The Etrian series are first-person dungeon crawlers that have been a staple of Nintendo handheld devices since the DS. Over the last decade of development in the series, each iteration has introduced new locations, new character classes, and new mechanics. These have not always made the leap to later sequels, though Etrian Odyssey Nexus attempts to take as many of these ideas as possible and cram them all into one game. Released in the West on 5 February 2019, it is also the last entry in the series on the 3DS.
Games in the Etrian series generally have little story to drive players through their labyrinths. Although the remakes of EOI & II bucked that trend, Nexus is first mainline game to have a plot that gives agency to the player at every step of their journey. Finding themselves in the floating city of Maginia, the player forms a guild of adventurers to explore the land of Lemuria and the Yggdrasil tree located within it. After taking their first quest from the tavern, the group discovers unexplored ruins nearby and are tasked by the headquarters of the city to map them.
This is perhaps not the most exciting reason for setting foot on a new continent, but Nexus feeds the player additional plot as they explore new ruins. Some locations are designed to play like labyrinth floors from other entries in the series. An early labyrinth has an NPC join the team as they explore a location themed after the Lush Woodlands from EOIV. A wounded beast is going berserk in the forest and the team has to track and slay the beast. Along the way they meet seasoned adventurers that are tackling the same task and interact with them a few times before the labyrinth is cleared. The next location has a new set of allies and situations that need to be overcome, and so the plot progresses. In addition to the labyrinths, there are also smaller dungeons that have a short, self-contained story that double as an extra location to earn experience.
As the title, Nexus, suggests, this game brings together classes from across the series as they are all traveling to the newly-discovered continent. A party consists of up to five members formed into front and back rows, though which classes and how they are arranged are left up to the player. Additional character can be created and left behind at the explorers guild, though they only gain experience if an active character is equipped with a certain item. Each class has access to a different mastery tree that allows the player to customise that character to their liking by buying new spell, abilities, and passive talents. Additional options are unlocked later in the game when the player is allowed to select a sub-class for each character, enhancing traits already present on their primary class, or allowing the creation of specialised characters that can shine in long, drawn-out boss fights.
Exploration of labyrinths and dungeons uses both screens of the 3DS. The top screen is a first-person view as the player moves around the maze, whilst the bottom screen is a map of the location. The map is drawn by the player (though it can be done automatically) using the stylus to mark walls on the grid. The floor is filled in whilst moving over it, though the player can add extra tiles to the map at any time. Additional features such as doors and treasure chests can be be dragged and dropped onto the map from a menu on the screen. Notes can also be added to tiles should a player wish to remind themselves about important locations at a later date.
F.O.E’s are a staple of the Etrian series. These are large creatures that are not randomly encountered like normal enemies, they appear on set areas on the map and can be seen in the environment and exhibit unique behaviour. Some are passive and patrol a set route, whilst others are aggressive and will pursue the party should they stray too close. F.O.E’s often represent a puzzle to the player as they will need to find a way past these creatures that are exceedingly powerful compared to other monsters in the environment. A feature new to Nexus is that F.O.E’s can also appear on the world map and will guard some locations.
As there is only a single shop in each Etrian game, new items and equipment can be purchased once the player sells monster drops to the store. This means that players will obtain better gear over time as they clear out monsters in the labyrinths, though some drops can only be found through harvesting nodes. Cutting, taking, or mining each allow the player to harvest from relevant nodes once per in-game day cycle and have a chance to drop rare materials. Unlucky players can also be attacked after harvesting, so keeping health topped up is essential.
Music in Nexus is at a decent enough quality, though none of the tracks really stand out. The game could quite comfortably be played with the sound off should someone wish to play their 3DS outside or in a public place. The graphics are also serviceable, though there are more environments in Nexus than any other game in the series thanks to there being a greater number of labyrinths to explore.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus successfully brings together ideas from across the series and stands out by adding features of its own. Series fans will be at home with familiar dungeon exploration and a large selection of classes to choose from, whilst dungeon crawler enthusiasts will appreciate the ability to draw maps by hand. Newcomers should not be daunted by this being the sixth entry in the series as knowledge of previous games is not essential to enjoying Nexus. With three difficulty levels to choose from, the experience in Nexus can be tailored to suit the player and is a solid entry in the series that does not take any risks.
Title: Etrian Odyssey Nexus
Genre: Japanese role-playing game
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 2 August 2018 (Japan)