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Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: US 06/17/08
Japan 02/21/08



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Cute, AND with a gun...sign me up!
 
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Cool: A floating chest.
 
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Woodmai, Mogwai, same thing.
 
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Are your mapping skills still sharp?
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John P. Hussey
Hands-On Preview
05/28/08
John P. Hussey

A little more than one year ago, Atlus released to North American audiences a simplistic, but beautifully crafted dungeon crawler titled: Etrian Odyssey. Even though the game achieved little commercial success stateside, Atlus was determined to serve its niche audience with another dose of hard core turn-based action. Their mission was simple: provide more floors, more monsters, more skills, more weapons, and a lot more "game over" screens. After delving into several hours of the game, it is safe to say that Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard is shaping up to be a sequel that will certainly satiate its fan base.

Like its predecessor, Etrian Odyssey II does not introduce a deep narrative before cutting its player lose into the wild. Instead, it has a simple frame story (this time your guild is seeking a mysterious floating castle) that provides the player with just enough backdrop to keep them interested after reaching key floors in the game. While this type of old school pen-and-paper type approach to RPGs infuriates the masses, it generally makes older veterans of the genre happy with a return to form that was first introduced in titles such as Wizardy, Shining in the Darkness, and the original Phantasy Star.

After a few hours, Etrian Odyssey II does not appear to reinvent the wheel set in motion by the original. Like the first installment, EO II uses the bottom screen of the DS as a mapping system that allows the player to draw floors, walls, treasure chests, pitfalls, and even take notes when encountering key events. The game consists of a five person party made up of a variety of classes from the traditional "Protector" and "Medic" to the newly installed "Gunner" and "Beast" classes. When strolling through the dungeon, the party randomly encounters hordes of enemies who drop items instead of money and often pose a dramatic challenge to the player. It is safe to say that Etrian Odyssey II is shaping up to be a vicious game; it is unforgiving, but ultimately rewarding to those who put their time in.

While EO II keeps most of its gameplay elements identical to the first game (experience and leveling system, mapping system, quest and task system), there are some new twists that have really aided the experience. Heroes of Lagaard includes a tremendous "auto-battle" dynamic, which is easily activated by hitting the "L" button on the DS and really helps during those quests that require days of battle. In addition, the ability to "strafe" has really helped to move quickly through some of the floors and has been a nice bonus. Finally, the "Boost" meter has been replaced by the "Force" meter and each class has a unique Force associated with it. For example, the "cleric" can perform a mega-cure, while the "Gunner" can shoot a deadly blast.

With improved graphics, a sleeker interface, and some added gameplay elements, Etrian Odyssey II looks like a nice addition to dungeon crawling fanatics everywhere. Stay tuned to RPGFan in the coming weeks for a full review.



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