Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection Review – Mapping New Horizons
Etrian Odyssey is a staple series on Nintendo handhelds, specifically designed for the dual-screen layout of the Nintendo DS and 3DS. It was unsurprising that the franchise remained exclusive for so long, until the recent announcement that a collection featuring the first three games is coming to the Nintendo Switch and PC. The challenge was how the developers would replicate the unique gameplay experience of Etrian Odyssey on a single-screen system like the Nintendo Switch, and even a PC.
Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection is essentially a remastered version of the first three games, originally released over a decade ago in 2007. The core gameplay involves first-person dungeon crawling with a turn-based combat system, but the unique aspect was creating our maps. On one screen, we had the first-person view when exploring a dungeon, and on the other screen, we had the map running in real-time, allowing us to customize and mark various discoveries during exploration. It’s reminiscent of a Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG, where the experience is shaped by the player’s creativity.
The transition from dual-screen to single-screen, while seemingly a downgrade, is unfortunately also the weakest part of this remaster. The lack of precision and ease of use of a stylus compared to the single-screen focus, which also splits the view in two, is a drawback. The left side of the screen shows the first-person view during dungeon exploration, while the right side shows the map. This doesn’t sit well with the game’s aesthetics, but over time, I was able to adjust.
The Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection includes “Etrian Odyssey,” “Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard,” and “Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City.” The first game primarily involves the player, an adventurer in the town of Etria, which is on the edge of a dangerous labyrinth that needs to be mapped out. The player forms a guild and recruits other adventurers as they set out to map this labyrinth and uncover its secrets.
The sequel, Etrian Odyssey II, continues the same premise but switches the location to the city of High Lagaard. The goal changes too, to reach the top of the Yggdrasil Tree located at the top of the labyrinth. Each subsequent game in the series essentially switches the location and provides a fresh perspective, but the core objective remains the same: exploring a labyrinth and mapping it out. For the third game, we are presented with an underwater ruin and learn more about the world with the secrets discovered within it.
Atlus has improved the game’s art style while enhancing the visuals. The character portraits, enemy design, and UI look great scaled up to HD resolution. We often forget that these games were not made for HD screens, so the polished-up presentation is a welcome sight. Another aspect that I appreciated was the addition of some quality-of-life tweaks, like the game offering auto-battles that essentially fast-forward through some of the mundane aspects of combat. There is also a diverse range of characters to choose from in the game, each assigned a unique role. The strategic aspect of dungeon crawling makes these games engaging even if you’re not a fan of the genre itself.
Drawing on the maps is possible, but it feels cumbersome and less convenient. With the screen now split in two, there are options to change the size or layout, but none of these adjustments quite match the experience of playing the original games on a handheld. There’s an inevitable compromise, and if you can overlook this issue, these games are enjoyable to play. It’s also possible to automate the mapping, which is a boon if you’re not a fan of manually mapping out every object. However, this mostly results in a basic layout, and players still need to add further details, such as marking the location of a treasure or a point of interest.
Despite the mapping function’s shortcomings, the party system remains engaging and the combat is enhanced with the auto-battle system, which improves the pacing of these games. This feature is particularly useful for fighting weaker enemies and grinding to level up party members. I found the original games too slow-paced for my current gaming habits, and as someone with limited time, I appreciate the newer changes. FOEs (Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens) are typically tougher to beat, so when we encounter them on the map, it’s usually best to mark their location and return at a later stage. These powerful monsters roam the labyrinth and require strategic planning with a well-prepared party to defeat them.
On PC, it’s possible to play the game on a Steam Deck, and the ports run quite well on Valve’s handheld. They work right out of the box, and there don’t appear to be any specific tweaks needed to run them. It’s also possible to extend the battery life by reducing the TDP limit on the Steam Deck. These games are honestly a perfect fit for a handheld, so for the best experience, I’d recommend grabbing them on the Nintendo Switch or playing them on a Steam Deck.
Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection Game Information
- Price: $89.99
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Atlus
- Platform: PC (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher