Etrain Odyssey III: The Drowned City is (obviously) the third game in this dungeon crawling, keep-your-own-map franchise of RPGs. While many things about the battle system are pretty standard for the genre, the extra depth that comes from building your own party from scratch and maintaining your own dungeon maps is what draws fans back to these titles.
This latest adventure is set in and around the city of Armoroad. While prospering greatly in the past with an amazing, technologically advanced civilization, it was destroyed by a huge earthquake and much of the old city sank down to the bottom of the sea, creating a gigantic labyrinth. This labyrinth is the target of many adventurers in the present day, seeking treasure or bits of technology that used to flourish in the ancient city. There are also those who want to figure out the truth behind the great earthquake and what caused such a devastating event.
The game plays in a first-person view of the dungeons while you’re in them (and, frankly, you probably spend the majority of the game in such places). The battles are also done in the first person. You also have an overhead map display, which is not automatically taken care of by the game. What is this, you ask? That’s right, you have to maintain your own map, just like in previous iterations of the game. You can also use icons on the map to denote any suspicious activity in individual tiles, such as landmarks, terrain issues, sea currents and the like.
Also, there are no pre-defined characters in Etrian Odyssey III. While this may be unfortunate for some, this does allow you the freedom to create your own class combinations. In fact, you’re tasked with putting together and maintaining your own guild in-game, to help you along your path of discovery into the labyrinth and the surrounding seas. There are many different character classes, and putting together
the right party for the job is vital. While you can have up to five characters in your party at any given time, certain quests from various townsfolk may require a different group make-up than what you would typically use, so you can mix and match guild members to suit your needs at any given moment.
Naturally, a good chunk of the game revolves around leveling up these characters, which is done inside the dungeons that you must crawl through and map out. While you’re doing this, however, you can fulfill quests from various people around town to gain extra experience, money or items to help you along your way.
The Etrian Odyssey games have a reputation for being rather difficult affairs, so if you’re up for a challenge and are looking for another visually stunning RPG for the DS, this is probably your best bet. The game releases next week, September 21, 2010, for the DS, and is both developed and published by Atlus, our RPG overlords.