Etrian Odyssey Episode 2

Holy hell I had 815 downloads for the first version of Etrian Odyssey episode 1 (I can’t really use the numbers for this second version, because I don’t know how many of the new downloads are people re-downloading it, and how many are new). That’s…quite a bit more than I expected. Hope people weren’t too disappointed!

Anyway,on with the post. Episode 2 is uploaded. Get it over at the Etrian Odyssey tab. Next, I have a few logistical things to discuss.

Etrian Odyssey has inspired some careful thought about my own game, and I’d like to write about some of them, because writing about things helps me think. Currently, I don’t post anything on the third week of the month. So I’m thinking that on the third week of each month, I’ll muse about game design. These musings might be features I’d like to implement in Potion Wars, or systems that I’ll consider for a future game. Next week, I’ll discuss my fully fleshed spanking system, and my decision to eliminate random encounters from Potion Wars.

Next, Bonemouth the Boxfish has graciously offered to help write some short, enemy-specific spanking scenes for the combat spankings in episode 2.  Note that I won’t necessarily be releasing a new version of the game just yet. In addition to reintroducing the spanking mechanic, I also want to eliminate the random encounters. I also want to replace the stat gaining mechanic with something more deterministic, rather than the sacrifice-your-dog-to-the-RNG-god mechanic we currently have (I’ll discuss this change in February).So you can expect all of these changes to appear with the pre-dungeon content for episode 2.

Now, back to Etrian Odyssey.

I’ve managed to beat the final boss (not counting postgame, which if it’s anything like the 5th Stratum, I have no interest in). Fortunately, I didn’t need as much grinding as I feared I did. Only one or two more levels, and I was able to beat the final boss. In fact, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected. Hell, if the first time I faced the final boss, it wasn’t 10:00pm after a 12 hour gaming session( it was supposed to be about 4 hours, but the final stratum just refused to end), I probably would have beaten him on the first try. Or gotten close enough that I wouldn’t have thought I needed grinding.

The rest of this post is my musings about the game.

Overall, I enjoyed the game tremendously. It was definitely a dungeon crawl, and a very enjoyable one. Furthermore, looking back, the boss fights weren’t quite as merciless as my rather frustrated previous post made them out to be. With the exception of the first boss on the third Stratum, I really didn’t have that much trouble with any of the bosses. In fact, the first boss on the third Stratum and the final boss were the only bosses that I failed to beat on the first try (well, it took two tries for the first Stratum boss as well, but that’s because I did something stupid, not because the boss was super difficult).

The game actually was quite well balanced. The random encounters were challenging enough to keep things interesting (usually), but also very quick. Most battles lasted 1-3 turns. However, the enemies hit hard enough that I couldn’t just mash the attack button. I had to actually use people’s skills.

The floors themselves weren’t particularly intricate, but exploring them was generally pretty fun.

The game also had much more focus than most rpgs have. I didn’t feel like I was getting bogged down by inane sidequests that had nothing to do with anything. Don’t get me wrong, most of the sidequests were pretty inane (“gather 5 oxnards, 3 poisonberries, and 2 bull testicles”), but it was very easy to complete those quests I could without going out of my way, and ignore the rest. Second, and most importantly, the sidequests work with the narrative. You are adventurers who explore the Labryinth. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that people would hire you to do things in the Labryinth. This is much better than most RPGS, whose sidequests are just random bullshit that accomplish nothing but dragging out the game. It amazes me how RPG developers have somehow managed to convince people that filler is a good thing! Wait. Stop. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests.

Takes a breath. Waits a minute.

Ok. It’s passed. Anyway, EO is all about trying to explore the Labryinth, and it never loses its focus on the Labryinth.

However, Etrian Odyssey does have some issues. One of them, the tendency to encourage one-trick ponies, I addressed in my previous (admittedly rather ranty) blogpost. So I won’t address it again here.

The biggest problem is all the backtracking. You only had a teleporter every 5 levels. Furthermore, each level was quite large, and had a very high encounter rate. As a result, my experiences with the game went something like this:

  First floor of a stratum: This is awesome!

  Second floor of a stratum: This is awesome!

  Third floor: OK, things are starting to get kind of tedious. Whoever decided to space the teleporters so far apart should be face-punched.

  Fourth floor: Gah! I’m so $*&*) bored! If I have to slog through the first level of this wretched Stratum one more time…

  Fifth floor: Finally! Now just to find that stupid boss…Why is this floor so freaking big? No, don’t run out of TP! Bad Alchemist. Now I have to go back to town, then slog through all the previous 4 floors, and half of this one all over again! Maybe I’ll go work on my thesis instead…Can’t be any more boring than this.

Next Stratum: Fuck yeah! Things are fun again…Wait, excuse me Miss Tavern Lady. Are you seriously telling me that I’ve only just now unlocked a bunch of quests that involve the Stratum I just beat, and enemies I’m sick of fighting and who no longer pose a threat? Fuck that noise. I’m heading for the new stratum. You can tell your clients to find some other chump to do their dirty work.

EO has this annoying habit of unlocking the quests for level X once you reach level X+1 i.e. after you’ve already finished exploring level X. Which means you have to wander aimlessly around level X, fighting monsters that you aren’t too worried about, hoping you’ll stumble upon the (unmarked!) square the triggers the quest. This is stupid. The quests for level X should be unlocked when I reach level X. That way, I can complete the quests as I explore, rather than having to backtrack.

And don’t even get me started on the 5th Stratum. It was massive, boring, and despite being full of loopdy-loops, had one lousy shortcut. One! It took me about twelve hours to reach the end of that Stratum, and most of it was spent backtracking because the designers couldn’t be bothered to throw in a few damned secret passageways!

I hate backtracking. It’s filler of the worst sort. My time is precious dammit, and I hate it when a game wastes it like that.

The early wizardry games got around this in two ways. One, the random encounter rate is actually obscenely low. Most of your fights are scripted. Meaning that every time you enter the dungeon, certain squares will always have a fight. Furthermore, these scripted fights were rarely if ever on the path from one stairwell to the next. You also had a much faster movement rate than in Etrian Odyssey. So assuming you had halfway-decent maps, you could get back to the frontier very very quickly, and with only one or two fights, if that. Second, a high-level mage could learn the Malor spell, which allowed him to teleport to any square in the dungeon. Once you learned that spell, it was easy peasy to jump between the frontier and the castle. And conveniently enough, you’d learn that spell right around the time when you were so far into the dungeon that slogging from the castle to the frontier was getting tedious. Sure, Etrian Odyssey has these secret passageways (most of the time…stupid 5th Stratum) to shorten the trip, but the trip was still too damn long, you still usually had to fight a bunch of fights every level (even if you used abilities that reduce the encounter rate), and the walking speed was so damn slow.

In Potion Wars, I’m doing something similar to Wizardry, except removing the random encounters completely. Also, you won’t have a teleport spell, because instantaneous travel has serious implications for the setting and story that I don’t want. While it could be interesting to have a medieval setting whose world is as tightly knit together as the modern world, it’s not what I’m going for.

However, since I’m eliminating random encounters, you’ll never encounter enemies while backtracking. Since backtracking doesn’t introduce any extra challenge, why make the player do it manually? So, I’ll add a “Go” command, where the the player can input the map coordinates of a square they’ve already visited (i.e. stepped on) and be instantly “teleported” there. Of course, there will still have to be an automap, so that the player knows which location they want to go to. So basically, Potion Wars will have the Malor spell, except it won’t cost any spell points, and you won’t be able to teleport into solid rock.

Anyway, back to issues with EO. I was also disappointed by my Hexer. I’m not sure if it’s because Etrian Odyssey didn’t do a good job with making status effect spells useful (they weren’t as useful as they tend to be in western RPGS, but were a hell of a lot more useful than they tend to be in JRPGS) or if it was because my Hexer joined so damn late, and I hate grinding so damn much, that she spent the entire game 10 levels behind everyone else. The more I think about it, the more I think it was the latter. I mean, she wasn’t completely useless or anything, despite being about a full Stratum behind everyone else. Hell, her binding rate was higher than my Dark Huntress. So we’ll have to see. I might have to have a Hexer again in Etrian Odyssey II, and see if she’s any better when she starts with the party from the beginning.

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