Tip 1: Don't die
You asked for it, so here it is -- our essential tips guide for Etrian Odyssey IV.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan is such a hard game that our review isn't even done yet! Many of you jumped head first into Atlus' latest dungeon crawler yesterday expecting to plow straight ahead, only to find that you're dying. Dying often. I've enjoyed the mails and social messages from some of you on how you're dying so often. Trust me, I feel your pain.
Or, I did. Not to brag, but I'm about to finish this engrossing RPG, and at this point my party is so strong that I find myself giggling in battles. It's ridiculous how strong the Guild Corgis is.
I think I have some pointers that might help some of you out.
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- Baby steps -- You don't suck. The game is just that hard. The biggest single piece of advice I can give for EOIV is to not go charging in blindly. The game is structured so that only through careful work will you progress. One-shot deaths are the norm. This means you're best off fighting low-level enemies until you can comfortably take on the bigger ones. Don't go looking for trouble in another dungeon until you can comfortably stroll through earlier ones.
- Don't be lazy about mapping -- It may seem like a hassle at first, but you'll later find that it's strangely fun to plot out your every step on the bottom 3DS screen. In later dungeons you'll need highly accurate maps to survive, let alone progress. Be sure to use the notation icon to drop in notes for yourself, too. You can use any of the icons for anything you wish, but come up with a reliable system for yourself. For example, pick one for secret passages and always use that one.
- Stock those escape items -- Especially starting out, you're going to want a way to get the hell out of town when things get rough. Always have at least one Ariadne Thread on hand to instantly get back to town, and later grab the Pole Stone and Silver Whistle to let you jump from dungeons on the quick.
- Sell everything -- By default, you have 60 slots for items found while adventuring. Fill those slots up and go back to town to sell them all. There's no need to save items unless they're for specific quests. Selling items unlocks new weapons and armor. They'll do you no good stored.
- Lost? -- Don't know where to go next? Explore. Chances are you're not proceeding because you missed something. This is where mapping is key.
- Diversify your party -- There are no bad classes for your first picks, but you'll find that some work better than others later on. When that time comes, even though you may have invested many hours into your original party, don't be afraid to roll another character for a specific use. Sure, you'll have to start from level 1 to build them up, but it happens quick. Some of the classes you'll unlock later are definitely worth the trouble.
- Runemasters are the best class -- I think that the Runemaster class is the best. They need to be on the back row, but from back they can do heavy damage with their elemental spells. Just make sure to use all item and skill advantages to get their TP and defensive numbers up so that they can survive.
- Fortresses are the second best class -- The Fortress class can take a hit and give one back. Their Taunt ability lets them attract attacks from enemies to protect weaker party members. This becomes quite useful later on, especially when you're trying to roll a new character and level them up.
- Use status effects to your advantage -- Unlike some other RPG franchise's games, Etrian Odyssey IV's status effects are actually useful and effective. Go ahead. Throw some poison down on those baddies and watch them suffer. Blind, paralyze, bind -- they all work. In my opinion, the best party has one member throwing out status-based attacks every round.
- Use those Burst skills -- You'll eventually unlock Burst skills, which are party wide-equippable perks that let you do everything from cast attacks to escape from battles. Don't forget about them. Here's one of my favorite uses: think about the elemental nature of your current dungeon and equip a Burst skill that fits, like a fire attack for an ice dungeon. Remember, Burst effectiveness is tied to the stats of the character using the skill. For example, have your magic-loving party members (like Runemasters) throw elemental stuff out for a big bang.
- Breakers - Make use of the breaking abilities you'll find in some of the classes' skillsets. These skills will temporarily lower the physical or elemental attack power of an enemy -- very useful.
- Be smart about how you level your skills -- You get a point to up skills from your tree every with every level gained. Don't go nuts dumping points into skills you don't need yet. Start from the bottom and think about each party member's role before spending. Make sure your healer can properly heal, for example. You'll get all the fancy stuff in time. Oh, and this Skill Simulator may come in handy when making those decisions.
- Monsters still too hard? Go explore -- If you're up against baddies in a dungeon that you can't take down, exploring often pays off more than mindless grinding. EOIV is set up so that optional dungeons will give you more things to fight, and more treasures to take back. You'll get much more out of the game by flying around and looking for trouble.
- Go back for those FOEs -- I know that they're big and scary, but at the precise point in your progression where they're not quite as scary, they're the most useful when it comes to earning experience. EOIV never lets up, so you might as well take those FOEs down when they're near to get your level up for the next dungeon.
- Get those World Map baddies, too -- When you can, that is. They can be bastards. If killed, they are great for experience, and they give you items that can be used to make new weapons and armor.
- Kill all the shiny things! -- Randomly, shiny enemies will pop up in battles. Kill them as fast as you can, before they get away. Success brings about huge EXP boosts.
- Use that 6th party member -- Later in the game you'll see guest characters added to your party. They'll eventually leave, but while they're helping out you might as well use them take on some of those FOEs to gain experience.
- Take advantage of subclasses -- Later in the game you'll be able to add a secondary class to your characters, giving them access to new abilities from any of the other nine classes. Smart mixing and matching will let you do neat things like have technique points regeneration running for a tank-style character that uses techniques often. The possibilities are endless; explore and be rewarded.
- FOE caught up to you? -- Here's my default "Oh Shit" coming out round when being caught by a FOE: Use my Landsknect to lower enemy damage with Power Break; use my Fortress to cast either an elemental or physical defense spell to help with it; use my Arcanist to cast a binding or poison circle; have my Runemaster throw out an elemental debuff (usually a guess); and have the Medic heal the rest up for round 2. Oh, and pray.