Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight Review

It seems as though the Etrian Odyssey series has become one of annual installments.  Not that I’m complaining, of course--these dungeon crawlers are quite well-made, and offer a hardcore experience that only recently do other companies and games try to replicate.  After Atlus took a bit of a break with the spin-off Etrian Mystery Dungeon, they are going back to the series roots with a remake of Etrian Odyssey II, aptly titled Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight.

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FOEs are, of course, still a major threat.

The Fafnir Knight follows the same basic formula that the series’ remake of the first title does:  There is now a Story Mode that features pre-set characters and an arching storyline to help keep more casual dungeon crawler fans engaged.  

For those that want something closer to the original experience, though, there is the Classic Mode that allows for character creation and less overall story.  The gameplay is also updated to be more alike to the series’ latest new entry, Etrian Odyssey IV, with minor tweaks sprinkled throughout.

The story (at least of Story Mode) focuses around Princess Arianna and her companions as they explore Yggdrasil and Ginnungagap to invoke an ancient ritual.  All but the main character (the titular Fafnir Knight) are a rather talkative bunch, largely fitting into typical tropes.  The constant talking can become tiresome after a while if all you want to do is continue exploring, as there are rather lengthy scenes for almost every happening within and without the dungeons.

For this reason, I much prefer the Classic Mode.  Not only am I given (mostly) free reign for party composition from the get-go, but the storytelling is far more minimal and Etrian Odyssey-like.  It’s almost essentially the same story, but with far less chattering from party members.  Any veteran EO fan is probably going to go with this mode first, though they will miss out on trying the Fafnir Knight class until New Game+.

Princess Arianna, like any good princess, is a bit on the naive side.

Beyond all this, Untold 2 is largely the same Etrian Odyssey experience.  You enter a new floor of a dungeon, and slowly explore it, mapping the area out meticulously.  If the vast majority of the floor is unlocked, players can warp between the up and down stairs, removing a lot of the tedium from the dungeon crawling.  

As with all EO games, there are a variety of tools at your disposal to mark the maps, making it easy to remember what was where, and is especially important for sidequests.

Battles are the typical turn-based affair, with a huge emphasis on buffs, debuffs, and exploiting weaknesses.  Unless playing on the title’s Easy mode (named the Picnic mode), even normal battles have to be approached with a strategy in mind, lest the player suddenly find their party decimated.  

This is the standard Etrian Odyssey fare, and still works quite well here.  Undoubtedly, though, series and genre newcomers will enjoy the Picnic mode to be able to enjoy a bit more of a stress free adventure, while hardcore veteran will no doubt find a healthy challenge in the Hard mode (named Expert).  Even better, these difficulties can be changed anytime the party is in town, so you aren’t stuck into a single difficulty if you find it isn’t the right one for you.

Grimoire Stones, an item from Etrian Odyssey Untold 1, make a return here.  Grimoire Stones are equipped to characters to teach them skills they normally couldn’t, or level up skills they already have.  It’s a nice system that can help make party members more versatile, but honestly, during my time with Classic Mode, I didn’t find them overly useful, since my party was properly balanced in the first place.  The stones are more useful for sure in Story Mode, but they are also a bit of a pain to get, and getting good skills relies a bit more on luck than anything else.

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A somewhat new feature, adapted a bit from mechanics from Etrian Mystery Dungeon, is the Cafe.  In addition to materials, the party can gather ingredients which can be used to make various dishes.  These meals give passive benefits, anything from HP healing every few steps to increased attack and defense.

However, unlike the meals of past games, these benefits don’t disappear after a single dungeon run; instead, they stay in effect until a new meal is chosen, which is a nice benefit that may have steered players away from using food too much in past games.

But, that isn’t all that needs to be done with the Cafe.  Players need to obtain recipes in order to make the food in the first place, but these recipes are like little puzzles.  They don’t come out and say exactly what the ingredients are, but you have to read the ingredient descriptions and find the items that are the best match for the recipe.  These aren’t particularly difficult to figure out, but it’s a neat little diversion nevertheless.  The Cafe can also be promoted around different areas of town, which requires using a specific item for a specific market and having the ingredients to fulfill orders.

But at the core, all the extra little tidbits can be ignored for the standard EO affair--that is, exploring the stratums, avoiding FOEs like the plague, and taking on sidequests when players see fit.  Of course, Untold 2 does all these things quite well, and in much the same manner as IV and Untold I.  Some may lament the lack of innovation for the series with its third entry on the 3DS (fourth if you want to include Persona Q), but it’s more of an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ situation with Untold 2, as this set-up certainly isn’t broken.

The Fafnir Knight is another solid Etrian Odyssey title, with plenty of new content and enhancements to delight those that played the original Etrian Odyssey II.  Whether players want to experience a more fleshed out story, or delve right into Classic mode on the hardest difficulty, there’s plenty here to keep dungeon crawler fans busy until the next Etrian Odyssey title.

Author’s Note: I have not played Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, so if I mislabel any mechanic in Untold 2 as ‘new’ when it was introduced in Untold 1, I apologize.

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