Etrian Odyssey Untold’s Story Mode Is A Completely New Experience

By Laura . October 1, 2013 . 11:32am

The instant you switch on Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, you are given an option that will change your entire gaming experience. Unlike previous Etrian Odyssey games, Untold provides players with the option to play through the dungeons, which remade for the 3DS from the original Etrian Odyssey, with a story.

 

This sounds simple in premise—after all, simply slapping on any old adventure “Let’s explore the whole Labyrinth to find the treasure at the end!” tale would have sufficed. However, Untold takes this one step further. Not only are the two modes, Classic and Story, extremely different in their narratives, but they are completely different gameplay experiences as well.

 

Let’s start what’s the same between the two modes because, at its core, Untold is a first-person dungeon-crawling game. You’re given a blank grid on the bottom screen, where you are also provided with various markers, palettes, and icons which you can use to create your own dungeon map. For some reason, this feature ultimately makes the difference for me between crawling through a dungeon, where the map is automatically created on the bottom, and actual exploration, where you draw the map as though you, the player, are discovering everything for the first time.

 

Like in prior Etrian Odyssey games, I enjoyed playing with the markers, trying to capture every single detail of the ridiculously complex floors of the dungeon. My favorite feature of the dungeon map is that, after you’ve completed the trek from one set of stairs to the next, you unlock the Floor Jump feature. This allows you to warp to that set of stairs, even if you’re on a entirely different floor. This saves lots of time when you have to return to where you left off after an emergency visit to the town’s Inn to heal up.

 

Of course, no dungeon is complete without obstacles. These come in the form of regular enemies, extra-powerful enemies called FOEs, and traps. Regular enemies are met on a semi-random basis, where you can see how likely an enemy is going to attack in a color gauge on the top screen (Red is danger!). Traps are interactions you find in dungeons with various effects. Sometimes they’ll heal you, but usually you’re then immediately forced to fight a party of monsters immediately afterwards. Investigate at your own peril!

 

FOEs hulk through the forests, each type of beast moving in their own specific patterns. Some will only attack if you’re in their line of sight; others will attack only if you are already in another encounter (yes, enemies can tag-team against you in battles); others will only attack if you stand in their way and won’t actively chase you; and yet others will go out of their way to hound you but have to rest after a moment. Sometimes these FOEs themselves create puzzles that you have to solve with timing and planning your steps beforehand.

 

Finally, there are the battles themselves. Each character in your party comes with a set of skills, and each level they gain they earn one Skill Point. These are used to unlock the skills, which are briefly touched upon in our previous impressions.  In addition to these, each character can equip a Grimoire Stone, which are items that come equipped with a couple of skills. These skills can then be used by one character even if they’re of a different class. For example, even if you have a Hexer, if you equip a Grimoire Stone with Fire Formula (an Alchemist skill), the Hexer can now take advantage of an offensive magic skill. This allows for much greater customization, since Grimoire Stones can come equipped with enemy skills and you can even synthesize to create different combinations of skills on one Stone.

 

It feels like I’ve discussed the majority of the game, and I sort of have—with regard to the Classic Mode, at least. As its name sounds, Classic Mode is the barebones port of Etrian Odyssey 1. You’re a nameless adventurer and you can create your own party from scratch. You can choose any class you wish, you can form whatever team you want. There is an enormous amount of customization involved, especially when you factor in the Grimoire Stones.

 

However, at the cost of such freedom is a story, which hasn’t really been present in previous Etrian Odyssey games and isn’t really present in Untold’s Classic Mode either. There isn’t a lot of dialogue involved other than, “Go off into the wilderness and explore!” You are purely playing to explore the Yggdrasil Labyrinth from one set of floors to the next for nothing more than personal pride.

 

The moment you try out Story Mode, however, you realize just how impersonal Classic Mode is, and what you’ve been missing out on.

 

The very atmosphere of Story Mode is different from that of Classic. You’re not one of a million here; you’re one-in-a-million. In Story Mode, you play a character of the Story Mode-only Highlander class who, like in Classic Mode, arrives and wants to explore the Labyrinth. Time is taken to make you feel welcomed as a character.

 

Right off the bat, the conversation with the councilman who greets you is much warmer, and you even have two characters who temporarily join to teach you the ropes instead of a generic soldier sternly snapping, “You can’t pass. Finish the map!” Other characters such as the Guild owner, the Weapons Dealer, and the Pub owner are all much more accommodating and friendly. While none of these changes were essential—they could’ve just plopped party characters into the game and been done with it—this attention to completely rewriting what everyone else says completely changed the experience for me. In fact, it felt like taking a step backwards, playing Classic Mode again, after having spent so much time in Story Mode.

 

And there is a story here. It goes thus: An unexplained earthquake erupts, prompting the councilman to give you the mission of exploring a new dungeon—Gladsheim. This is a massive dungeon that is completely unique to Story Mode. While it doesn’t have nearly as many floors as the Labyrinth, it is by no means any less complicated, with twists and turns, switches to flip to open doors, and even lights to manipulate to avoid or attract FOEs. You could say that while the Labyrinth is extensive because of its sheer number of floors, Gladsheim is massive because of just how widely it sprawls across your bottom screen. Each floor is massive and all of them require you to think and plan your moves strategically.

 

It is also where you will meet the mysterious girl, Frederica, whom you find in a mysterious (futuristic-looking) pod. She is a Gunner (another Story Mode-only class) and has amnesia. However, immediately upon finding her, you meet the colorful cast of a Midgard Library investigation team. These characters quickly join you because of a rampaging FOE, but even after that, they join to try to learn of the secret behind Gladsheim and Frederica.

 

I absolutely loved these three Librarians. Raquna is a sometimes-uncouth noble lady who’d rather dirty her hands and drink to her heart’s content. Arthur is a fast-talking mood maker who is quick to his feet and equally quick to slack off. Finally, Simon is the level-headed thinker of the group, always making sure Raquna and Arthur don’t get too carried away with their antics. As for the other two, Frederica is understandably trouble, but she always pushes herself to wallow in her lack of memories, and the Highlander, of course, is still a silent protagonist (can’t change some traditions), but you can make some choices in how he responds to questions. The choices aren’t massive, but it can be amusing to act completely oblivious like Arthur.

 

I immensely enjoyed everyone’s interactions with each other, and I loved how the game took the time to slow down and work on the characterization. There would be times in dungeons where one character (usually Arthur) would suggest a night’s rest, and the slow campfire conversations you read during these scenes show just how much effort the writers put into fleshing out the characters. There is even one mission where you have to spend five straight days in a dungeon, and each night you do you can view one of these, where you learn more about each Librarian and Frederica.

 

Despite all the added dialogue and new scenes, however, Etrian Odyssey Untold doesn’t slow down. Other than the rest and relaxation portions, the game is briskly paced. For example, immediately following a skippable animated sequence showing you arriving at Etria, you’re immediately taken to see the councilman and start off on your first adventure. There isn’t a lot of small talk here because “You have a task to do so go do it!” In addition, you are even given the option to skip the small talk and pub scenes if you wish. Between giving players the option to view the scenes and the excellent attention to pacing, Untold knows when to speed up and when to slow down.

 

The game would’ve still been a drag, though, if these characters were completely horrible in battle, but thankfully this isn’t the case. In Untold’s Story Mode, you are provided with a well-balanced party. While you can’t change any classes or party members (despite the five characters forming a Guild, you can’t recruit any new characters), the standard classes are all more-or-less covered.

 

You have a Protector for defense, a Medic for healing, an Alchemist for elemental damage, a Highlander for physical damage (and some healing), and a Gunner for long-distance physical and elemental damage. While you can’t pull off tricks like status effects or buffs or debuffs without Grimoire Stones (or until you level up and spend the Skill Points on those specific skills), you can power through the dungeon well enough on this party. This could even serves as a good introduction to other classes that can be considered more difficult to use in Classic Mode. (I do believe that the Librarians can’t learn every single skill available to their class in Story Mode.)

 

With no real drawbacks and an interesting motivation in the form of learning more about the other four characters (and the mystery behind Gladsheim, of course), I had a lot of fun with Story Mode and I think it was a wonderful addition to the game, especially with a whole new dungeon to entice avid explorers. Yes, you can transfer some data from Story Mode to Classic Mode or vice versa, but only after you finish one to the end. This means that you should choose one mode and stick with it; don’t try to skip between the two midway or you’ll end up losing all your data!

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. Grimoire Stones are actually a bit more complicated than I explained above. Each skill on a stone has its own level; these are roughly equivalent to a Skill Level if you were to learn that skill normally. This normally just increases damage output and such, but if you want to use a skill that can, for example, only be used by a Sword but your character doesn’t have a Sword Mastery skill, that Grimoire Stone must have a Sword Mastery skill (taking up one slot) of the Sword Skill’s level or higher. This means that synthesizing and equipping Grimoire Stones isn’t just about gathering the most powerful Skills. It requires some forethought.

 

2. My favorite trick with the Highlander is, after learning the Turning Tide skill that allows your party to heal HP after you deal a finishing blow, to plow through a whole party of weaker enemies with the Legion Thrust skill. While Legion Thrust will consume some of your party’s HP, the amount you heal from defeating multiple enemies at once can make up for it threefold because the Highlander’s skill stacks! This is compounded with the lovely Floor Jump, so you can leap to earlier floors to exploit the poor hapless flies and wasps.

 

3. Story Mode is partially voiced. Animated sequences and some lines are completely voiced, and every character has their collection of amusing battle quotes. My favorite feature of voices is that your party members (usually the observant Simon or the hyper Arthur) will notice something observable in the dungeon and draw your attention to it. I would’ve missed so many shortcuts if it weren’t for them!

 

4. Finally, the OST between Classic and Story Mode has been completely changed. The tunes are still the same, but Story Mode uses much more modern instrumentation.


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  • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

    Wonder when my copy will get here

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      Tell me if you like the booklet they added.

      I sure liked mine.

      I didn’t pre-order but where I live…pretty much no one’s into the genre so they’ll always have a couple copies at the GS I go to unless it’s an extraordinarily rare title.

  • ragingmerifes

    I loved the demo so much that I’m replaying IV. Will buy as soon as I get money.

  • Raltrios

    I’m heading out to buy this in about five minutes. I haven’t quite finished IV yet, but I’m close enough to the end that I’m sure I can spare a bit of time to start this without getting caught up in it so completely I can’t finish IV, right?

    …Right?

    • AkuLord3

      Maybe

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      …Tie a string around your finger? ^^;

  • Erikdayo

    Going to download this from the eShop when I get home from work. I forgot to bring my 3DS with me.. Otherwise I would have downloaded it at work so I could play on the way home. I SCREWED UP BIG TIME!

  • AkuLord3

    Classic mode Story being the story of finding the ancient city and spoilers…its just not as IN UR FACE STORY than the story mode which has more in things, but yeah going get Untold since i liked enjoyed the series and i like so far about the demo and its new things.

  • http://www.thejaystack.com/ Jon Stachewicz

    I take issue with the fact that the reviewer seems to think there’s something inherently wrong with the classic formula and that adding a preset party with defined characters somehow ‘fixes’ it. Etrian is a niche series that does what it does very well, if it’s not for you then just own up to that next time.

    • Suicunesol

      I don’t think Laura thinks that there’s something wrong with the classic formula; just that the story mode seems to add an element that greatly enhances the experience for her, to the point that it feels like “classic mode” would feel empty without it.

      And I agree! Especially for new Etrian Odyssey players such as myself, having some lovable and interesting characters to guide you through your first time is very much welcome. I like creating a diverse party of explorers as much as others do, but those classic characters also feel empty. Robotic. They don’t speak or communicate or say anything that develops the explorable world.

    • Andar

      I wouldn’t say it’s a problem of having a ‘bad’ game that is fixed, but rather an ‘unappealing’ one. I respect Etrian Odyssey’s heritage, but at the end of the day, each game is a product which is sold to make profit, and while the ‘classic’ approach is great within the niche you mentioned, there is a much wider potential audience out there.

      Having an option for a ‘Story mode’ addresses this audience, and gives them a better reason to continue with the series (look at many of the other comments here, and you’ll see that it is indeed appealing to a lot of people). And by retaining an alternate Classic mode, it’s not like anything is lost with this option.

      It’s exactly that: an option. And I applaud them for making it one.

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      I greatly enjoyed the classic formula. Both modes are fun in their own right, but you take the fun from different parts of the game. With Classic, you take it form the exploration. With Story, you take it from the writing. I actually say (or try to say) that I was pretty apprehensive when I realized I couldn’t change my characters. But the writing and the fact that the characters they gave were well-rounded enough personality-wise and stat-wise enough that I could enjoy the game without losing any of the experience from either mode.

      While I do personally enjoy Story mode better, I don’t see anything wrong with Classic mode (I enjoyed EO IV a lot) that needs to be “fixed,” like taking a wrench to an old Cadillac. However, just because it doesn’t need fixing doesn’t mean new models can’t be made, and these new models can either run to the ground and explode in a fiery explosion of death for the game or they can actually work. And this one, with the addition of the Story mode, actually worked. There was a lot of thought put into the creation of the Story mode rather than a thoughtlessly tacked-on veneer of a story that would’ve been better off excluded. Now that would’ve been harmful for the franchise.

      Other than the writing and the preset party? Everything was kept, and this is the core of the “classic formula” you’re talking about, that makes EO as great as it is.

      • http://www.thejaystack.com/ Jon Stachewicz

        Fair enough. I’m just not entirely sure that it came across like that in my first readthrough of the article. Passages like

        “The moment you try out Story Mode, however, you realize just how impersonal Classic Mode is, and what you’ve been missing out on.”

        Imply that there’s some sort of better experience that Classic fans are depriving themselves of, which isn’t really the case. The minimal story told through exploration is a HUGE part of why I’ve been doing my part to support these games verbally and financially since 2007.

        I don’t really think of the core EO experience as ‘impersonal’ or lacking in intimacy. Exploring a labyrinth with a map I made 100% on my own with a party completely of my own design is incredibly rewarding and a good way of making me feel like I, the player, have a big hand in the adventure. If anything, I think Story mode detracts from that somewhat, at least by virtue of not letting you create a party. I’m just not seeing how having the same characters and.battle possibilities as 100% of other players makes the game more personal.

        • Andar

          I think the case as presented in the article is that what people have been ‘missing out on’ isn’t that classic is in any way imperfect, so to say, but rather that the Etrian team can really make an interesting and convincing story mode when they want to.

          If you want to support Etrian Odyssey, what’s wrong with supporting both options? It’s not like the team made the decision to do two entirely separate modes is one they made lightly, and I’m sure they put a great deal of effort into BOTH of them. And when you start the game, the player gets the option to play how they want to. Longtime fans will enjoy classic, but story mode will attract many newcomers to the series this time, especially those of the opinion that the Etrian series was somehow a little dry for them. Once they become more familiar with the game, maybe they’ll try classic mode, or even other games in the series, which presents an incredible opportunity for the Etrian series to reach more people.

          Personally, I’m greatly looking forward to trying the story mode. I enjoy the depth of the system in the Etrian series, but I always encountered the same issue with my party: while it gives you a lot of options and strategies to make your own characters, they ultimately lack personality and it feels like dungeon crawling with cardboard cutouts. I’m sure some people get attached to the characters they make, and maybe imagine their own personalities for them, but I just don’t. I don’t really want a personal, ‘no one else has exactly what I have’ experience. I just want to play a challenging game, and it’s more enjoyable for me if the characters in it have personalities of their own.

  • icecoffemix

    Finally an Etrian game I could actually play.

  • ZnTxn

    *Insert rant about how the story of each Etrian Odyssey is NOT barebones because the developers choose another way to narrate a story*

    Yeah, not going bother to write that down, I’m keeping that until they announce EOV and people began to shout “why it lacks a story mode?”

    I’m gonna buy this on november, though. Pokemon (pre-order) and other purchases already emptied my wallet for this month.

    • JohnNiles

      Agreed. The games have a story, they just happen to refer to your party as a whole rather than address you individually.

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      You’re right that this will probably impact future games to the point that story mode may be expected. That may be a tragedy in its own right. However, this article is about this game, and the game is split between two modes – one with a vague story, a favorite method of older games; and one with a dynamic but specific story, something modern players are more familiar with. Both modes are included so players can enjoy both. Hate one? Then play the other.

      (That is, unless you’ve already played EO I. Then you’ve already played “the other.” …But you can enjoy it again! :D)

      • ZnTxn

        What I mean is that I didn’t like how people (Atlus and Nintendo employees included, like in today’s Nintendo Direct) acts like it has a story for the first time. (That’s the reason I made that comment about a future EOV.)

        Yes, I know I’m *still* nitpicking that small detail, but it’s for that small detail that (sadly) makes people think there’s no story at all in these games.

        • icecoffemix

          I’m sorry but to some (lots of) people, including game, the past Etrian game have story as much as amounted to Tetris. You may disagree but that’s how I think and you can’t do anything to change it.

          • Nana

            I am sorry, but that group was always a tiny minority at best. Most players that play the game read what is going on, which usually has them notice that the game has about as much story as SNES games that were lauded for their story do.

            It is sad that the ADHD generation is unable to even read a simple message box and remember it five minutes later. It’s really quite a shame, and a big reason why games get homogenized more and more.

  • http://www.mrtiredmedia.com/ NickyD

    Sounds like I might actually enjoy an EO game for the first time since the…first game, really. I got so tired of having to draw the maps (to each their own, but after a few games, a gimmick can get tiring to me), but if there’s a story propelling me forward, I might actually care about being thorough again!

    Plus they have a new option that auto-fills in the floors AND the walls, right? Just what the Medic ordered…

    Good times.

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      Floors AND walls? I’m … not sure about that? If there is, I must’ve missed it… o_o

      • ZnTxn

        Yes, there’s an option to draw walls automatically.

        The floor are drawn automatically as the default option, if I remember correctly.

        • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

          That … would’ve been very helpful. Indeed it would XD

          And here I was, trying to decide whether that mysterious crystal wall needed a wall drawn or not >< (Yes, this is what I think about when I play the game.) (Then, of course, I opened the wall and I had to amend my previous maps… ._.)

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      This is the case, but I left it at its default that was introduced with titles like EO4 which maps the floor but not the walls and other objects. Auto-map will do practically everything.

      I think what’s even better is they decided to add a -dash- button to the mix by holding B or choosing to change your default action to dash instead. That and having floor jump after you have a full map certainly helps dealing with long, drawn out maps and going between floors without having to resort to fleeing/warping spells or Ariadne threads.

  • anarchy_panty

    I’m so glad the developers had the foresight to include Classic mode, cause this probably would have been the first EO I passed on otherwise.

  • celery

    Before Untold, I had only played Etrian Odyssey IV, and while NPCs started off as acting very impersonal towards you, because you ARE a dime-a-dozen guild, as the game progressed they all slowly grew very friendly towards my guild–which is how people generally are in reality. I really loved seeing how the pub owner, merchant, Dahlia, and Cieran slowly started to act like dear friends to me, even though we only interacted through quests and their locations’ services.

    From what I’ve played of Story-mode Untold so far, the only reason the NPCs are so smitten with my guild from the get-go is because “OH MY HEAVENBRINGER A HIGHLANDER WOW WOW.”

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      That is true, too. They do slowly warm up to you in EO IV.

      It’s basically the difference between a “random guild building its way up and exploring new places” and “special thing happens that is a catalyst for exploration.” One is much more slow-going, and the other is faster-paced. To each their own. You end up exploring the same places mostly.

    • TrevHead

      In the original game which this is a remake of, the NPCs regard you similar to EOIV ie just another guild until you get more fame.

      That said the original never had a Highlander so the NPCs freaking out over such a character makes sense.

    • FitzpatrickPhillips

      Because its a set story. There’s absolutely no sense in comparing both when they’re completely opposite experiences.

      • celery

        I agree. I only brought it up because from what I understood the article made it sound like the NPCs being colder to you was a bad thing, when (to me at least) it simply set up a situation where they could grow to like you as your own guild grew.

    • http://jesse-dylan.livejournal.com Jesse_Dylan

      I liked that in EOIV, too. I also found myself very skeptical of the count in the beginning but actually adoring him by the end.

  • kylehyde

    I admit that I am an etrian virgin (yes I stole the idea from a dtoid post), I played the demo on the story mode and I loved it, I think this entry is going to please to veterans and newcomers or people who found lost on the series. Overall this is a secure purchase for me, maybe this is going to be beginning of an spinoff of the series (like rune factory was to harvest moon or persona to smt), overall this game is more than welcome in my 3DS collection.

  • SlickRoach

    Damn, I want this game so bad but my backlog is long enough, and Disgaea D2 and X/Y are just going to make it longer. Heck, I haven’t even made it past the final dungeon of IV yet. So many distractions ._.

  • TrevHead

    Hopefully this game comes to PAL aswell and SEGA dont cockblock it.

  • TrueDefault

    Story mode is fine, but I’m glad we still have the option to make an all-cute-girls party, haha.

  • Exkaiser

    I don’t really know if I could play through Etrian Odyssey again with an entirely different party made up of people written for me. They’ve all been intensely personal experiences, it would just feel wrong.

    I do wish I had a reason to pick this version up, but I’m thinking it’s the first Etrian title I’m going to have to skip.

    • r0gamer940

      there is a classic mode just for you

      • Exkaiser

        Oh sure, but if I wanted to play classic mode I can do that right this moment.

        My issue is that I’d like to pick it up support the series, but I can’t see any reason to.

      • Exkaiser

        Oh sure, but if I wanted to play classic mode I can do that right this moment.

        My issue is that I’d like to pick it up support the series, but I can’t see any reason to.

        • Kelohmello

          Classic mode is still remade. There’s been major changes that aren’t just related to the visuals and audio. It’s still very much a different game worth its money.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

          It wouldn’t really be for you then, in that case.

          It’s for the audience of wusses like me that took til EO4 to come around and wanted a little more accessibility with the game.

  • AuraGuyChris

    And Raquna was like ^v^
    And Arthur was like -o-

  • Rol

    As I could not find it anywhere else in on the net, can you tell me if the Story mode has a dual language option? Thanks again in advance!

  • Virevolte

    Here I am… ctrl+f Europe on all the page.

  • Nana

    “you realize just how impersonal Classic Mode is, and what you’ve been missing out on.”

    Missing out: Absolutely nothing. Actually, the classic mode feels way more personal, precisely because we make the party the way we want to, while watching storymode is more like watching someone else play.

    That’s why a big part of the japanese fandom of this series was in an uproar when the fixed story was first mentioned. That’s why classic mode exists – to appease those of us that miss out nothing in story mode.

    And yeah, I played the japanese version of it. I fully know that people that like Etrian Odyssey missed out on jack squat.

  • ReidHershel

    So, about what fraction of the game is voiced?

  • Charmchar

    I actually bought a 3DS yesterday for this game and I’m enjoying the story and the combat but maybe i shouldn’t have put the difficulty at Expert. (>y<)

  • CirnoLakes

    I’m liking the sound of the character interaction in this game.

  • KuroNathan

    Arthur! Ice magic now!

    As a side note I don’t think you need the pre-requisite mastery skills in order to use a skill, I can use draining blast on fredrica. What you do need instead is the right weapon equipped.

    In order to equip a weapon that you don’t normally have access to you need the equipment bonus on the stone in question to be the type of weapon. This is determined by the person who made the stone OR the third stone chosen during synthesis (this is actually the only thing the third stone does, so pick low level stones).

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