Etrian Odyssey is synonymous with “challenge.” The franchise has made a name for itself by testing your wits in sprawling dungeons. Hand-holding is not what Etrian Odyssey stands for. The games are throwbacks to a bygone era where dungeon crawlers like Wizardry and Might & Magic ruled. With another outing in Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, the 3DS is finally home to a game that brings a classic, old-school feel to a modern audience.

In Legends of the Titan, the stage is set for you to make a name for yourself by unraveling the mysteries of the tree Yggdrasil. Nobody has set foot where Yggdrasil’s roots lie, but now the Outland Court of Tharsis is finally sponsoring a venture into the unknown. Story has never been the series’ focus, but this time around, an effort has been made to better integrate the story so players would feel progression throughout. 

Also on the improvement list is your skyship, a fresh way to see the world. Those who played Etrian Odyssey III know the sea voyage felt like a diversion, so Atlus worked to have the skyship fit seamlessly into the exploration. From the sky, the Yggdrasil tree is constantly in view, with large labyrinths and smaller caves to crawl through. Skyship exploration provides perks; not only can you to avoid FOE minibosses, but you can also chart new lands, negotiate with rival guilds, and harvest plants. Parts scattered throughout your quest can upgrade your ship with perks like avoiding bad weather or harvesting extra food. You can even add on a foodapult, launching harvested food at a FOE to lure them away from a desired destination. 

FOEs are a classic, intense part of Etrian Odyssey. These minibosses are just as deadly and risky as they are rewarding.  Avoiding them at first glance might be the safer venture, but part of what makes Etrian Odyssey so fun is seeing the fruition of your hard work and finally taking down these baddies. Engaging or avoiding FOEs requires careful planning, forcing you to think outside of the box. Studying patterns and habits gives you an edge. Luckily, those who were previously alienated by the high difficulty level will no longer feel left out thanks to a new casual mode. In this mode, death returns you to the inn with all your gained levels, money, and items, making dungeon crawling far less dangerous. Veterans worried that this mode might impact the normal difficulty shouldn’t fret, since it remains as brutal as ever. 

Legends of Titan doesn’t stray from its classic formula of cartography, tense battles, and customizable five-member party, but it does refine plenty of mechanics. Skill trees are now split into tiers that open up even more at levels 20 and 40. In addition, Etrian Odyssey IV ditches III’s common skills while gathering skills only require one point to master, so you won’t need a dedicated farming character. Subclassing is also back, but now you can equip gear specific to the subclass.

The 3DS’ Streetpass feature has improved guild sharing – Etrian Odyssey no longer needs to be loaded to gather rival guild information. This time around QR codes also are a way to share your guild’s stats, medals, and an envoy from your party with others. Simply scan the code to the Internet for others to add your card to their collection and recruit your party member into their own guild. Local multiplayer has been ditched, as the development team felt that not a lot of American fans used the multiplayer in the series’ previous installment.

With its first outing on the 3DS, Atlus uses the advanced hardware to its benefit. Dungeons have always been in 3D, making the 3DS a natural fit. Atlus still went one step above: they enlisted Studio Ghibli artist Nizo Yamamoto, of Princess Mononoke and Castle in the Sky fame, to breathe new life into the series by designing the background animation. Yuzo Koshiro is back as composer, but this time he’s changing things up with a fully orchestrated score. 

Legends of the Titan’s release is less than a month away, and with all its refinements and additions it looks like the most promising entry yet. Are you prepared for the challenge that awaits you?