Starting a new job is tough. You’re meeting new people, working in a new environment, abiding new rules, but perhaps the thing that made me most anxious last week was what I was going to do with my 45-minute commute. I’ve always had a handheld console but it’s been sometime since I really got stuck into my 3DS or PSVita that wasn’t just to review a game. This is no exception. This latest offering from Atlus has given me something that will bring great enjoyment into my early morning train journeys that will take my mind off the cramped carriage and stinky tramp sat next to me.
Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight is the latest release from major RPG factory line Atlus releasing on Nintendo 3DS. After the success and critical acclaim from 2014s Untold: The Millennium Girl, The Fafnir Knight is too a remake, this time of Etrain Odyssey 2: Heroes of Laagard however now it’s packing much more features, an impressive visual upgrade and an additional Story mode. Like its predecessors, The Fafnir Knight is an RPG with equal parts dungeon explorer as maps are not visible until you and your team traipse through them, and drawing out your map every step of the way is encouraged and highly beneficial. The story follows you, the silent hero, an orphan and member of the Midgard Library must escort a princess so she can undertake an ancient ritual, however in doing so awakens a ferocious power within that will come in handy in saving the land. Along with your travelling companions, you must scale the neighbouring labyrinths, defeating all monsters in your path and uncovering the dark presence that casts over them. Turn-based RPGs are my bag, they’re my kind of game and a subgenre that isn’t as popular as it used to be, so with that being said, how does it compare to those more recent releases?
The game looks gorgeous, sharp and vivid in colour, definitely a title I was excited to dive into from the word go. Equipped with a weapon and trusty sidekick Flavio, I was ready to gather a sacred seal that would award me with state citizenship, however I was a bit deflated to learn I also had to draw my own map. “Why couldn’t this just be a regular, simple RPG?”, I asked myself, “Why does this game task me with doing a mundane activity like drawing out my path?”. It may be a thought you’ll have yourself however trust me when I say that it almost becomes second nature to you and something you’ll greatly appreciate the further you delve into each maze. Successfully drawing out each map, or level, will unlock “Floor Jump”, a feature that lets you travel to each floor with ease, cutting out all those monsters too. You’ll also discover points of interest on each floor, grounds where you can retrieve items to sell that can only be reaped once a day, so it’s worth knowing where these are as selling said items will be turned into weapons, armour or accessories in the town’s blacksmiths. The blacksmith only offers equipment based on what you sell to them, a factor that though supplies an interesting level of difficulty also becomes a massive bloody problem when your companions die as that particular item isn’t easy to come across. As well as your main quest, you’ll also have side missions to pick up that though don’t offer a level of innovation or major difference from the usual ‘go fetch’ quest, completing these will reward you with unique items that will become valuable as you progress. You’ll also find yourself other tasks to complete through the game’s fictional café, which not only acts as your Guild’s HQ but from there you’ll be able to develop the town of Laagard and bring in more dollar for your squad, meaning a better arsenal and deadlier warriors, so you can’t afford to not take part in these bizarre side quests. The majority of the story mode takes place in one location, a forest that somehow spans many many floors, however saying that, each floor is unique and hugely different in comparison to where you’ve just been.
The lack of substantial variance in between levels does gradually frustrate and annoy, especially once you’ve completed a difficult mission only to be told you need to go further in. The combat itself is great, fluent and nicely animated, especially when you use your ‘Force’ ability to transform and deliver devastating attacks, however this isn’t enough to take your mind of the fact you’ve effectively been exploring the same map for multiple hours. Each battle follows a turn, which not only applies to those in combat but also those in the surrounding area, like FOEs, visible enemies that are intended to be avoided until much later in the game. Avoiding these FOEs is like a puzzle as each of them have a set pattern and solution to avoid them, however an ill-timed encounter can course them to enter your battle and obliterate your squad. There aren’t any particularly unfair difficulty spikes in this title, however you are encouraged to level up and grind your heroes, but when you’ve already dedicated hours upon hours in one area for the sake of half a dozen missions why would you want to continue doing it for even longer? It’s this repetitive environment and lack of variance in quests that does make The Fafnir Knight a fairly boring play in the long run, a very long run mind as for the sake of an hour or 2 each day there’s plenty to enjoy. The game’s narrative too isn’t the most exciting either, sure there’s plenty of interaction between the cast, lots of chat amongst the guild, a wide range of minor characters chipping in, but nothing that really got me hooked. The underlying story poses a few interesting questions and revelations that I won’t talk about in case of spoilers, however you’ll be too busy mindlessly killing monsters and interacting with unimportant NPCs to remember the real reason why you’re there in the first place.
Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight is a great looking, sounding and presented RPG which comes to know surprise considering who’s created it. The game’s narrative isn’t boring per say, but it is broken up too much by sometimes needless character building from a cast of characters that aren’t really relatable or even likeable. There’s plenty to get stuck into from side missions to town development that though they are repetitive and not particularly interesting, they do reward handsomely for completing them. The Fafnir Knight also features a classic mode similar to the Etrain Odyssey games of old that let you create your own lead and party that isn’t connected to the story, so fans of the originals and indeed the franchise will feel right at home picking up this new release. It certainly gets a tad boring and frustrating if played for a considerably long amount of time, but in short bursts or journeys you’ll find this game hugely enjoyable and challenging; If I keep up the good work and impress my new bosses I’ll certainly see this game to the end.