Fan-favorite game publisher Atlus continues to release niche titles for gamers looking for unique role-playing game experiences. So many amazing titles have come to America's shores thanks to the company which definitely has a cult following. On the DS, the Etrian Odyssey franchise has done reasonably well with two titles already on the market. Now a third, The Drowned City, is set to make waves. Does this latest iteration have what it takes?
In case you are unfamiliar with what Etrian is all about, let's just say it's one of the harder RPG franchises out there. The game presents J-RPG systems and adds in a first-person dungeon-crawling aspect, a cartography element, and a crushing difficulty setting. Know that The Drowned City doesn't step away from those staples, and it definitely takes some dedication to get into the experience here.
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City takes players to the seaside capital of Armoroad where a mysterious and dangerous labyrinth has recently appeared. Full of untold treasures, glory, and beauty, this labyrinth is attracting adventurers from all across the world. When firing up the game, players are immediately charged with creating an adventure Guild and then creating upwards of 30 characters before venturing forth into the foliage. This kind of set up is necessary, but few things are explained and only those versed in Etrian's classes and systems will know what to do right out of the gate. Veterans of the RPG genre will have a general idea and for the most part it's just common gaming sense, but some of the finer aspects do require knowledge of the franchise.
From this point forward, The Drowned City is a menu-heavy RPG. Interest points in towns, shops, inns, and places to accept missions are represented in a menu, and players can expect to be staring at stats and menus once they begin exploring the dungeons of the world as well. It's not necessarily anything new to veterans of J-RPGs, but what's here is a little more than most folks will be accustomed to seeing.
Once in the labyrinth, however, the gameplay really shines. For starters, the walking segment here is entirely in first person. It takes a little getting used to for gamers more familiar with traditional RPG adventuring, but the system doesn't feel all that different. Random enemy encounters are here in force and players can expect to be jumped by monsters at pretty much every turn. This adds to the difficulty of the title, but in all fairness, that challenge is attributed more to the balance in attack, defense, and hit points on both sides of the fence. The game really wants players to feel like their fighting for every inch of ground they take, and that makes for a great sense of accomplishment.