A momentary diversion on the road to the grave

Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard

By S.A. Renegade on February 20, 2015 in Reviews

Final verdict: B-
Final playtime: 212 hours

Oh it’s happenin’ son. You thought I wasn’t going to even try and catch up with this series did you? Betta fix ya face nigga. We in there.

So not gonna lie. I might not have decided to continue catching up on these games if I hadn’t seen how much they’ve improved the formula in PQ. But you don’t know that! I could’ve still come back and played ’em anyway, you don’t know. Where’s your evidence? The testimony I gave just now? Pfft, that’s just circumstantial evidence. And besides, even though Etrian 1 wasn’t great, it’s one of those rare games in which you can see a ton of potential despite the myriad mistakes committed. I mean, it ain’t something like Assassin’s Creed where you play that shit and you’re just like nope. Abandon ship. Burn it all down to ashes. So anyway, I’ve decided to continue playing the games, and at the very least it should be interesting to see how they (hopefully) slowly improve on the formula and their past mistakes. If I was in charge you’d see all those mistakes fixed lickety split nigga. But since I’m not, that’s all we can hope for. Slowly.

So anyway, I’m gonna tell you that this game is EXTREMELY similar to the previous one. There are changes, and perhaps even improvements, but they are very tiny and subtle. By and large it’s very much the same as Etrian 1. Interestingly, when you start the game, it prompts you for a password from the previous game. First of all, I never had any IDEA that there ever was a password. I mean, sure, it’s been almost a year, but my memory ain’t that bad nigga. I could swear that Etrian 1 never gave me no password at no point. Just to be sure, I go and dig out my Etrian 1 cartridge- yeah, yeah, I know it’s a fucking game card or whatever, shut up. Calling it a cartridge just makes the whole thing sound cooler and longer ago than it really was. FUCK man I’m tryina tell a story here, shut up for a second, jesus. So there I was with nothing but me and my mule WHEN THE ALIENS INVADED! Wait, no, what was I saying? Oh right. So I dig out my Etrian 1 cartridge from whatever dark abyss was in the process of swallowing it for all eternity, and WHAT DO I FIND, but there really is a fucking password that secretly showed up in the options submenu after I beat the game. What the fuck guys? Maybe a little bit more warning next time? I coulda easily thrown that thing in the trash without ever knowing about the password.

So if you type in the password from your cleared previous game, it’s really cool because it not only transfers your guild name from your previous game but it also changes NPC dialogue and adds some stuff. Now instead of NPCs treating you like some noob nobody, you have people acknowledging your past deeds and treating you like veteran heroes. So really cool stuff. I mean, people telling me all about how great I am? That’s something I can get behind. My only gripe is that the password font SUCKS and it can be impossible to tell if a letter is an “r” or a “t” or an “l” or a “+” or a “j”… you get the picture. Rookie mistakes. Thankfully I got it to work on the first try with my ace powers of deduction. And maybe some good old guessing. That’s just me. Even when the world’s against me, somehow, some way, I just find a way to make it work.

Next up, you’ll find that there are now 3 new classes on top of the original 9 from Etrian 1, bringing the total up to 12. That’s great. New classes are always cool. But, since I’d already gotten burned by Etrian 1 for ever daring to think that you had a choice of what kind of party to make, this time instead of making something cool or funky I just went with (what I assumed to be) the safest possible party of Protector, Survivalist, Troubadour, Alchemist, Medic. Just try and fuck me NOW, Etrian Odyssey. Oh that’s right, you can’t! Not today, bitch. I know your game.

…or do I? Well, you’ll just have to wait for that. Before that, let me say that they have improved NPCs a bunch from the previous game. Almost all of the NPCs are much more interesting and fun to talk to than in Etrian 1, but by far the biggest improvement is that now they get new dialogue every time you reach a new floor in the labyrinth. This is huge.

Just like 1, the game is really fun and tough early on. Despite the fact that it has no difficulty settings, the default is harder than the hardest difficulty in PQ. So that’s great. I would even say that it’s harder than Etrian 1. It almost feels like they expected you to have played the previous game and made it more hardcore because you’re supposed to be a jaded veteran who’s seen it all before. For example, you know how in these games early on at level 1 you’re extremely weak and can barely go a few fights without having to go back to town and rest up? well this game pulls a dick move where the first time you enter the dungeon it warps you over to a far away spot from the entrance so you have to walk back if you want to get back to town, but THEN it pulls the dick move where it has a guard at the entrance who won’t let you go back and rest unless you’ve completed a certain percentage of the map to his liking. So I’m all hurting and dying to get back to town, and that fucking asshole is just like no. Go back and do more of the map and I’ll let you get back to town. And I’m like nooooo just let me heal and come back dammit, I’m dying here! But the tightass cunt won’t budge! What kind of fucking psychopath just stands there at the entrance to town, sees his fellow people crawling back injured, barely alive, and forces them right back into the mouth of the beast? What is this, the Mexican border? Let me in! Jesus! …you guys are dicks in there anyway!

But yeah. Also early on there are a lot of enemies who can just one shot you, so it’s pretty dangerous. FOEs seem to be harder as well, and in a good way. Whereas in the first game FOEs eventually turn into pretty much more cannon fodder, I feel like in this one all the way through you’ll always encounter FOEs that are very tough. But it’s not just FOEs. Early on there can be random encounters that are just actually impossible to win. Like for example one time I got a random encounter against a Crawler and 2 Venomflies. And the problem is Crawlers can one shot you early on. While Venomflies poison your entire party and in this game poison takes off more than half of your entire party’s max HP per turn, and this early on I have no way to cure poison and no party-wide healing skill either. So yeah. I probably died like dozens of times early on. Fun times. What’s more, now they’ve stepped up their dick moves and player fuckery in dungeon events to the point where it feels like 70% of the time if you find something you’re probably going to get fucked. Found a tasty looking fruit? Probably poisonous. Found a nice spot to rest? Probably gonna get immediately gang banged when your guard is down. Found a pouch of money? Probably a trap. Found a cute squirrel that wants you to pet it? It’ll steal your items. Found a stone in the road you can kick for fun? It’ll ricochet off a tree and hit you back in the face. But you can’t not go for these things, ’cause what if this time you get something good?!

One of the superficial changes is that now instead of the labyrinth going down into the depths of hell it goes up into the heavens. But to be honest I liked it better when it went down. Everybody knows hell is cooler than heaven. And by this same token I generally liked the look of the different strata in the first game better than in this one. In the first game they felt darker, cooler, and had a more sinister vibe. In this game the second stratum and the third one are boring and predictable. The fourth one is definitely much better than the one in the previous game though. The fifth one is pretty cool too but not as cool as in 1. And the sixth one is just complete ass in this and easily could have been the first stratum instead of the sixth one.

On the other hand I’m pleased with the music, as it’s generally pretty good. I like the music for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th strata. The other ones are ass. Also, amazingly, this game has no less than 3 different battle themes and they’re all good. Crazy but true.

Having to draw your own maps is still a shitty waste of time. The game won’t give you the option of drawing it for you like in PQ, and it won’t give you any rewards for it or acknowledge it past the start of the game. The game is still a huge asshole when it comes to information, as you’re never exactly sure what skills actually do until you try them. Playing the previous game is useful in this regard, as a lot of knowledge from Etrian 1 (but not all) transfers over to here. For example, Etrian 1 veterans won’t be surprised by the fact that Provoke doesn’t do shit even though the description says it has a chance of drawing enemy attacks. They also won’t be caught by the trap of the Alchemist’s elemental damage increase skills, because they’ll know that these increase jack shit. But generally speaking just like in 1 you’re stabbing around in the dark when it comes to skills. In fact, I would say that even though I really like the skill system and leveling in these games, knowledge of the previous game (or should I perhaps say traumatic memories?) kind of puts a damper on the fun just because I was always constantly paranoid about how to correctly spend my points, which lead me to just sitting on as much as 10 or more skill points instead of spending them as they come, because I was always afraid of leveling the wrong thing. I will say that now you only lose 5 levels if you choose to respec a character, down from 10 levels in Etrian 1, so that’s a nice thing. And despite all of my care and paranoia, I still ended up having to respec eventually ANYWAY. So here’s a tip for you if you’re going to play this game: just play the game thinking that you’re going to have to respec eventually anyway and don’t worry so much. You’ll have more fun that way, trust me.

Even though the NPCs are better, the story is still pretty bad and uninteresting, as you’d expect. There has been ZERO improvement on the quests from Etrian 1. They are still really, really, really awful. Horrible, offensive, disrespectful wastes of time. The shitty quest where you have to spend 3 days walking around on one floor makes a return, and you know what? This time I completed it and didn’t even mind it that much. That’s how much of a BITCH I’ve turned into. And again, there are SO MANY fucking quests where you get no information (or sometimes, amazingly, deliberately incorrect information) and the game just wants you to fucking bumble around the entire god damn labyrinth stepping on every tile and clicking on every wall to find what you’re looking for. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you. What an awful waste of time. Jesus christ it’s so bad. And it’s not even the full extent of how bad they are. You know what takes the cake? That there are quests that force you to level up other classes besides the ones that you already have in order to complete them. So you have to grab a new character at level 1 and go grind to get them to level 30 or 50 or whatever the quest needs. Fucking SNORE.

The level cap is, yet again, too low in this game, exactly the same as in Etrian 1. You’ll reach max level very quickly after reaching the final stratum. Of course, I expected this, and prepared accordingly by maxing the skill that decreases random encounters, which, THANK FUCK in this game actually reduces them to zero, which it did not in Etrian 1. This makes the final stratum much less of a pain in the ass than before, despite the fact that it’s still designed in a pretty assholey way that mirrors the first game.

One of the changes to this game that I really dislike is the way Force Skills work now (those are special really strong skills that you can only use after filling a special force meter during battle). The way it worked in Etrian 1 was that force skills (I think it might have been called boost skill back then) simply made it so that you could power up any existing skill so that you used a much stronger souped up version of it. Now they’ve changed it so that each class has only 1 force skill that is unique to that class. The reason I hate it is because this makes it so that the usefulness of your force skill is entirely dependent on what class you are. You are either a class who has a useful force skill, or you’re not. In Etrian 1 since you could boost any skill you had, every class could get some use out of it. Not the case here. The classes’ force skills are incredibly unbalanced, ranging from 100% necessary if you hope to win (Protector) to absolutely bum fuckingly broken (Dark Hunter) to really useful (Gunner) and then… utterly fucking useless why even bother ever using them (everybody else). I’m especially salty about it because 4/5ths of my team were classes with completely useless force skills. The system is just bad now.

Which brings me to one of the most important points: I got fucked in the previous game because you had to pick a very specific class composition to be able to win, and my traumatic experience led me to going for the safest seeming team based on my previous knowledge of the game. However, is this really still the case? Is there still no freedom in the classes you can pick or has this game improved at all over Etrian 1 in this respect? The answer is that yes, it actually has improved on this, to a certain extent. I would say that there is only 1 class in this game that is 100% absolutely necessary if you want to finish the game and that is Protector. A healer is still probably necessary as well, but now that they’ve added the War Magus class which can heal as well, you at least have 2 options on that front now rather than just Medic as in the previous game. But aside from those 2 spots no other class is completely necessary to win. I picked Troubadour because you couldn’t win in Etrian 1 if you didn’t have one, but in this game it’s no longer necessary because they’ve added in consumable items which dispel enemy buffs, which means Troubadour is no longer the only way to do it. In a similar vein, they’ve added consumable items that lower the damage on elemental attacks, which means you could theoretically use those and not 100% have to level the Protector skills that block the many instant party kill elemental moves in the game (but Protector is still necessary anyway for their force skill which is impossible to finish the game without).

That being said, don’t think for a SECOND that the classes are particularly balanced, or that this game no longer has asshole traps or dick moves related to class picks. The new locked class in this game, Beast, is a trap class which sucks and isn’t very well designed because it’s supposed to be a tanky protective class and it has a skill that automatically takes damage for allies but for some stupid reason uses the ally’s defense stats to calculate the damage rather than the Beast’s, which leads to the Beast taking crazy amounts of damage protecting allies and dying immediately. But probably the biggest dick move of all was the fact that I picked a Troubadour only because I got fucked in the previous game for not having one, only to come up against a boss that is normally easy, but becomes almost impossible if you fight him with a Troubadour. And worse, the game never even tells you that the boss is this impossible because of your Troubadour or gives you any sort of hint. For all you know it’s just normally this ridiculous. That’s the kinda dick this game is. Fucked when you don’t, now fucked when you do just to spice it up this time.

I have to make a special mention for the real final boss in this game, which was ludicrously difficult. I mean, it was pretty fucking ridiculous in the first game too, but I was still surprised at how fucked up this boss was. Took me like 7 hours to beat him and countless deaths, he had so much shit.

In any case, that’s Etrian 2. I feel like the game is maybe a little bit better than Etrian 1, but not by a lot. It’s still largely very similar and only has small improvements here and there along with the sore point of the force skill changes which are a step backwards. It’s pretty fun but also can be really annoying and even infuriating sometimes at some of the shit it pulls.

Final Verdict: B-

Final Playtime: 212 hours

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