Etrian Mystery Dungeon is the latest dungeon crawler RPG from Atlus that will have you creating your very own guild, as you explore the constantly changing labyrinths of Aslarga. Build forts, recruit fellow adventurers, and even help Aslarga become a thriving town as you uncover the secret of the ever-changing dungeons.
Like many RPG’s from Atlus, Etrian Mystery Dungeon boasts anime visuals. The character designs for each class of adventurer are fun, and the chibi-style 3D models add to the game’s charm. Add splashes of bright color, and an ambient soundtrack, and you have an inviting game world ripe for exploration.
While the game play primarily consists of searching dungeons for treasure and fighting off hordes of monsters, there is also plenty to do in the town. You can hire new recruits and manage your guild at the guildhall; or you can buy items or upgrade weapons and armor at the item shop. Eating a hearty meal at the local restaurant can give your team a much-needed boost with buffs that last for an entire dungeon, and visiting the mayor of Aslarga at his house will allow you to level up the facilities around town so they can offer you even more goods and services. Leveling up the town is a very rewarding experience, and it gives the a city simulator feel to it.
When you’re not hiring new guild members or accepting new quests, you’ll find yourself in Aslarga’s labyrinths. Like any RPG, your party members have HP and TP, health and tech points respectively. TP is used for any special abilities or spells your characters might cast, but your character’s hunger, or FP will drain with every few steps you take, and it is another factor you must consider when deciding how far down the labyrinth you want to go. The monsters and the stairways to the dungeon’s lower floors are randomly generated each time you visit the dungeon, so every trip will be slightly different. While bringing a good supply of items will help you progress far, eventually you will need to head back to town to resupply. This brings in the game’s fort building mechanic. Building forts in a dungeon allows you to lock the labyrinth’s floors in place, so they are no longer randomly generated with each visit. Building more advanced forts will allow for travel back to town or to other forts within the dungeon, so building a network of forts will become vital if you wish to reach the end of later dungeons. You can also assign guild members to protect your fort from monsters, and this will earn your unused members plenty of experience so they can level up alongside your dungeon exploring team even if they don’t get to battle.
Not that you can expect your guild members who man the forts you create to be lazy, as forts also serve another very important function within the game. Eventually, as you progress through the story, you’ll run into monsters known as DOEs. These monsters are incredibly powerful, and will require extensive amounts of strength, tactics, and healing items to take them down. As you move through the dungeons that house these monsters, they too will travel through the labyrinth towards Aslarga. If they make it into town, they will destroy one of the shops, and it will cost you a significant amount of gold to repair the damage. You can stop these DOEs from getting to Aslarga by constructing forts to block their path. If a DOE encounters a fort, either those defending the fort will defeat the monster, or the fort will get destroyed, and the DOE will retreat back to the lower depths of the dungeon.
When it gets right down to it, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a fun RPG experience. The combat is fun, with boss battles allowing for individual control of your team members. Decent AI makes them useful in combat when you don’t have control of them while you explore. Leveling up your town’s shops is rewarding, and offers a nice change of gameplay to keep things interesting. The music and anime inspired visuals create an intriguing world to explore, and it’s easy to get sucked in. The game does have some faults though, since the game is randomly generated, there can be times where you will enter a floor in the dungeon and become overwhelmed by a horde of monsters. If you are not prepared, your party can get destroyed, which can cost you all of the money and items you are carrying. This punishment seems pretty steep, as outfitting a party can be expensive, therefore halting progress on other tasks that require money. DOEs can be a source of frustration as well, as they can sometimes block your path forward, meaning you either have to backtrack or exit the dungeon to try again. If you’re a fan of similar RPG’s like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, then you’ll probably have a lot of fun choosing the perfect team of adventurers to explore. If the game sounds difficult, or the idea of having to prepare for tons of deadly scenarios sounds more like a hassle, then it’s probably best to pass this game up.
PN Review: Etrian Mystery Dungeon
The world of Etrian Mystery Dungeon is fun to explore, and the combat is fun. The game’s randomly generated nature, however, can cause frustration.