Games for Lunch: Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

Posted by Kyle Orland (September 24, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2010
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Who knew a cartographer's life was so complicated?

0:00 I vaguely remember playing Etrian Odyssey II for lunch a while back, but I can't find it in my archives. I guess I just remember my friend Bruce going on and on about how awesome the game was.

0:01 "Hie thee to the ocean city, to the Yggdrasil labyrinth... what awaits is time's end; death's demise; a tempestuous dream. A stormy adventure begins." Despite the game's use of "hie thee," the swelling, elegaic music is really getting to me.

0:02 I love how there's a "no wait" option for both message and battle speed. “Fast” is never fast enough for me. I turn on the auto-map, too, because I am lazy.

0:03 Our new game starts in "the regal ocean city Armoroad." It's said to have ruins below the waves, so the Senate invites some explorers. None were strong enough to master the maze. I am one such explorer. "Your hour is at hand." You hear that. MY HOUR! I have a weakness for second-person narratives.

0:04 I'm forced to start in the explorer's guild, where an ethnic-looking guy in a Lawrence of Arabia robe gives me a Guild Certificate,and a bunch of scripts. I name my character "LeetD00D" because I am eight years old.

0:06 LeetD00D can be a Prince, Gladiator, Hoplite, Buccaneer, Ninja, Monk, Zodiac, Wildling, Arbalist or Farmer. Each one has different abilities and strengths. I pick a Monk because I figure I'll be needing a healer early on.

0:09 I have 29 character slots left? Good lord, I could be here all day just registering my party. Let's get this show on the road instead...

0:10 When I leave the guild the robed guy he tells me to "come back when I'm ready to get serious." I can't seem to go anywhere else but the Explorer's Guild. OK... I guess I'm ready to get serious...

0:11 "EliteD00D" is a blonde-headed young Prince with a cute crown and scepter. "LateD00D" is a Farmer (they're always late, right?) carrying a sheep under one arm. "LightD00D" is a sideburned Hoplite with huge Golden armor. "LintD00D" is a tiny Wildling with red and white feathers in his headdress (because animals have lint? Don't ask me... I just name ‘em) . Is that enough yet?

0:15 Looks like I have room for one more in my party. "LoftD00D" is a blonde-haired Arbalist that can "loft" arrows and cannons from the back lines. Eh? Eh?

0:17 Oh, so I can only have five in my active party, even though there are three slots in front and three in back. All right, whatever. So long, Wildling.

0:18 Ethnic guy tells me to read the scripts if I'm a "smart adventurer." What are you implying, ethnic guy?

0:19 At the Senate, an old woman offers my first mission. "Prelude to the forest." I have to create a map of B1F. Ah yes, the legendary B1F. It definitely deserves a map.

0:20 I head into the item menu, but I can't figure out how to read those scripts. And I wanted to be a smart adventurer! Oh well.

0:21 Off to Napier's Firm for "top-quality provisions." Quote of the moment: "Here at our Firm, the customer is God!" But the customer still has to pay? Would GOD have to pay? HUH?

0:22 I'm impressed with the wide selection of weaponry. I buy a nice shortsword for my Prince, a spear for my Hoplite, something called a macana for my Monk, a crossbow for the Arbalist and a pitchfork for the Farmer. The smart dual-screen interface makes this process remarkably quick and easy, with auomatic equipping included! Also, any game that has a pitchfork as a farmer's weapon is OK by me!

0:24 I have almost no money left for armor, but I buy my Prince a Buckler. He deserves it by divine right, yes?

0:25 Saving the game at Aman's Inn takes a surprisingly long time. It's only 15 seconds or so, but it still seems slow.

0:26 Off to the Forest Entrance and "First Waterfall Wood, 1st Stratum." Stratum? And the translation had been so good so far...

0:27 A surprisingly nice first-person 3D viewpoint (for the DS) shows me a forest full of lush greenery and dotted with nice flowers. Movement is grid based, though, so one step moves me rigidly forward a set amount. Turning is strictly a 90-degree-angle affair. I'm a big fan of the bell-heavy music.

0:28 I start off with three skill points to appoint to my party. The Prince's Royal Veil sounds like a good, passive skill... it gives everyone an HP boost if my Prince has full HP at the end of a turn. the Monk's Form Qi "adds HP recovery to other healing skills." What other healing skills are there besides HP-healing ones? I book his "Healing Qi" too, just to be safe.

0:31 Battle time: against two "fanged fish" which float there blob-like with gleaming white teeth. Everyone attacks, and the fanged fish go down despite a miss by my Farmer. They manage to do a bit of damage to my Hoplite and Prince before dying, though. Still loving the music.

0:32 I run into a lonely guard at a crossroad. He tells me how to draw my own map on the touchscreen by painting floors and drawing walls. I'll stick with the auto-map, thanks.

0:34 The only bad thing about the 3D graphics is the distracting way walls will often pop into existence in the distance as I walk. This wouldn't be nearly so distracting if there weren't so many dead ends. Do I have to map EVERY square inch of this place?

0:37 I have my Monk heal up the party after the second "fanged fishs" battle (yes, they pluralized fish as fishs). I move my Monk and Prince to the relative protection of the back row, the former because he's my only healer and the latter because I want him at full health for that Royal Veil. skill. That skill has been useless so far, by the by, simply because the battles are too short.

0:39 A small, green "Deadly Durian" joins a fanged fish in the next battle. He sticks around just long enough to let my Prince heal everyone a bit. Also, LoftD00D is great at killing Durians!

0:40 The amount of dead ends in this labyrinth is bordering on the ridiculous. Usually all this backtracking would feel annoying and pointless, but since mapping out this stuff is thre literal point of the game, I guess I'll accept it. At least the monster battles aren't over-frequent.

0:41 Through a massive door I find a shiny spot on the ground. The game tells me I can chop, but then clarifies that "no one in your party is skilled in chopping vegetation." Skilled? Dude, take an axe and HACK! How hard can it be?

0:42 Nice... tapping the L button in a battle automatically selects "attack" for everyone, sparing me a few taps of the A button.

0:44 New enemy alert: a large, white Forest Frog that stands on one hind leg. I haven't really keeping track of specific damage numbers for these guys... they all seem about equally easy to kill. Also: everyone levels up!

0:45 A room with colorful blossoms allows everyone a rest, regaining 10 skill-allowing TP in the process. Hey, anything that means more healing is fine by me!

0:49 Holy crap... I just got blindsided by a yellow and black Great Lynx that killed my Hopling dead in ONE HIT! I fight back, but three more quick Lynx attacks kill my Farmer, Arbalist and Prince, in that order. Eventually I'm smart enough to stop attacking and start running, and my Monk escapes. HOLY CRAP!

0:50 Well, healing doesn't work on the dead D00Ds, and of course I wasted all my money on weapons instead of a few revival items. I don't see any option to just warp back to the village, so I guess I'll try to work my way back the long way with my lone Monk...

0:51 Whoops. Another Great Lynx blindsides me and kills the Monk before he can escape. "The adventurers have fallen." Well that was a fun game. Seriously, is it supposed to be this hard right off or do I just suck. Actually, don't answer that.

0:52 "Save your map and exploration data?" YES PLEASE! At least the last 50 minutes weren't a complete waste.

0:54 Somehow I earned no cash in all that exploring, because I have no money to buy more stuff at the Firm. At least the map is still there. Plus, now I know to RUN THE HELL AWAY FROM THE LYNX, knowledge which is more valuable than money!

0:55 Seems I've lost the skills I set and the experience I gained as well. So literally the map is the only thing that survived our death? Well, I guess it's the most important thing, game-wise...

0:56 Oh holy hell... turns out I had three skill points PER CHARACTER! I can pimp these guys the fuck OUT! Let's see... I'll bulk up that Royal Veil for more mid-battle healing, get some shielding for my Hoplite, give my Arbalist a "Giant Kill" that can take out high HP enemies (hello, Lynx...), and my farmer can now revive people at camps and give others more experience other times. All right, bring it on!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? A good mix of deep options and an accessible interface make this much less painful than the average Japanese RPG. Plus the proceedings haven't been weighed down with a plodding, overwritten story, which is a very good thing.

This review was based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

I've been writing about video games for 17 years now and for some reason they're still paying me


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