A passing glance at 9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil cannot possibly prepare you for the breadth and depth of the RPG that awaits you. It is through and through a classic fantasy game with an old school art and animation style that aches with nostalgia.
It is a fast-paced game that throws you right into the action. You can customise your little 2D character and then immediately jump into things. A tutorial that takes just a couple of minutes shows you what loot you can find and where, how to equip anything you find and then how to use your weapons to attack the local wildlife. The combat system is not complex. You equip a weapon and use the analog stick on the right Joy-Con to flail wildly around you. It’s hilarious to see and definitely lends to the game’s charm.
9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil is an open-world dungeon crawler. You get to grips with how to develop as a character and then set a task in the first town you come to. As you go about your journey, this snowballs into further tasks and side quests that take you around an enormous and genuinely well thought-out world.
The primary story is one of mysterious evil forces, corrupt kings and fabled heroes. Rather than having it laid out directly, you piece it together from the backstory of the tasks you are given and snippets of conversation you have with other characters.
You can learn spells and capture creatures to be on your team, establishing your character in basically whatever fantasy role you like. The general population all share a common interest in the form of a card game called Fyeud. You can take a break from the more dangerous aspects of your adventure to play it with pretty much any NPC.
9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil autosaves frequently. This is handy because it’s easy to wander off in the wrong direction and come across monsters or bandits that are well above your level. When you die, you’ll only respawn at specific points. You’ll keep all your loot from your last run and any gates you’ve unlocked will still be open, but you’ll lose some experience points. This loss lends a bit of a roguelike element to the game but makes death frustrating enough that you’ll make an effort to avoid it.
The world of 9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil is huge, especially considering how cheap the game is. There is plenty to explore and it’s absolutely the kind of RPG where you can lose yourself for hours at a time in side quests alone, ferreting into every little corner of the expansive dungeons.
There is a two-player option, but only if you have two sets of Joy-Cons or Pro Controllers. You can’t share one set of Joy-Cons the way you can with other games. This isn’t the biggest issue, but it can be disappointing if you’re not prepared for it.
9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil blends the archetypes of fantasy as a genre with an enormous world and a quirky approach to culture. It has a seemingly endless wealth of content for completionists and collectors, scattered across a clever and intricate world.