It takes a certain kind of person to really appreciate the value of perseverance. It’s a concept that’s been hotly debated these days, particularly in the video game sphere – how hard should you have to work to get a positive result? What kind of effort should you have to exert to succeed? The Etrian Odyssey series of dungeon-crawlers have a pretty clear stance when it comes to this topic: if you want to win, you need to bust your butt, and even then you might need to try a few times. The latest entry, Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth takes this and runs with it.
Beyond the Myth feels like a return to the classic days of Etrian Odyssey after the more experimental Etrian Odyssey IV. Rather than flying all over the place in an airship, you’re back to straight up dungeon crawling and exploration. Some newer systems make a return – in particular, food items used to provide buffs and healing – but generally speaking this is a more traditional dungeoneering experience. That means slow, cautious progression and mapping in order to make sense of a seemingly endless labyrinth, along with learning strategies against foes that appear to be unbeatable at first glance. FOEs, boss-level enemies that are visible on the map and serve as both challenging combat and living obstacle, return in force, and as always even random encounters can be deadly.
That aspect of these games has been a traditional Etrian Odyssey feature since the first game and EOV is no different. There’s a greater emphasis on teamwork this time around; you’ve got special Union Skills that allow characters to combine their powers, but the classes in general feel more inclined toward synergy and group support. Your basic sword-swinger, for instance, is represented here by the Fencer, who can deal additional attacks by chaining off of their party members’ strikes. More esoteric options include the Necromancer, a summoner who conjures Wraiths then uses them as catalysts in magic attacks and healing, and the status-effect-focused Harbinger.
There have been a few advancements with regards to character customization, including the ability to recolor character sprites to your liking and choose your own voices. Further, while EOV’s classes tend to feel a little underwhelming early on, that’s just so you can appreciate their sheer power when you choose one of two Master classes, allowing you to specialize your hero in a particular aspect of their class so they can kick some major butt. Finally, it’s worth noting that characters are now explicitly part of a race and the races have particular specializations; the animalistic Therians are your warriors, for instance. Each race has their own specific classes available but it’s possible to swap characters to classes outside of their race, which can lead to some interesting combinations that might be more powerful than the default choices.
Nitty-gritty aside, this is the same sort of classic dungeon-crawling you’ve come to expect from this series. The sort of slow, crawling-by-your-fingernails progression that makes your victories feel extra-sweet is present and accounted for; it might even be more prominent thanks to your characters seeming weaker early on. Environment and enemy designs are lovely, the music and sound effects are fantastic and you probably won’t come to hate the voice clips that show up periodically – especially from your own party members, since you can choose their voices yourself. There was clearly a lot of polish put into this one given it’s one of Atlus’ star franchises.
Newcomers to the series may want to consider the excellent Etrian Odyssey Untold remakes of the first and second games (which feel a little less brutal) rather than leaping right into Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, but that might be personal preference talking. Beyond the Myth is a difficult game, to be sure, but can be conquered by those with time and perseverance. Exercising that perseverance is at the heart of these games – it’s all about the joy of finally making it to the next floor thanks to sheer grit and the prowess of heroes you’ve raised from nothing. There’s a sort of universal appeal to that kind of thing and Etrian Odyssey V highlights how it’s possible to build a great game around the concept.