Granted, I've still experienced my fair share of untimely deaths, mostly when testing my might against a particularly powerful F.O.E. They're everywhere in this game, from huge moth monsters to giant, horrifying dragons that can swat away your airship like a fly. The mazes still run deep, and oftentimes they will take more than one attempt to complete. Moreover, there will come a point when you hit a wall and need to spend some time leveling (most likely around the third major maze). Luckily, there are plenty of side quests to attempt, which typically include plenty of rewards and powerful (but not impossible) enemies to defeat.
Mostly, I've been struck by how little frustration I've felt like playing Etrian Odyssey IV
. This is no small thing given how much heartburn I experienced while playing the first three games in the series. And the thing is, I don't think RPGs need to be excruciatingly difficult to be fun. I think they need only be able to propel you to the next challenge, and to have sufficient depth that they don't become boring within five minutes.
On the first point, Etrian Odyssey IV
excels with the help of several rather substantial world maps, each of which can be explored at your leisure in an airship. The best parts of these maps is that they are dotted with optional dungeons, which can be explored at will, and frequently make for a great alternative when you get stuck in one of the main areas. It's not grinding per se; just another thing to find and explore on the map.
As for the second point, the Etrian Odyssey series has never had a problem with depth. Each of the classes are interesting in their own right, ranging from the more traditional tanks to exotic classes like the debuff-oriented Arcanist, each with their own sprawling tech trees. Party composition is just one component of Etrian Odyssey IV
that has occupied a lot of my time. Among other things, I'm constantly wondering whether I really need an Arcanist, Elementalist, or even a Medic, since I want to squeeze in more damage whenever possible. I love it dilemmas like these present themselves; more than anything, they are what keep me playing.
Both Etrian Odyssey IV
and Fire Emblem: Awakening
seem to nail these considerations in their own right. Both have a substantial amount of strategic depth, not to mention lots of content, and both are much easier to pick up and play. I can't understate how happy I am about this. Finally, they have a chance to shine in their own right, rather than simply being hidden gems that are known only among RPG fans. Even better, EOIV
is still pretty tough, especially with casual mode off. When the limiters come off, it can be every bit as diabolical as its predecessors.
If you're wondering why there's been no formal review to this point, it's because EOIV
came in rather late (like two days before it was actually released), and I've been spending all my time playing it. Don't worry, I'll have much more to say on this subject soon. But I'll leave you with this thought: There's never been a better time for a casual RPG fan to pick up an 3DS.
Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.