Not a Review: Etrian Odyssey 3: The Drowned City

I’ve been playing EO3 off and on now for the better part of a year (Editor: now two years…) and I’m only at  the 10th floor of what I believe are twenty five floors in the game. This might convey in some small way just what type of game EO3 is. Atlus games don’t get a lot of press here in the states (or they didn’t before this summer and Nintendo’s big push of Shin Megami Tensei IV on the 3DS), it seems they rely on the internet and their fans to spread the word about their games. That’s how I heard about the EO franchise, and EO3, which at the time was considered the best. I believe EO4 on the 3DS is now has the title of best game in the franchise, a rare feat as most games this far along begin to degrade in quality

The people at Talking Time are huge fans of the series and have been talking about the games since the first one came out in 2007 (Editor: has it been that long?! I’m getting old). I picked up the first one spent maybe an hour or two with the game before I set it down. It sat in its case for half a year and then I sold it.  I believe the difficulty curve of the game and the potential for making poor choices at the beginning of the game that would virtually lock you out of completing it many hours later was what originally turned me off. But, it’s been six years. I avoided the second game completely, despite all the encouragement from critics and friends. My complaints with the original stood and nothing I saw or read dissuaded me.

Screenshots of Etrian Odyssey 3 via Destructoid
Screenshots of Etrian Odyssey 3 via Destructoid

Then EO3 came out. Again, the critics praised the game and all of my friends were busy guiding teams of adventurers through dungeons. I asked if the game’s difficulty curve was fixed. Did it now resemble something more like a hill and less like a sheer cliff face? I asked if they’d balanced out the adventurers, the enemies,  the bosses, and the skill trees to insure that early game mistakes wouldn’t bar players from end-game content. ‘Yes’ and ‘yes’ I was told this game is perfect! I believed them, and I bought it. And, at first things were okay. No, things were good! I made a party of adventurers and then I delved into the dungeons. The game was challenging but also fair. When I died it felt like I was still learning, that difficulty curve seemed to be more the curve I was looking for! Everything was going great!

Then I got to the 10th level, or in the game’s lingo tenth floor basement in the third stratum, there is a boss battle on this floor. I’ve reached the boss now innumerable times., I’ve tried dozens of different strategies from intricate and complicated to sheer brute force. Nothing I have tried has worked. I’ve asked friends for help, I’ve read game guides. Nothing I see seems to apply to me. The advice I’m most often given? “Make a new team with different skills!” BUT WAIT! This was the problem I had with earlier versions of this game! This was the issue I was told had been dealt with!

I guess it hasn’t. It’s a shame too because up until the 10th level I was having a lot of fun, the game’s art and music is charming and the world I’m exploring is unique. I want to spend more time here. But, I don’t want it to feel like I’m smashing my head against a wall.

Occasionally, I put the EO3 cartridge in my DS and I play through level 10, like I always do. I get to the boss and I die. I reload my game, I grind a little, and try again. I die. I turn my DS off and I go watch some TV. And that kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Author: Jonathon

Would rather be out swimming, running, or camping. Works in state government. Spent a youth reading genre-fiction; today, he is making up for it by reading large quantities of non-fiction literature. The fact that truth, in every way, is more fascinating than fiction still tickles him.

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