Angry Robot

Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Laggard

I really shouldn’t like this game, after what I said about The World Ends With You or even Lost Odyssey’s Bogimoray. Because this shit is hard, and inconvenient. But like it I did. I didn’t want to play, but I caught my brain thinking up new tactics at odd times during the day, and then back into the dungeons I’d go.

Etrian Odyssey is the most hardcore of franchises on the most casual of consoles (the DS), yet it sells surprisingly well, hence the sequel. It’s a roguelike RPG – that old school variety light on story, character, graphic polish and accessibility, and heavy as hell with the D&D, dungeon crawling, character stats, random monster battles and grinding.

Why is it so hard? There are certain conventions in this sort of game that EO sticks to. You can only save and rest in town, not in the dungeon. Besides some warp points, which are few and far between, you must walk back to town when you want to go there, encountering random monsters with some frequency. These monsters are pretty tough until you get your levels up. And the game is not afraid to drop some ultra-savage monsters right in the first few levels of the dungeon. If you’re at low levels, these bosses can kill you with one blow. The items are few and far between. Oh yeah – your party dies? Game is the fuck over, no restart at checkpoint, no replay last battle. Better hope you remembered to save at the inn, or you’re up shit’s dungeon without a shit-alchemist.

And another thing – did I mention you have to draw your own map?

But, honestly? This game is pretty straight up about what it is. It gives you little warnings like “yeah, maybe you don’t want to attack this monster right now, lightweight,” and you quickly learn the lesson that maybe avoiding battle, or running away when things get nasty, are better than… having to restart from a save that was an hour ago.

The fun of the game is in figuring out good party configurations, items to equip, and skills to use. Drawing your own maps is actually pretty neat, and makes you buy into the concept that you are actually exploring an uncharted dungeon. And I’d be willing to admit that the very difficulty of the game makes the times you score a good item, or vanquish a near-impossible foe, all the more rewarding.

I got about seven or eight hours into this, and it got me to the third level of the dungeon. This could very well be a 60-hour game. It’s ultimately a little too grindy and random-monstery for me, but if you’re yearning for a roguelike well-adapted to the DS and you love a good challenge, Etrian Odyssey II is well worth your money.