the town will bring in new groups, giving more chances to gain money. In one quest, the tavern wants you to advertise Deer Steak. First you have to discover/create Deer Steak, which requires killing a Ragelope and collect Venison (the other ingredient is readily available); then you have to find someone to which this dish will appeal to, and to do this you have to develop the South District until the Landsketch guild moves in; Lands love grilled meat and fish, so you advertise the Deer Steak to them. Now you go the the labyrinth, adventure for a bit, and wait for the results to come in.
    This is a very well though system, and I really like it. It also helps getting your economy going, as monster drops sell for pennies and new items cost a lot.

    Back into the labyrinth, combat started to unfold beautifully. First, enemies have started to use combined skills,

    like the Snail King calling four Snails to deliver a powerful, 5-hit random attack

    ; higher character levels allows to link skills in a very effective way, and to distribute TP usage among party members, rather than abusing the Alchemist for decisive strikes. A tank like the Protector is a must though, enemies hit very hard and there are a lot of glass cannon classes; even the trusty Landsketch isn't particularly sturdy, though her standard attacks are possibly the most powerful among all classes (with the possible exception of the Ronin, but those are the perfect example of glass cannons).
    Right now I've reached the door to the first boss on the 5th floor, but won't engage it until I can dispatch all types of FOEs present in the first stratum. even with them being shown as blue (below your average level), a Ragelope is still a force to be reckoned with, and Raptors are still shown as yellow (same average level).
    The new floor layouts and the emphasis on "labyrinth maneuvring" to dodge FOEs by using wall and traps is nice, though I hope it won't be a thing in all strata: it's OK if it's a sort of theme for the first, but shouldn't be repeated throughout the game.

    Now that I have a self-sufficient party (more or less), the game has suddently become better and I'm playing it every moment I can...which is kinda detrimental to poor Ray Gigant.

  3. #3
    After defeating the boss of the first stratum (with only two characters alive hanging by 10 or so HPs), I decided to take a pause from classic mode and see how story mode plays out.
    I went for picnic difficulty, and the difference between that and expert difficulty is jarring, with a story party around level 5 I was able to bring down a FOE that my classic party had troubles with above level 10. The battle witht he story party took a long time because FOEs and bosses absorb a lot of hits, but instead of one-hit-kill attacks, the FOE barely dented my characters, even without defensive boosts.
    In story mode you play as a new class, the Fafnir, an attack class mixing Landsketch and Ronin; it lacks the raw attack power of the Lands and the critical rate of the Ronin, but makes up with good resilience and a lot of flexible talents. The party you get is fixed, with a Survivalist, Sovereign, Protector, and Warmagus; like the first EOU, Grimoire stones are used to supplement what those classes lack (I'd say that the Medic's refresh, unbind, and revive abilities first and foremost, though you have some of those skills, only not as good as a Medic's).
    Game progression is different from the classic game: you still get to map a limited area of the first floor before doing anything different, but then you are sent to a completely new dungeon, then continue with the normal labyrinth, get back to the new one and so on. I don't particularly like when dungeon crawlers don't let you explore things as you see fit, and the constant back and forth between places is very bothersome. Anyway, during your exploration of the new dungeon, you character receives a new power that lets him change into a monstrous being, and this explains why FOEs and bosses have so many HPs: your alternate form is able to dish an incredible amount of damage, even without buffs. Seeing your Fafnir Knight dishing out 200-300 points worth of damage in an attack when your classic party struggles to reach 100 with carefully planned buffs is both exciting and disappointing: disappointing because Atlus could have gone the extra mile and balanced the game for both story and classic mode.
    Anyway, the worst thing is story mode are the voices...your party never stops to speak. "Something's watchin us" when encounters are highly probable (there's a counter for that, alwasy visible); "piece of cake" after battles (playing picninc difficulty here); "level up" (I know); "new skill" (I know that too). Aaaaargh.
    On the plus side, the new labyrinth is kinda cool, with excellent music.

    I stopped after an hour or so in story mode, and picked up classic again.

    Progressed up to the last floor of the second stratum, and also got to explore the new dungeon introduced in story mode. And fight the local boss, a four-armed Basilisk able to petrify your party if you don't "kill" its eyes in few turns. And the music for that boss is totally rad. I wonder if all Etrian Odyssey would be so good even without Yuzo Koshiro's musical contributions.
    The party is now around level 26-27, and I'm probably going to rest Aina, my Landsketch, to redistribute some skill points, switch from swords to axes and focusing on elemental chaser to squeeze out more damage against FOEs and bosses. Group management is handled by Lambda (Highlander) and Momo (Alchemist) anyway. Resting will cost five levels to Aina though, so I'll probably do that after defeating the local boss.
    I'm also pleased that all floors on the first stratum have been completely different from the original EO2, although I do remember the same enemies and similar dungeon hazards. You won't steal warp wires now, you damn squirrel!
    Experience balancing carries over from EO2 as well, with FOEs, and above everything bosses, not giving that much experience; the bulk is provided by normal encounters, quests, and missions, so the many DLC quests published by Atlus weekly are infinitely useful...especially when a lot of those are free.

    I'd say I'm enjoying EOU2 more than EOU1, and this is getting me pumped for Etrian Odyssey V, whenever that will be.

  4. #4
    Sooo...where did I left? A long, long time ago it seems! In the meantime I've reached the boss of the 4th Stratum in Classic mode and haven't touched Story mode since the last update.
    Exploration goes well, and I'm pleased to see that all floors have been reworked. The 4th Stratum is particularly impressive: as you're climbing up on a giant tree, why not having all floors with a circular shape, with floating platforms and multiple stairs to actually get through the Stratum? I've really enjoyed exploring this Stratum, with a lot of puzzles based on how you use floating platforms and lure FOEs to different parts of a floor to explore others. Due to the new floor design, EOU2 is far less boring to play than EOU1, though the game can be downright brutal. Bosses and FOEs don't give much experience, so you have to rely on quests and missions, but those aren't that many. And from the 3rd Stratum onward, bosses start to use one-hit kills or status effects almost randomly, and I feel this limits the choices you have in building up your party: Protectors and Medics are a must, along with some sort of elemental attackers, like Gunners or Alchemists. I've entertained the idea of replacing the Highlander with a Gunner to squeeze out more elemental damage, but with the party beyond level 50 this is a tough call, as I would have to spend quite some time grinding the new recruit up to speed. Maybe, just maybe, I'll think about this again when I'll do the usual rest/retire cycle to push level cap up, but this requires finishing the game and (possibly) defeating the three dragons, so it's a very long term plan.
    But I'm happy with my Highlander/Protector/Lands/Alchemist/Medic. It's a rather "dumb" party based on raw damage output from three characters (High, Lands, Alch) without any capability to inflict binds or status changes, but it works well against everything the game has thrown at me so far.

  5. #5
    Great to read your impressions of the game so far. I'm looking forward to getting the European version in February- I really enjoyed EOU1, and think Atlas did a great job of updating / upgrading.

  6. #6
    One quest involve getting 50000en in a single advertisment campaign of the restaurant you're sort-of managing. To do this you need to improve to max alost every district, hope for an event (like a festival), and have all ingredients on hand. Lacking the latter, I set on to wander the whole labyrinth from the first Stratum to the last.
    To my surprise, on the last floor of the 2nd Stratum I forgot to explore a closed door whose key I received long time ago; the territory beyond that door

    was a serpentine trail full of Baby Salamander that would breathe fire to power up other FOEs; these FOEs are susceptible to ice attacks but heal more than 9000 HPs the turn after they are struck by such attack.


    And this refreshed why I love Etrian Odyssey so much: it uses everything in its system to make for a challenging, fun game. I think that EOU2 took ideas from previous games (most noticeable EO3) and brought to a new level; I think that a good comparison in level design is Legend of Grimrock (note: LoG came out after EO3), and it's one of the major points of this game. The fact that all floors are new and feature new things give a lot to EOU2, and doesn't end up as stale as EOU1 did.

    Compared to EO3 and EO4, EOU2 doesn't allow for subclasses. In those two games subclasses would give five extra skill points and give access to a limited number of skills from other classes; mixing main and sub classes was necessary to bring the most out of your party, and gave even more customisation options; EOU1 and 2 sort of replaced subclasses with Grimoires; without subclasses, I've found some classes with an excess of skill points. Protectors are the best example, I've maxed out the elemental protections and currently spending points on skills I normally wouldn't. The first level cap shouldn't be too far away (party's close to level 60), but I wonder what I'll do with retired characters at level 99 (retired character get bonus skill points). Not that I'm complaining, it's better to have a not-so-useful skill than having none, but having skill points to spare in a EO game is very strange.

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