Tested on: 3DS
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight – Review
Truthfully, before we played Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight, we never asked ourselves who wrote up all those handy in-game maps either. Armed with graphing paper and writing supplies, we dove straight into the strata of Ginnungagap, and when we finally reemerged, it was with a newfound respect for map makers. We pledged to never drive an in-game dagger into a map for dramatic effect again.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is a remake of the previously released Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard. Aiming to be more than a simple rerelease, The Fafnir Knight also reinterprets the original’s storyline through the addition of a new story mode. This story-based approach of The Fafnir Knight tells the tale of Arianna, a young princess who has to complete a sacred ritual in the mysterious labyrinth of Ginnungagap. Arianna is accompanied by our protagonist and cursed hero, the Knight of Fafnir, and his best friend Flavio. The trio is later joined by the mysterious and intriguing Bertrand, as well as the cute war magus Chloe. Our heroes all have their own defining personality types, which are unveiled slowly as the player progresses through the game. They meet new and interesting characters, and undergo their fair share of character development themselves. While the game’s story mode brings nothing new to the table, it’s enjoyable enough and does offer some surprises, if you’re willing to look past its cliché premise. The interaction between the five adventurers is a key component to the story mode, and the well written dialogue and idle conversation elevate the story from potential mediocrity.
The game’s alternative classic mode focuses heavily on its text-based descriptions of the plot, and is a great option for (old school) RPG fans who dislike the anime-like character and elaborate dialogue of the story mode. This mode provides a playing field for true role-playing fans, as characters are blank slates, waiting to be defined. Ultimately, the modes are relatively similar, except for the added narrative of the story mode.
While Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s graphics are impressive to begin with, a noteworthy component to the visual aspect is the text-based descriptions of in-game environments. The dungeons and labyrinths are well designed and use appealing colour schemes, but it’s the game’s loyalty to the roots of text-based RPG’s that truly adds to the immersion through its poetic descriptions. The game does this exceptionally well. Even in the early stages of the game, the text boxes will point out small environmental cues and details, vastly improving the gaming experience and overall immersion.
Cutscenes and dialogue screens show off the game’s beautiful art style, though character design falls into typical JRPG tropes and clichés at times, with grown adventurers looking like teenagers at best. The game’s classic mode avoids this by focusing more on the gaming experience itself, rather than on the characters. An “album” section automatically provides players with the option to relive encounters and cutscenes.
The game manages to stand out in more ways than one, but perhaps one of The Fafnir Knight’s more defining features is its voiced dialogue. While not all conversations are fully voiced, the voice acting is decent enough and a pleasant alternative to the silent approach most RPG’s on portable devices seem to prefer. Small touches, such as a character laughing or snorting, makes the game world feel more alive and real. Additionally, the game has a stunning soundtrack with catchy battle tunes fit for its genre.
The Fafnir Knight is an old fashioned dungeon crawler at heart, but its map making system and strong RPG influences make it a very pleasant gaming experience. While newcomers to the series might find the tutorial-like nature of the story mode more welcoming, players who are more familiar with the genre will appreciate the game’s traditional approach. The game utilises the typical main quest laced with side quests approach, and even throws in a (fun but non-essential) cooking themed restaurant adventure on the side. Important to note is that The Fafnir Knight doesn’t only offer two story modes for the price of one, but also features three very different difficulty modes, and provides players with various save slots.
One of the game’s major components is the creation of one’s own map through use of a stylus and a digital graphing paper. Map making can become quite tedious after a while and isn’t always straight-forward (at some point it took us over half an hour to finally figure out which square we had missed), but ultimately it offers a great take on the puzzle aspect that so many RPG’s seem to feature. The addition of FOE’s (large and deadly enemies visible in the dungeons as they move according to their own intricate patterns) adds to the puzzle, by demanding that players decipher their movement pattern in order to escape their deadly attacks or even trick and trap them. The game offers a fast traveling system through so-called floor jumping (traveling between floors through a click on the map) and the Ariadne Thread item, which functions as a type of escape rope teleporting players to the safety of city life. City life itself also offers a quite elaborate RPG experience, with an inn, trading station with many types of different gear and potions, restaurant, quest master and an explorers guild. How often you visit the shop will depend on the difficulty level you’ve set for yourself, though there are many different items to be discovered.
The turn-based battle system in The Fafnir Knight will feel familiar for fans of JRPG’s. With two rows featuring characters with different archetypal RPG classes, the game urges players to think about strategy, and to choose wisely between the offensive, defensive or skill-based approaches each character has to offer. Personalised skill trees allow for further customisation, especially in the game’s classic mode, where players can create their own guild with characters of their own choice. With 13 classes (each with four different customisation options) all focusing on different attributes, such as the beast class or the medic class, the classic mode focuses on customisation heavily. Choosing between these classes is done at the explorers guild, where players using the classic mode can set up their own team of adventurers. Story mode keeps things simpler with preset classes. The Fafnir Knight has his own special skill tree which keeps things interesting and can very much change the outcome of seemingly impossible battles. That is, if you get your timing right. Overall, The Fafnir Knight utilises an extensive and intelligent battle system.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight offers an elaborate and memorable gaming experience. With two story modes for the price of one, partially voiced quests even on a portable device, a great turn-based combat system, and gorgeous graphics as well as audio, RPG fans owe it to themselves to play this one. While map making can become tedious at times, ultimately Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is an innovative dungeon crawler that can be very fun to play.