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The newcomer’s guide to Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection

Let's do the Odyssey.

As an RPG fan, it’s pretty embarrassing for me to admit I’ve never dabbled in Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey franchise. I know, I know; revoke my gamer card, leave my Mega Visions custom employee hat at the door, etc. I’ve just never got round to it, in between the countless hours of time spent with other, not entirely dissimilar, role-playing IPs. Toss in the fact they’ve mostly been locked to the OG DS for years, and it’s plain to see why they might have passed me by.

It’s as if the good folks at SEGA have heard my call, though, as we’re mere days away from the release of Etrian Odyssey: Origins Collection, a compilation of the first three titles, remastered in such a way that filling this particular hole in my repertoire should prove immensely pleasurable.

If you’re a fan of challenging dungeon crawls, with deep character customization and immersive exploration (and let’s face it, who ain’t?) then the Etrian Odyssey franchise is likely up your alley. To commemorate the collection’s impending release, I thought I’d put together a beginner’s guide of sorts, so that we might discover together the wonders Etria holds. I’m in the same boat (or minecart, or comedic anthropomorphic mount) as you, after all! Whether you’re a seasoned RPG player or new to the genre, this guide will help you settle in and embark on your adventure through the labyrinthine depths.

What is Etrian Odyssey?

First things first. Etrian Odyssey is a series of dungeon-crawlers known for their unique cartography mechanic. Simply put, you’re not given any maps to begin with. No, sir: you have to write them yourself. Lazy bums, these devs. To do so, you’ll form a party of adventurers – the size and species of whom will vary depending on the game – and wander vast mazes known as Yggdrasil Labyrinths. Pronounced ‘igg-drah-sill’, for the fantasy-illiterate. The franchise is especially renowned for its immersive atmosphere, strategic combat that promotes fight-or-flight decisions, and often-wacky narratives.

Etrian Odyssey quest giver
Nice to see Jack Sparrow spending his retirement productively.

1: Start with the right game

The Etrian Odyssey franchise features multiple titles, each with its own story and setting. Think Final Fantasy’s approach, except somehow more confusing. If you’re new to the series, it’s recommended to start with the first game, helpfully included in the collection in question, or the more recent Etrian Odyssey Nexus; unhelpfully not included in the collection in question. Nexus is considered by many fans to be the culmination of the series, so if you want to hop right in without waiting for the collection, that’s the one to choose. Both games provide a solid introduction to the gameplay mechanics and offer different experiences, so pick your (sweet, sweet) poison.

2: Assemble your party

One of the defining features of the Etrian Odyssey franchise is the extensive character customization that’ll allow you to fine-tune your party to a frankly micro-managing degree. You have the freedom to create your party members as you see fit, choosing from various classes with distinct skills and abilities. School-aged lass wielding a mace? You betcha. Buff knight in a skirt? If you want, sure. Experiment with different combinations to find a party that suits your playstyle, whether you’re a mapper or a brawler; or simply a coward. It’s important to balance your team with characters specializing in offense, defense, healing, and support for a well-rounded party.

Etrian Odssey roster
Fashion senses in medieval times were weird, man. Or perhaps it’s just Japan.

3: Map your path

Mapping is a crucial aspect of the Etrian Odyssey games. In fact, it’s how you’ll spend the majority of your time, so if you ever wanted an excuse to finish your cartography degree, this is it. As you explore the labyrinth, you need to create your own map using whatever console function is applicable to you; on the DS or 3DS (or Switch, if you’re a monster who disables stick controls) it’ll be the touch screen. Elsewhere, a few button taps and you’re off. You’ll use the available tools to draw walls, mark points of interest, and make notes about traps or shortcuts. Mapping not only helps you navigate through complex dungeons, but also reveals hidden secrets and shortcuts. Why risk tumbling into a devilishly-placed quicksand trap, when there’s a breakable wall right nearby that hides some loot to boot? Map smarter, not harder.

Etrian Odyssey mapping
It’s like Mario Maker had a baby with Snack World.

4: Master the combat

Combat in Etrian Odyssey requires strategic thinking and careful planning. No mashing buttons mindlessly to win in Etria. Understanding your party’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the enemy’s vulnerabilities, is pivotal. Exploit elemental weaknesses (fire beats ice, electricity beats water, you know the drill), coordinate your party’s skills, and make use of buffs and debuffs to gain the upper hand in battles. Pay attention to your party’s health and resource management, as you’ll need to ration your limited supplies throughout your exploration. You’ll want to think twice before scarfing down every bag of potatoes you lay your mitts on.

5: Seek out side quests

While delving into the labyrinths is the primary focus, don’t forget to interact with the world outside. It exists, shockingly. Engage in conversations with townsfolk, accept side quests, and explore towns to gather information, restock supplies, and upgrade your gear. Why bother, I hear you say? And how does this benefit the core gameplay? (That you also say.) Well, side quests often provide valuable rewards and insight into the game’s lore, so don’t hesitate to take detours from your main objective. You heard it here first.

Etrian Odyssey combat
Not just any cut. Venomcut. That’s metal.

6: Embrace the challenge

Etrian Odyssey is known for its punishing difficulty, so don’t get discouraged. Even with the collection’s QoL improvements, you should feel prepared to face formidable enemies and challenging encounters. Don’t be put off if you face setbacks or experience character deaths; learning from your mistakes and adapting your strategy is part of the journey. Builds character, too. Take your time to understand the game mechanics, experiment with different approaches, and remember that perseverance is key to overcoming the obstacles that lie ahead.

Don’t forget, too, that the Etrian Odyssey franchise has a passionate (and long-standing) community of players who are always ready to offer advice and share their experiences. Believe it or not, not every online interaction will end in war. You can engage with the community through forums, social media groups, or Discord channels; a quick Google will set you right. This way, you can exchange tips, discuss strategies, and discover new aspects of the game that you might have missed.

The adventure begins tomorrow!

Looks like the marketing team at Atlus ripped our idea off. We expect royalties.

Hopefully, you should feel ready to jump into Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection. Prepare your party, map the unknown, and unravel the secrets hidden within the labyrinths. Adventure (and much dosh) awaits, brave explorer! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to clear approximately seven hundred hours from my June calendar to play the bloody things.

Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection seems to be the perfect jumping-on point for newcomers wanting to give it a shot. These will presumably be the best incarnations of these classic titles we’ve yet seen. So, there’s never been a better time to dive into some time-honored dungeon dwelling distractions. After all, for some folks, Etria might just edge out Hyrule. You never know until you try.

Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection releases June 1 on Nintendo Switch and Steam.

Bobby Mills

Motor-mouthed Brit with a decades long - well, two decades, at least - passion for gaming. Writer, filmmaker, avid lover of birthdays. Still remembers the glory days of ONM. May it rest in peace.
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