I’ve mapped Etrian Odyssey III all the way up to the final boss doors. At some point in the coming days, I will wipe the floor with the final boss. After poking at the game in fits and spurts since November, I will finally be able to put the game aside and focus on something else (namely Radiant Historia, which I preordered today).

I have mixed feelings about the game. The parts that I liked, I really liked. Exploration, mapping, the setting… that’s good stuff. On the other hand, the game’s slow pace and rate of advancement rubbed me the wrong way, the game’s methods of relaying information to the player were frequently and deliberately primitive or arcane, and the difficulty in the later parts of the game was so punishing that I simply was not able to stand it for long stretches.

A problem, which is one that besets me in most games with a job system, was that late in the game I wasn’t so much playing the game as thinking about the next time I’d play the game. This happens every time… I’ll start getting close to the end, and I’ll start dreaming about new characters and new builds and how to do things better the next time. EOIII allows you to roll new characters at any time, but actually catching them up with your other endgame members is a different story entirely, so even as I became enamored with the idea of a back row of Ninjas supporting me with their broken instant-death and TP-reduction skills I couldn’t actually make myself put those plans into fruition. Maybe next time, I told myself.

See, the party I used for this playthrough was pretty straightforward. It was an offensive team — a Shogun with Swashbuckling, a Gladiator with Warrior’s Might, and an Arbalist with Singularity and the elemental Barrages were my main damage-dealers, my Princess/Ninja provided passive healing for exploration and assisted in fights with her instant-death skills and insane durability, and my Monk kept everyone on their feet. It was designed to dish out as much damage as I could muster while still having some staying power, and it handled that task admirably.

The problem was all the things I didn’t have. I was entirely reliant on physical damage. I had no debuffs or binds or any way to hit elemental weaknesses besides the Arbalist’s Barrages (which are inefficient when dealing with single enemies). I was pretty slow, and if the Monk went down, I was screwed. By the later floors I was intensely bored with the whole thing and was eager to try something else, but the idea of grinding up some alternative characters from level one made me quiver with dread, so I forced myself to continue to the end.

This happens all the time. It’s the reason I restart Pokemon files once I’ve beaten the main game rather than train up tricked-out murderbeasts for multiplayer or the Battle Tower. I restarted Dragon Quest IX with a grand plan to build a party I liked better than the one I eventually ended up winning the game with on my first playthrough, but became so bored with the opening segments that I put the game aside and haven’t touched it since. Whenever I find myself with a character development system that allows for a lot of modularity and choice, I almost always end up paralyzed with fear that I’m doing things wrong and become possessed with the idea of starting over and “fixing” things. I guess I prefer more structured games where characters are who they are, and the challenge comes from figuring out a way to win with the tools you have, rather than grinding up the tools you want.

EOIII has a postgame, in the form of both a sixth bonus stratum and a new game plus mode, but I don’t think I’ll be partaking of either. I’m bored to death with the party I have, so I don’t really want to spend any more time with it. I’m barely scraping by on the fifth stratum, so a more difficult sixth would seem to be hair-pullingly awful. If I come back to EOIII at some later date I’ll be starting all over, rolling a new party, and going from there. And then I’ll get bored with it around the seventeenth floor and make a whiny post on my blog about it. It’s the circle of life!


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