There are two types of hard games in the world, the kind that makes you feel like it drove to your home and beats you during your most vulnerable moments – for unknown reasons – and the kind that makes you strive to do better; the kind of hard that you know you are going to spend more time with and just get to know. Thankfully the Etrian series has always managed to land on the side of enjoyable difficulty instead of constant kidney punches. The game is punishing, but at no point does it ever feel like any problem presented can’t be solved by some good, old fashioned level grinding.
The game is old school, but not to a fault. While levels come slowly, a single one can make a huge difference in any given fight. Aside from a slight stat increase, players are only awarded a single talent point to distrust as well. This makes a new skill being gained feel important every time, rather than forgettable save a handful of milestones along the way. The only way to reset the talent points, also, is to take a five level reduction; so there are also penalties for making bad choices along the way.
Adding to the ever present difficulty, the game takes place in a constant first person perspective, akin to an 80s style PC RPG game. Mixed into this equation that the game has no auto-generated map, but instead a very elaborate system in which the player can make their own map on the touch screen. At first this seems to be tedious and annoying, but becomes more enjoyable the longer the game progresses as the maps allow for things such as notes to be placed and can almost give a personal feel of exploration to every floor that has been explored.
Not everything is roses, though, as the bosses normally feel more like skill checks than anything else. Talented and well versed vets of the series will probably be able to sale through with their balanced and thought-out party; newbies on the other hand are probably going to be stuck for a handful of hours gaining three to four levels to progress. While this does allow the player to also stock up on resources and money, stocking the store with better equipment options and their inventory with more items, it does put the brakes on the progress of the game.
For players that enjoy old school RPGs, or JRPGs Etrian Odyssey V Beyond the Myth is worth a look—or simply for anyone that is interested in one of the more rewarding challenges of the year. While the pacing might hit a roadblock every now and then, that is nothing to divert those that are interested. Fun, challenging, and lovingly built, this game is simply worth the investment for those who have a 3DS and have a bunch of time to kill.