Etrian Mystery Dungeon Is Fun and Less Scary Than You Think

  1. Dungeons are less scary when they’re this pretty Dungeons are less scary when they’re this pretty The first thing I noticed about Etrian Mystery Dungeon is that holy wow, this game is gorgeous and exploding with color all over my 3DS screen. The music brings out the beauty and actually helped me relax and enjoy myself as I explored. Because while enemies can be brutal, these graphics are not.
  2. It’s New 3DS friendly It’s New 3DS friendly My boyfriend and I recently upgraded to a New 3DS, which was the ultimate test here. Usually the New 3DS either plays nice with graphics or stretches them out so they looked jagged or blurry. Etrian Mystery Dungeon looks like it was made for the system. It just … yeah, OK, I’ll stop gushing now.
  3. Girls are adventurers, too Girls are adventurers, too Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a good number of classes and options for you to pick from when building your party. You won’t have access to all of them right away, but you get a lot of choices upfront. I was impressed by how equal the male to female ratio was, too. I ended up going with the visual style I liked more for the character rather than worrying about the gender, but you could go with an all-boy or all-girl team (or a nice mix of both) for your party and guild.
  4. You’ll like the rest of the cast You’ll like the rest of the cast You’ll encounter even more cool-looking adventurers that you can recruit in the dungeons, so keep some spots in your guild open. And speaking of characters, you’re going to like the NPCs in the story snippets, too. One of my early favorites: a blue-haired researcher named Sarah who ventured into a dungeon to learn more about the mysterious rising ground temperatures and totally didn’t give a damn about the monsters there because SCIENCE.
  5. It’s bite-sized but challenging It’s bite-sized but challenging Yeah, I won’t lie. Etrian Mystery Dungeon is no easy stroll through monster land. Thankfully, the game does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics one at a time so you don’t have to digest a ton of information upfront and feel overwhelmed. You can learn a lot of tips and tricks by talking to the Guildmaster, who breaks the gameplay down into manageable topics.
  6. Dungeons are straightforward Dungeons are straightforward On a basic level, gameplay is simple. You enter a dungeon with a randomized floor layout and walk around, auto-mapping out the “rooms” until you find a staircase. For every step you take, enemies (red dots on your map) take one also, which means combat is also turn-based. You get tired as you walk around fighting monsters and collecting items, but you can amend for that in a number of ways, like eating bread or switching party leaders. At the bottom of the dungeon is a boss, which you fight and hopefully beat. Then congrats, you’ve made it!
  7. You’ll learn fast You’ll learn fast That’s all there is to it, in a nutshell at least. Clearing a dungeon is often harder than I made it sound, but it’s less scary than it could be. Etrian Mystery Dungeon auto-saves obsessively, so there’s no “do-overs” by restarting the 3DS. You do lose money and items when you fail, but you can store most of those and you only lose some equipment as opposed to all of it. Plus, you get to keep your characters and their experience, so that’s pretty lucky. You start to figure out little tricks to dealing with the consequences.
  8. Success is rewarding Success is rewarding Mainly, the game is about pure exploring and battling. Then there’s a lot of strategy heaped on top of it, but you can do it. It’s mostly about learning how to make the most of the resources you’ve got and how to salvage what you need, plus good ol’ thinking ahead. When you pull off a successful dungeon delve, you’re going to feel really good.
  9. You shape your characters’ destinies You shape your characters’ destinies Every time your characters level up, they do a little happy dance in the air. Games usually reward level-ups with some sort of audio-visual cue, but the victory pose is probably the best thing. You earned it, so flaunt it, am I right? When you level up in Etrian Mystery Dungeon, you also get a skill point to invest, which means you grow your characters the way you want them to. That small marker of progress will make you more even more confident about tackling the next dungeon.
  10. You can invest in your town, too You can invest in your town, too Later on, you’ll want to protect the town of Aslarga from incoming monsters (D.O.E.s) that will wreak havoc if they reach the town unimpeded, so you’ll be building some forts. But you’ll care about doing this because you’ll care about your town—the people living there and the services they offer that you depend on. More is at stake considering you can also invest in the growth of the town’s different locations so you get more benefits out of them. It’s a cool system.
  11. It demands your attention It demands your attention Etrian Mystery Dungeon is not a game you can tune out as you watch TV. It asks for your full attention, whether that’s how you’re going to handle a room full of monsters or whether you’re going to spend your limited money on better weapons or armor, the new development for the Explorer’s Guild, or forts in the dungeons you cleared. You’ve got a lot of important decisions to make, and a hell of a lot of adventuring to do. Get to it, kid.
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