Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl review: party like it's 1989

Game Info
Platform 3DS
Publisher Atlus
Developer Atlus
Release Date Oct 1, 2013

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a road trip to the series' past that doesn't always feel necessary.

2010's Etrian Odyssey 3 expanded the core gameplay beyond exploring a single dungeon by introducing sea travel. Etrian Odyssey 4 brought in airships and a bigger overworld earlier this year. But The Millennium Girl goes back to the series' roots quite literally; it's a remake of the first game six years after its initial release.

Etrian Odyssey Untold justifies retreading old ground by way of one major addition: a developed storyline with static characters. Where previous games have ignored plot in favor of a hardcore focus on dungeon crawling, The Millennium Girl revamps the original game with dialogue, cutscenes and character development. But even when I found that new story enjoyable, I couldn't shake the feeling that Etrian Odyssey's debut hasn't gained much from it.

The setup is predictable: You take on the role of an adventurer fresh to the city of Etria. This bustling town rests near the entrance of the Labyrinth, a twisted maze of forests, jungles and dark secret areas hiding great treasure alongside powerful monsters. You begin exploring the Labyrinth alone, but before long you gather a group of allies, including members of a research team from a faraway land and a mysterious amnesiac with an affinity for technology — the titular Millennium Girl.

The party members are well-written and sometimes fun but they're also genre stereotypes

In case the key character with amnesia didn't make it obvious, let me be clear: Etrian Odyssey Untold's cast and plot beats are as generic as they come, which makes the focus on story in this entry particularly baffling. Story sequences never last long enough to drag the game down, but they're definitely expanded from previous games. The party members are well-written and sometimes even fun — particularly Raquna, a tough female warrior who hails from the Etrian Odyssey universe's version of Canada — but they're also genre stereotypes with obvious, minimal arcs and no real surprises.

The gameplay is similarly unsurprising. The Millennium Girl is classic Etrian Odyssey, tried and true: You explore each floor of the Labyrinth, taking on challenging turn-based battles and drawing your own map on the 3DS' bottom screen as you go. The inexplicable thrill of cartography drew me into the game much as it always has, though the intense strategy required in combat helped a lot as well. The fights were tough but satisfying, and grinding was rarely required as long I played smart.

Exploration stays tense thanks to FOEs (a.k.a. Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens), super-powerful enemies that can show up around every corner. As often as not, these bad guys need to be avoided, which means learning their movement patterns and staying out of the way. Etrian Odyssey Untold mixes things up by introducing new types of FOEs, such as a dragon that can blast your party with powerful lightning from across the room or an insect queen that hatches out more FOEs until you defeat her. These dangerous opponents stopped me from thoughtlessly mashing my way through dungeons.

This lack of direction may appeal to old-school PC RPG fans ... the same group likely to be put off by the anime-inspired story

Having set characters in the story removes the ability from previous games to build your own group and choose from a variety of classes, but Etrian Odyssey Untold has new customization options in the form of the "grimoire stone" system. During battle, party members have a random chance of creating a new grimoire stone, which can in turn be combined with other grimoire stones and equipped back in town. These accessories give party members access to new skills outside of their main class, providing some wiggle room to push characters in different directions. I appreciated the extra options, but they suffer from a lack of transparency. I never felt like I had enough information to affect the frequency and type of grimoire stones being created, which made my list of choices feel completely random.

This lack of direction may appeal to old-school PC RPG fans who were originally pulled in by the series, but that same group is likely to be put off by the anime-inspired story. Etrian Odyssey Untold's wishy-washy adherence to the past finds its ultimate form in "classic mode," which gives you the ability to create your own party and minimizes the plot, just like the good old days. Except at that point you're playing a just slightly modified version of the original game, which isn't that old and still holds up fine.

Wrap Up:

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl spends too much effort on something the series doesn't benefit from

The Millennium Girl approaches story as a hole that needs to be filled, as something that the franchise has lacked, but the truth is simpler. Etrian Odyssey has never needed deeper or more developed plot, and the new parts of Millenium Girl are the least interesting ones. If you've played past games, there's little reason to jump into this latest entry — exploration is a lot less enticing when it's terrain you've already mapped before.

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl was reviewed using final downloadable code provided by Atlus. You can read more about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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