Persona Q: How Does It Hold Up As An Etrian Odyssey Experience?

By Ethan . November 20, 2014 . 1:01pm

Persona Q is a game a foot in two worlds. It is influenced by developer Atlus’ most and least progressive RPG franchises. Persona games tend to place a heavy emphasis on narrative and characterization to the point that the most recent installments adopted dating-sim-like gameplay for much of the experience. Meanwhile, Etrian Odyssey made its name as a throwback first-person dungeon crawler that has negligible narrative content but takes advantage of the lack of defined characters to give the player granular control over the development of the their team and experience.


These very different franchises have attracted different sorts of fans. As someone who appreciates both, I’ll be covering the game from both angles. This first writeup concerns how Persona Q stacks up as an Etrian Odyssey experience.


Probably the most significant change between Persona Q and Etrian Odyssey is how the game will go out of its way to keep the player out of trouble. If you try to enter a dungeon without a Goho-M (ariadne thread equivalent) the game will stop remind you. If you’re having trouble once inside a dungeon, you can toggle the difficulty down at will. You still unlock items by selling the dropped loot needed to craft them to the vendor, but you no longer use that loot up in creating the item. So if you get the one angel wing you need for new armor, you can buy that armor for every member of the party.


By and large I think that these changes are for the best. These are changes that smooth the basic Etrian Odyssey formula without removing anything that makes it fun. There are a few things that I found to go too far, though. I really don’t need a character pointing out every time I walk by a treasure chest or a secret passage. And warning me after every single battle when someone got low on health? That’s downright condescending. I’m not blind; these things are clearly visible and I’ll take care of them myself. Ultimately, though, these are small presentational quibbles, and if they really bug you there’s nothing stopping you from just turning off the voices in the options like I did.


Player babysitting aside, once you’re inside a dungeon this is a rock solid Etrian Odyssey-style spelunking experience. The dungeons look great for one thing—the surprisingly accomplished 3D engine Atlus rolled out for Etrian Odyssey IV looks better than ever here, and for once, the environments being rendered aren’t just fantasy staple settings. Some of the dungeons look downright trippy and are influenced by the artistic style of the Persona games in the best way.


The combat is the game’s greatest triumph, though. Etrian Odyssey has never had bad combat, but it’s always been very straightforward. It’s a blank sheet of paper on which the player’s decisions and customized characters play out to paint harrowing pictures of close escapes and triumphs against overwhelming odds. Persona Q by comparison doesn’t give the player nearly as much control over the party (characters level up gaining predetermined stats and abilities just like in Persona), but has a more dynamic set of systems within the combat screen.


Though you cannot decide what skills a character will learn or when, you CAN assign them a “sub Persona” that will give them additional skills and an HP/MP boost. The trick is that the sub-Persona boosts only apply in battle and refresh every battle. So in practice the bonus HP and MP at the end of a character’s meter are free resources to spend to win a fight, and those points are always spent first. Hitting enemy weaknesses doesn’t give bonus turns in this game like in Persona, but they do make the skills used on the next turn free (assuming the character isn’t damaged before taking their next turn).


This system leads to all sorts of interesting decisions. Do I want to put a high SP sub persona on Junpei since he has a low mana pool? Or do I put a high HP sub persona on him so he can spam his HP burning physical attacks that he has naturally? Is it better to put a sub persona on a character to give them more elemental options in their kit or is it worth putting a sub-persona on with skill redundancies for superior point boosts? Is it worth it to dip into Chie’s HP pool driving her down to dangerously low HP in order to ensure that her next attack can come for free? Do I risk waiting an extra turn in battle to heal so that I can use the free sub persona mana, or do I play it safe and wrap the battle up now and heal outside dipping into my precious non-renewable character mana?


Basically, it’s great. The emphasis on identifying and exploiting enemy weaknesses is there from Persona, but the limited disposable health and mana point pools given to the characters makes each battle a balancing act between what’s most effective against the enemies at hand and what can be cast without incurring permanent point loss. It’s not Etrian Odyssey combat, it’s better.


And at the end of the day, what else does an Etrian Odyssey game need? Interesting dungeons to map out, combat encounters that require the player pay attention for fear of death, and time spent staring at numbers as you figure out what to do with your party before tackling the next floor. The game does baby you along a little bit, but it’s never at the expense of a satisfying dungeon crawling experience. If you’re looking for a new Etrian Odyssey game and especially if you’re a little less than thrilled with the line of remakes that have been announced in lieu of an original Etrian Odyssey V, I think that the stylistically and mechanically distinct Persona Q will do nothing but please.


Food for thought:


1. Another thing I didn’t need—guidelines showing me where to draw nearby walls on the bottom screen. Back in my day, we squinted at the top screen, counting tiles out if we wanted to map a wall we weren’t directly adjacent.


2. Most of the time when a review code is sent out the publisher invites writers who get need help to contact them. I’ve always ignored those offers in the past, but I’ll freely admit that I had to cry uncle and contact Atlus for this one. The last puzzle in the third dungeon is an absolute doozy. Once I had it explained to me I thought it was really smart but… you should feel lucky that when you folks get there you’ll have online walkthroughs available.


3. Etrian Odyssey veterans will want to bump the battle speed up at least one setting, if not two. The pictures of personae being summoned when you cast skills slow the battles down criminally. I found that the middle setting (it defaults to the slowest speed out of three) was a good speed for most things and the fastest speed I reserved for grinding.

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  • Fronkhead

    Thanks for this review angle. As someone who adores Etrian Odyssey I had worries about how the Persona crossover would affect the core gameplay.

    I’m still worried that I won’t find exploring this game’s labyrinths as enchanting as Etrian Odyssey: something about them doesn’t make me want to look around with the Circle Pad and soak in the atmosphere…

    • Ethan_Twain

      It’s definitely a very different vibe. The dungeons in Persona Q are almost more… high energy? Etrian Odyssey labarynths tend to have this very serene feel to them even when they’re monster infested booby trapped nightmares. Persona Q has dungeons that are equally atmospheric, but they’re all over the chart in terms of what atmosphere they’re gunning for. At no point do they feel serene.

      • Fronkhead

        Thanks for confirming this. That’s a shame, I guess on the other hand I won’t be taking my sweet time. I’m glad the sense of constant progression is still there at any rate.

        • Ethan_Twain

          Well just because it’s not the same atmosphere doesn’t mean that it’s bad atmosphere! Some dungeons aren’t as good as what Etrian Odyssey normally does, but some of them do really cool new things with atmosphere too. Dungeon 3 in particular is kind of amazing.

          As long as a player doesn’t get stuck in a “I know the vibe I get from Etrian Odyssey and I want to get that exact same vibe from this game” mind set I don’t think that atmosphere is something people will have issues with at all.

          • Fronkhead

            Oh yes, sure. Just speaking from a personal point of view, really. I like the serene and grand environments from Etrian Odyssey, and I’m going to miss that.
            I’m sure I’ll embrace Persona Q’s though!

  • NeptuniasBeard

    Really looking forward to this game. It’s likely the last one I purchase for a while, glad I’m going out with a bang. Can’t wait to see how the cast interacts

  • AkuLord3

    Disagree about the combat aspects of EO games but whatever, no surprise this game will be fun. I’ll get it…eventually. Etrian Odyssey fans and MOSTLY P3/P4 fans will enjoy it for both worlds ish points.

  • Detrimont

    Only question i have is, is there a slightly different story depending on what protagonist i choose? or does it just affect the beginning section, and the music.
    mainly meaning, do i play it through twice?

    • Ethan_Twain

      That is an excellent question, but I’m afraid I can’t say for sure. We’re looking at a 50+ hour game here, I didn’t play it twice :P I can say for sure that it’ll diverge at the beginning and at the end. The middle 40 hours seems like it will be about the same, though obviously conversations featuring the opposite game’s protagonist will need to be remixed and other little touches like that.

    • May_Patra

      Yes, there are slight differences. The main story of the game is the same for both, but there are different events (character interactions) depending on which protagonist you choose.
      So I’d say it’s worth playing through twice. :)

  • Jack

    You can ask publishers for help!? I never knew that! Although I think I would similarly ignore it. I do remember getting pretty majorly stuck in DanganRonpa 2 for like a whole day though…

    But anyways, I’m surprised the Etrian Odyssey aspects seem to be so intact! Even better in some places! I’m interested in how your impressions on the Persona part go though, where I assume you’ll also talk about the story. I’m pretty into the Arena games, and while I absolutely love the fighting game aspect of them, I find the stories to range from dull to just plain bad. Would be good to know if this suffers from a similar ailment of spinoff-itis.

    • Ethan_Twain

      Oh man, it took me more than one day to break down and ask for help. I was stubborn about this, but I hit the point where I had gone over the entire floor over and over and gotten massively over leveled for the area and still had no idea what was going on. Eventually I gave in not out of surrender, but because this one puzzle was seriously threatening my ability to make deadline.

      Turns out it was the right call though. I was never gonna get that :P

    • Sure, I used to do it on occasion back when I was a reviewer and got stuck in something ;)

  • DesmaX

    That’s quite nice to hear!

    Do hope P5 takes some Etrian Odyssey elements, dungeon crawling was never the series strong point

    • JeySigma

      I seriously dont want dungeon crawling like Tartarus in Persona 5. Tartarus was by FAR the worst part about the game. Repeating 250+ floors of copy and pasted design.

      No thanks!

      it needs to be more like Persona 4’s dungeons, or more original and not randomly generated.

  • raygunner659

    I’m so conflicted on whether to get this game or not. On one hand I need my EO fix and on the other, I never really played P3 and I’m not sure if that would affect the experience. Also it’s 50 bucks. I guess I have until PQ gets onto Atlus’s frequent online sales offerings to decide

    • Kaetsu

      From what I’ve heard the game is very easy to get into without having to play P3/P4(of course it enhances the experience) unlike Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.

  • i just saw 2 copies of the special edition in a game store today over here in georgia.. lol

    • Really? Not sure If I live in the same neck of the woods as you, but the two stores I have said they won’t have till a day after. Haven’t checked the mall Gamestop, though.

      • the store is called video game trader and they were like 70 bucks i think

        • ThatGuy3190_7

          Really? I live in Georgia also, but I’m not sure if video game trader is anywhere near me. Guess I gotta wait until Tuesday.

          • you can always check on google maps. i lived in georgia for years and never knew about it. it has a lot of retro games and consoles that you wouldn’t find in gamestop.

        • Hmm, haven’t heard of it, but it is about 2 hrs away from where I live. Only places here are Gamestop (Eww) and Play n Trade. Luckily, the Gamestop in the mall said they will have it Tue, but might just eshop purchase it since I really don’t want the special edition or care to have the standard one physical.

          • yeah, i have a gamestop near where i live but that store has a lot of cool retro stuff if you ever want to buy old consoles and games.

      • DuskSharkEX

        One of the stores here has had it since Sunday.

  • Adrian Duran

    IMO when it comes to recent dungeon crawlers by Atlus: SMT SJ > EO series > PQ

    granted I enjoyed PQ, it just wasn’t as good as the above 2

  • Aemette

    The Etrian Odyssey series definitely has a lot to learn from this point forward. I see this game as a blueprint for what the next EO games might have and show. I smell chibi character models for EO5 kinda like the title screen for the original EO 2 with the Gunner girl walking up to Lagaard.

  • Shippoyasha

    Streamlining the Etrian Odyssey system further just makes a lot of sense here. And really, making the guidelines for drawing takes a lot of the stress out of it. I mean, it is pretty cool for those who stuck with the older, tougher system, but I’d rather have it less of a stressful side issue regarding the maps. I didn’t miss the ‘ultra hardcore’ method of drawing maps in Phantasy Star 1 either, as much as I pride myself for finishing it with my own navigational skills.

  • ( ^ – ^ ) ALWAYS great to hear a fellow Etrian Odyssey vet:

    “1. Another thing I didn’t need—guidelines showing me where to draw nearby walls on the bottom screen. Back in my day, we squinted at the top screen, counting tiles out if we wanted to map a wall we weren’t directly adjacent.”

    • Mr_SP

      I couldn’t tell if that was sarcastic or not. Is squinting cool now? Was it ever?

      • Ethan_Twain

        It was more of a “you darn kids stay off my lawn” vibe I was going for.

        The guidelines they give you really aren’t a huge deal, though as an EO vet there were annoyances. There are particular ways that I notate my maps and sometimes the indicators would be saying to mark a wall in a place where I don’t mark walls. It also kinda contributed to a sense that it was less me making my own customized map and more just filling in the blanks until I had the “right” map.

  • Shane Guidaboni

    Can’t wait to play this, but I’m going to wait for a price drop, honestly. $50 for a 3DS title is not my cup of tea at this time of the year. Maybe I can scrounge up some old titles to trade in towards it.

    • Satori Satya

      I think you should be OK with paying full price for a GOOD game regardless of the platform.

      But yeah, X-mas season and whatnot.

      • X_Bacon

        $40 is the usual full price, Atlus is probably the only one that charges $50

        • Satori Satya

          Atlus is also one of the few publishers on Ninty consoles that has a game sale every month or so (much to the dismay of many users here who go: “Another Atlus sale?! We had one last week!”).

  • Aesma

    …the third dungeon as in the first dungeon’s third floor or literal third dungeon (Avoiding spoilers for those who doesn’t want to be spoiled).

    …also, maybe it’s because I’m used to both games but… There must be something wrong/right if I can kill the first FOEs with level 5 team…

    • Ethan_Twain

      The third dungeon as in the fourth floor down of the third dungeon. The final puzzle before reaching the boss. If you clear it without help, kudos.

      Atlus also told me that Naoto will start giving you hints if you wander around the puzzle area long enough, but I never triggered that because I figured that I just didn’t have enough information so I was canvassing the entire rest of the floor over and over again looking for clues I’d overlooked.

      • Aesma

        Hoo… that should be interesting, I’ll be looking forward to that dungeon then.

      • Aesma

        Just finished the dungeon, quite a fun puzzle it was…
        Managed it without help though. The algebra, one, right?

  • KuroNathan

    The question is, is there goddamn grimoire stones and is it still as difficult as EO but just as rewarding?

    • Ethan_Twain

      There are NO grimoire stones (and I hate them too), and the combat is plenty difficult. You can crank it up if you want also if you’re the sort of person who plays EO games on hard (I’m not, but it’s nice that it’s there).

      • KuroNathan

        Hmmm…. well I’ll consider it then. Probably after exams are all done and what not.

        Did you have a chance to try out the DLC chars? are they worth the price in your opinion or just fan service chars?

        • Ethan_Twain

          I didn’t even look at DLC to be honest. Most of it is additional navigators, and I just found their constant yammering annoying. I turned off voice volume in the options menu and was done with it.

          • KuroNathan

            I thought there was three party member DLC chars. Guess I’ll wait for other people’s opinions on them then.

          • Saphira

            Nah, there’re no DLC party members, just a few Persona (Magatsu, Telos, Kaguya and Thanatos) DLCs + voice navis.

          • KuroNathan

            oh I was under the impression that the velvet room residents were dlc party members. So then how are the dlc personas? Overwhelmingly powerful? are they imbalanced or do they just bring new stuff to the table without making it so that you should only use them

          • Saphira

            The residents are only available as voice navi DLCs (along with Nanako) :)
            As for the DLC Personas… I don’t really know, I’ve just been following news on the Japanese release XD

      • Guillermo Oliva III

        You do not have to use the Grimoire stones if you do not want too and you are not forced to use them either ,but I understand that you prefer “skills” only with your team XD

  • SetzerGabbiani

    I can’t wait! Paid off the special edition the first weekend it was available. I have an 8 hr bus trip home for Thanksgiving, so I know what I’ll be doing during that time.

    “Another thing I didn’t need—guidelines showing me where to draw nearby walls on the bottom screen. Back in my day, we squinted at the top screen, counting tiles out if we wanted to map a wall we weren’t directly adjacent.” — HA! Having played all EOs + remake, this made me laugh harder than I wanted to.

  • Fen Y

    The things you discuss here as being ‘changes for the better’ are… kinda missing the point, a bit.

    The entire point of the Etrian games was not having that handholding, scrounging up resources, the like. Especially the handholding.

    Cutting that leaves comparatively mundane things. Grimrock 2 feels much more like an Etrian game than Persona Q :/

    I mean, Persona Q is not *bad*, but I wouldn’t call it a good Etrian game.

    • Satori Satya

      Well, a game being bad or good is based entirely on personal opinions.

      Both Grimlock & Persona Q have the same score at Metacritic at the moment. So I guess opinions are similar on how good they are.

    • leon3789

      Remember this is also a persona game. Most persona fans havent played EO before, and we are talking about a game where half of the game is just hanging out.

      So while your right, its not a good Etrian game, but I feel its less aimed to Etrian fans and more to Persona fans with the hopes of maybe making some EO fans.

  • Kornelious

    This game is gonna be a hit! Combining both the combat and dungeon-crawling of Etrian Odyssey, with the Story (I think) and characters of Persona….While making it better all around is a match made in Video Game nerd heaven! :D

  • Hausuke

    I love Persona 3 and the Etrian Odyssey’s that I’ve played (IV and the Millennium Girl). Really looking forward to Persona Q. Also should probably play P4G.

  • 9breaker

    I disagree with etrian oddyssey having weaker gameplay. I think it has stronger and more defined gameplay butbboth games are great in their own way imo.

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