Maps are a huge
element of The Drowned City. As players explore each huge floor of the
dungeon, the DS bottom screen acts as grid paper for players to mark down their
discoveries. As the party moves through the dungeon the route they've taken is
filled in, but players are in charge of drawing in walls, marking treasure
chests, characters, harvesting points, shortcuts and other oddities. Players
can place a variety of icons on the map as well as tags on any square, in which
they can jot notes about whatever they want. Exploring and sidequests all
reward the player for mapping each area carefully.
Math is also an
important part of the game. The game's difficulty means that stats, levels,
experience points, skill points and money all need to be watched with a careful
eye all the time.
The player's guild is defined by the party members that the player creates at
the beginning of the game, and the range of options is pretty overwhelming.
Players build a party of five from twelve different character classes, each
with its own unique skill trees and abilities. The build of this party changes
as characters level up and players allocate earned skill points, defining each
character further. The paths players choose for their characters will decide
the party's limitations when exploring, though the guild can hold a total of 30
characters which can be swapped out to match specific obstacles. Weapons and
armor can be customized on each character, and individual items can also be
forged to add specific strengths.
The game's map system gives players total control, and the complex, maze-like
floors of the dungeon demand meticulous detail from players that want to find
every secret. Exploring at sea allows players to explore in a different way,
gradually sailing further and further from Armoroad as they discover islands,
new items and other surprises on each expedition. Mapping is an integral part
of oceanic adventures, too.
The Drowned City doesn't hold the player's hand at all and, while it can
be daunting, players that keep detailed maps and enjoy experimenting with their
characters may find themselves engrossed.
By the Developer:
The Drowned City is still a hardcore dungeon-crawling RPG, but it makes
significant changes over the previous entries in the series. The biggest change
is the total revamping of character classes, though this won't be noticed by
players new to the series. The new sailing system is a welcome addition, giving
players a new area to explore when diving repeatedly into the dungeon becomes
too daunting. The game's art style and soundtrack are both extremely well done,
giving the game its own confident style.
It's the game's focus on exploration that sets it apart from its peers. Combat
and character customization are huge elements, and indeed are probably at least
as deep here as in an average RPG, but it is the careful mapping out of floors
of the dungeon and the numerous secrets that each one holds that will keep
Players collect items after defeating enemies, and these can be sold back in
town for small amounts of money. Money is hard to come by and extremely useful.
New weapons and armor are the most obvious necessity, but money also needs to
be spent in order to head out to sea, with each expedition costing a certain
amount based on the equipment brought along. Seafaring can also be lucrative,
though, if players choose to focus on fishing.
Players can gather at mining and chopping points in the dungeon, although in
order to do so players will need to have characters with skill points in the corresponding
abilities. Players can also choose to assign characters to the farmer class,
which can give various benefits when it comes to gathering resources in the
Players can decide which way to focus on making money and how much to focus
their guild towards it over the course of the game, giving it an interesting
Etrian Odyssey III is mostly a
single-player experience. It doesn't focus on an overarching plot; the main
story is that the player's guild is exploring the dungeon and sea that surround
Armoroad. Small stories and quests constantly pop up, and eventually players
start to uncover the story behind the dungeon, but the characters the player
interacts with most are the members of the guild. These characters never talk
with one another, but they develop personalities as they step out to stop the
party from walking into traps or volunteer to dive for treasure on a voyage.
Players can tackle certain missions as a team of up to five players. This
requires very careful coordination, as most of these missions involve defeating
a powerful boss enemy. Only local multiplayer is available.
Exploration and survival are the player's biggest goals, and they often go hand
in hand. When players reach a new floor of the dungeon they enter blind, their
new map starting as a tiny square on the bottom screen. As players begin
mapping out the floor their party will need to deal with mysterious traps and
plenty of new monsters. As players get their bearings on each floor, they learn
how to deal with the various enemies and uncover short cuts, areas to rest,
valuable resource points and more.
The enemies are easily the biggest threat; the game tends to be very difficult,
and the exact build of the player's party determines what kind of threats it
can deal with easily. Players need to manage their resources and the hit points
of their party carefully in order to make it out of the dungeon alive,
particularly as floors start to carry dangerous boss monsters that wander the
map and guard certain areas.
Sailing places the same emphasis on exploration, but removes combat, allowing
players to simply sail around, discovering new islands and hopefully making
some money in the process.
The Drowned City is not a simulation
The Drowned City has been fairly
well received. The general consensus seems to be that the game is deep,
challenging and rewarding, but that its complexity may limit its appeal among
more casual players.
The Drowned City contains standard audio and control options.
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City received an E10+
from the ESRB with descriptors for Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Language,
Mild Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes.