I ain’t afraid of no FOE.

Role-playing survival game is willing to take risks

Crap I was going to use that joke for my horror analysis entry, but it fits here as well 🙂

Today I’m going to be looking at Etrian Odyssey 2 (or EO2 for this entry) for the Nintendo DS, at the time of this entry I’m about 30 or so hours in and finished the second stratum(group of floors)and on my way to finishing the third. In my entry on CRPGS and JRPGS I mentioned playing it and being a fan of EO1, and I think I’m far enough in to render a verdict.

For those that missed EO1, the EO series is about old school CRPGS, where its you, a team of adventurers, and a map that you created to get through the dangers of the dungeon. You were able to make a group of 5 out of the 9 classes available to take on the 30 floor dungeon. It bears mention again that this game is old school meaning the difficulty is on the high side, expect your team to die fast starting out and even faster when you run into FOES. The FOES are the highlight of the EO series, enemies that are visible on the map that move when you move, these powerful enemies are basically mini bosses throughout the game and will drop useful loot on defeat some times. The FOES in EO2 have learned some new tricks, including flying over low walls and some will not show up on the mini map which makes tracking them that much harder.

With the past out of the way let’s talk about EO2. The biggest change from EO1 is that all but one of the 12 classes is available at start for your adventuring party. In EO1 two of classes became unlocked near the 30 or even 40 hour point depending on skill, which made them useless without having to spend time grinding out levels for them. Joining the party we have the gunner, a back row high utility character with low defense. The War Magus a combination of a warrior and healer without the high level skills of each. Lastly the beast which takes on the role of tanking for your party. Throughout the game you can see the various interface improvements, such as being able to scroll through the list of party members while selecting skills. To seeing who will equip new gear and the effects from it while shopping.

The other major change is with skills, the developers went back and rebalanced and alter the various skills of the original 9. Gone are some of the more overpowered skills and the weaker skills received a touch up.I’ve noticed that some skills have a higher chance of effecting boss and FOES now,and clever players can set up some excellent combos between their teammates. Now each class can activate a super skill once their “force” bar is filled from fighting, which are trump cards for the FOE and boss fights.

Once again the touch screen is used to view and create your own map, this time there are new icons to make sure you have everything covered. I’ve read people on GameFaqs complain about drawing the maps but personality I enjoyed it. It gives a sense of completion and satisfaction upon completely mapping out a floor and can be a life saver when you get to some of the more maze like floors.

The game play of EO2 is pretty straightforward, as mentioned above the dungeon is split up by stratum or a series of five floors, at the top of each is a boss guarding the way. Each stratum will have its own tricks and such to keep your team on your toes while dodging the various FOES. The game is more about creating a team of your own choosing and completing the dungeon, and now with the rebalanced skills that is probable now (from where I’m at so far, that could change later on). Quests can be undertaken for rewards such as cash or items but you will be spending your time grinding out the various fights to gain the levels needed to get past the boss. Which leads to my main gripe with EO2.

The game requires an excessive amount of grinding to survive the various fights , and now that FOES don’t give out experience , the amount of time needed to grind has practically doubled or tripled . Without FOEs giving out experience, it really hurts the risk/reward system of fighting them, as there is a chance that FOEs will not drop anything upon defeat which made the fight just about worthless. Chances are the time needed to grind should drop as you pick up and enhance the various skills of your team, but it does make the game pretty front loaded with difficulty and grinding.The game also breaks one of my pet peeves for RPGS, having conditional drops that quite frankly you would never know or find out about without blind luck or using a strategy guide. I would have perfered them telling you about it in game as opposed to relying on the internet or luck to find them. Also a common complaint from reviewers is that not much has changed and they’re right, if the first game didn’t interest you then avoid this one. I am left to wonder if an EO3 is in the works, what could they possibly add or tweak to make it a new experience?

My other complaint are the quests, quests in EO2 range from killing a specific creature, to collecting an item from spots in the dungeon. The problem is that with the exception of monatary rewards, the rewards given are basically useless, as there is a good chance that you will get a more powerful piece of equipment by the time you complete the quest. Alot of the quests task you with collecting specific items which increase the grinding time for a minimal reward. What they really need to do is to tie experience into the quest system to make it worth your while to finish quests. After the first stratum I gave up on accomplishing every quest in the game as it never seemed worth it for me to complete them.

Overall I like EO2 because I’m a fan of games that let me take my own group as opposed to the standard ones seen in other RPGS. While the difficulty of EO2 is higher then the first one, you won’t have to worry about over powered monsters to fight. The new classes and rebalanced skills mean that veterans of EO1 have some studying to do to develop new tactics and combinations and that’s just fine with me. People who were expecting a radical shift from EO1 are going to be disappointed however. I give Etrian Odyssey 2 an alternate blog entry title of “I pity the FOE”.