It wasn’t since 2013 that fans of the beloved Etrian Odyssey franchise saw a new main release. In the meantime, there have been a couple of sub-franchises released in the shape of the Untold sub-franchise and Etrian Mystery Dungeon to keep fans happy. However, while these have tickled the desires of long-time fans, many have desired new dungeons to crawl into, and Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth gives its all to satisfy this desire with almost no recycled enemies, testing veterans and newcomers alike. Cubed3 delves into the dungeon to check if the wait has been worth it.
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It certainly does not feel like it was four years ago that Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of Titan was released. This is mainly thanks to the enhanced re-releases of the first two Etrian Odyssey titles with the new Untold spin-off, and, of course, the new mystery dungeon take on the franchise. Old fans might have, despite how good the Untold games were, desired to delve into new unexplored labyrinths, though. Finally, they have the possibility to do so as Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth reaches Europe.
This time around there is a lot new things, besides just the labyrinths. Two new classes are introduced, for instance, but the big game-changers are the new master classes that add a new layer of customisation to the characters. These master classes are unlocked after the first two stratums and give the classes new and specialised tools to help them further fulfil the roles in the party. This is a really interesting system as it gives the opportunity to choose a specialised path once they have become familiar with how their party operates and learned what weaknesses they need covered. This helps newcomers out who might otherwise easily do poor party customisation choices early on that come back and bite them hours into the adventure, when far beyond the point of wanting to backtrack to remake characters from scratch.
There are a bunch of other nice tools to make the early game easier for newcomers. One common complaint in the series is that it suffers heavily from having a ridiculously difficult early period, which flattens out a lot over time, provided the party is well built. This is mitigated by giving access to great Union moves right off the bat, with things like double attack and full retreat from the previous entry, trivialising many early F.O.E. This helps prevent getting themselves cornered by F.O.E.s if they forgot their Ariadne threads. While long-time fans might be slightly annoyed over the easier than normal early period, it is overall a move that is almost necessary to give the franchise mass appeal.
In general, Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth leaves much unchanged, while it treads new territory. The decision it taking place in a different setting to previous entries has given the developer a lot of freedom in designing new monsters and zones that will tickle long-time fans as they can no longer expect what to face at each floor early on.
The new dungeons offer some really varied and interesting settings, such as a high mountain and a graveyard to go with the theme of the new classes, Harbringer and Necromancer. Even outside of these zones, the setting has much more variety in its fantasy with new races that vary from the darker elf-like Celestrians to the cheerful dwarf people, Brouni. It creates a broad fantasy with several cultures mixed into it to create a more varied world than previous offerings, where most came from the same culture, creating a setting that quickly felt like “more of the same.”
This mix of familiarity with the game system and classes, mixed with the curveball of a new setting and completely new mobs, will leave veterans feeling excited and like they are exploring truly unexplored territory, while at the same time feeling adequate and experienced at the task of creating a really stimulating experience. Newcomers might not care so much for the new setting, but the new tools to decrease the brutality of the early-game will make it easier to stay for the full ride.
It is quite easy to claim that Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth takes the concerns of both newcomers and veterans alike in a pretty balanced way. It makes the franchise more welcoming than previous mainline entries by giving powerful tools from the very start that helps progression, while it at the same time keeps veterans on their toes by changing a lot of meta-rules about the initial setup.
If there is one flaw to highlight, it is the fact that they did not make it an Untold at the start with a story mode included, but rather the team is more likely to release that at a later point. As this is the first new Etrian Odyssey released after the Untold spin-offs started, it might seem as if Atlus is going to double-dip its new game at a later date. Considering how previous Untold releases have been handled, though, if it does get a remake, it is going to host enough differences to make it feel fresh for veterans, making it a wise economic choice to restrain from doing so.