Games of the Past REVIEW: Etrian Odyssey

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Share this page

We are proudly a Play-Asia Partner


Ads support the website by covering server and domain costs. We're just a group of gamers here, like you, doing what we love to do: playing video games and bringing y'all niche goodness. So, if you like what we do and want to help us out, make an exception by turning off AdBlock for our website. In return, we promise to keep intrusive ads, such as pop-ups, off oprainfall. Thanks, everyone!


Etrian Odyssey Title: Etrian Odyssey
Publisher: Atlus USA, Nintendo
Developer: Atlus
Release Dates:
America: May 15, 2007
Europe: June 6, 2008
Australia: August 15, 2008
Genre: RPG
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Age Rating: PG
Official Website

Being fond of dungeon-crawling games, I was happy to pick up Etrian Odyssey while I was hanging around at Dick Smith while Dad browsed a nearby store. I had only just started getting into gaming then, so the name “Atlus” was a vaguely familiar one, but still one I had heard good things about. And for only $15, I figured, why not?

Etrian Odyssey starts out by having you create your own characters for your own guild. Seven classes are available at the beginning, with two more classes that can be unlocked over the course of the game. The object of Etrian Odyssey is simply to reach the bottom of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, which is a feat no guild has managed to do as of yet. The Labyrinth has multiple floors grouped into lots of five, known as “Stratums”. You can enter the Labyrinth directly via the first floor, or use the Geomagnetic Field to warp to the beginning of each new stratum as you unlock it. Whatever can be found in the depths of the Labyrinth remains a mystery, and the plot is given no more depth than this until about halfway through the game. This is fine if you really enjoy the gameplay, but players who don’t will find little motivation to continue.

Etrian Odyssey

Situated near the Labyrinth and built by those wishing to explore it is the town of Etria. In Etrian Odyssey, monsters do not drop money, but loot. This loot, as well as items gathered in the Labyrinth using character abilities, can be sold at Shilleka’s Goods for some coin. The more items you sell her, the more wares you will find in her store. Shilleka sells weapons, armour, accessories and other useful items for adventures. The Ceft Apothecary sells everything you’ll need to heal yourself and will also revive dead characters. Like Shilleka’s Goods, the more items you sell to Shilleka, the more the apothecary’s stock will grow.

The Rooster Inn is a place where adventurers can stay and recover their health and their TP, while the Golden Deer Pub has a variety of quests for you to take on. The Guildhouse acts as your guild’s base of operations, allowing you to rest characters to reset skill points for reassignment, have them retire and be replaced by a recruit with more base skill points, or dismiss them completely. Every guild must report to Radha Hall in order to become officially recognised and be permitted to explore the Labyrinth.

Etrian Odyssey

Here you can see a map of the first floor, which the player has begun to fill in.

When you first sign up your guild, you are given a grid map of the Labyrinth by Radha Hall to aid you in your exploration, which is
done in a first-person view on the top screen. The only problem is, the map is blank. It’s up to you to fill in the map as you journey to the centre of the Labyrinth; it was this mechanic that initially piqued my interest in the game. Mapping the Labyrinth is made easy because of the DS’ touch screen, which displays your map at all times. Simply draw in the floors, walls and landmarks as you travel or whilst you are in battle. There are enough symbols and options to mark almost everything you will find in the labyrinth. There is even an option to place a memo on certain squares to make note of a particular property, remind you to return; anything you feel is required.

My only gripe with this is that in later floors, there may not be a clearly defined symbol for every object. To rectify this, I tried to place memos on each of the squares in question but soon discovered that the number of memos allowed on a single floor was limited. This is something I hope was altered in later games, as being unable to mark my map properly got frustrating in the lower stratums.

Etrian Odyssey

A FOE approaches!

Complicating exploration are traps, aggressive creatures found in random encounters and FOEs. FOEs are Etrian Odyssey’s mini-bosses. They’re visible on the map as arrows set inside purple circles and on the top screen as giant fireballs. Most FOEs will take a step for each step that you take and each type behaves differently. Some pursue you, some do not. They’re more powerful than the regular monsters you’ll encounter, but are still always beatable with a good strategy.

Battle in Etrian Odyssey is a turn-based affair, with the fastest warriors and creatures moving first. Each of the nine classes has their own unique array of abilities; a handful of these are shared between multiple classes, but for the most part each ability is available only to one class. There is a regular attack, a “Boost” and some “Skills” at your disposal. Using Skills consumes TP which may be restored by using certain items or by staying at The Rooster Inn. The Boost gauge fills every time you deal damage to a foe. Once it’s full, the Boost option will appear on the battle menu. Selecting it will bolster your character’s powers for a turn. Attacks will become stronger, buffs will have a greater effect, Medics will heal for more, and so on.

Etrian Odyssey

A Survivalist prepares to use one of his skills. Note that no more than five party members can be taken into the Labyrinth at any one time.

Only a handful of abilities are able to be learned at the beginning, but spending skill points in certain areas will unlock more. It can be fun experimenting with different builds for your characters. You can have up to 16 different characters, so you can even have multiple characters from the same class with different skill sets sitting in your Guildhouse. There are 21 abilities, and each one can have up to ten skill points spent on it. Characters start with three and gain one with each level-up, and can go no further than level 70. Retiring characters at max level will give them six extra skill points, meaning there are only 78 in total available for each character but 210 places in which they can be spent. Make sure to spend them wisely!

Etrian Odyssey

A Protector trying to decide how best to spend his skill points. Clicking on a skill you cannot access will tell you its prerequisites.

Etrian Odyssey’s anime-style graphics ensure that it will never appear dated, and it’s just pretty to look at. It’s nice strolling through the labyrinth and seeing all the vibrant colours, accompanied by the soothing music in the background. The soundtrack was composed by Yuzo Koshiro, who also composed pieces for Shenmue, the Ys series and, more recently, Toki to Towa. The game was designed to be reminiscent of the JRPGs of old, and the music reflects that. Personally, I didn’t find this soundtrack to be all that great; it did an okay job of setting the right mood, but does not stand on its own all that well.

With a high level of personal customisation and the ability to map your journey as you progress, Etrian Odyssey is a fantastic game for the fan of punishing dungeon-crawlers, such as myself. However, as it has very little plot or any other type of appeal outside of its unique gameplay, anyone without a taste for a good old-fashioned grindfest would be better off spending their money elsewhere.

Review Score

Review copy supplied by author.

  • monkey

    i hate this review 

    •  That’s helpful. What didn’t you like?

    • monkey

      First of all its a female playing the hardest core rpg, its not going to go well. Next I want to know how long she reviewed it for

    • RyanOPR

      That’s completely sexist and ignorant. Some girls are better at video games than even you are ( as hard as that may be for somebody like you to believe).

    • We’re going to post our Review Guidelines publicly before long, but… she played through the game to completion, as is required of everyone who writes a review for the site (be it Games of the Past or more recent titles). 

      Charlotte has played games like this one, Monster Hunter Tri, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and Xenoblade Chronicles to completion and is one of the finest gamers/writers/editors to grace this site, whether she’s female or not. 

      We have plenty of female staff, all with diverse gaming backgrounds and much more experience with “the hardest core RPG”s than you may realize. Please take your blatant sexism elsewhere, or at the very least apologize. 

    •  So in short: you don’t have any actual reasons.

    • By “reviewed”, I think you mean “played”? And I’ve logged just under 130 hours. I actually love this game to pieces. As soon as I finished, (and I did finish) I started another run so I could experience the fun all over again. 

      I suggest you read the review and come up with actual criticism in the body of the text if you want anyone to take you seriously.

    • monkey

      no offense but i know your lying

    • Protip: Saying “no offence” and then calling someone a liar doesn’t make it inoffensive.

    • No offense to you, sir — but I know she’s NOT lying. And if your comment was directed at me, I must simply laugh.

      Honestly, what would you do if she ended up taking a photo of her progress in this/multiple “hardcore” games to prove you wrong? I know you won’t be convinced, so seriously, I implore you — leave.

      I only hope you are one day bested by a girl in competitive multiplayer. or that a girl manages to trounce a boss that had you put the same game down in frustration. Perhaps when almost the entire staff (including Charlotte) grabs Fire Emblem: Awakening, you can put your money where your truly misguided mouth is.

      I look forward to celebrating Charlotte’s victory.

  • Don’t worry about monkey, he’s a fool. That was a nice review, I’ve been interested in Etrian Odyssey for quite some time, and after reading this I think I might check it out, if I can find it somewhere…

    • Thank you! 😀 Atlus are actually doing a reprint of the first 3 games, which will take place early next year. You could pick up it up then, or maybe all 3 at a discount. This review was well-timed it seems, haha.

  • Pokedots

    Despite SOME PEOPLE who are quite sexist, I thought the review was written fairly. I’ve only been a fan for a year, but I simply love and hate this game. Love from the graphics and challenge, and hate for the challenge and FOE’s. I’m also proud to see another girl gamer playing this. Though I do not judge game skill by gender, unlike some people -_-. Anyways keep on gaming!

    • I’m glad to hear you enjoyed my review. And I had similar feelings, haha. It was so long and the new stratums were always so difficult… But at the same time, I relished the challenge and I loved making my team stronger. Fans of the genre will adore it, as I have.