Etrian Odyssey HD is easy to pick up and super difficult to put down

Dungeon Crawlers were the genre of choice on PC during the 90s, between Ultima Underworld, A Bard’s Tale, Lands of Lore, and many more.

Even games like System Shock, which also just got itself a wonderful new remake, dabbled between the genres, but these were less regarded on consoles and certainly much of a rarity.

In fact, one of the biggest – Etrian Odyssey – was a DS title, so didn’t have a home on home systems like Xbox and PlayStation. But the reasoning was smart, as Atlus and SEGA’s approach was about map-building, crafting an illustration of your path as you move from square to square.

And, of course, that suits touch screen wonderfully. It’s perfect for it, in fact, and so the game has always stayed pretty closely to handheld devices, which marks its introduction on both Switch and Steam significant.

For the first time, the series will hit the big – as well as small screen – with lush new visuals, improved sound, and marked updates to modernise it for 2023.

But perhaps, more interestingly, this isn’t the first time the game has been remade as it also got a lesser-known update on 3DS a few years back. However, Etrian Odyssey HD on Steam and Switch is a revamp of the original DS release so has much less in common with ‘The Millennium Girl’.

That title had more of a set, established story with defined characters, whereas this Etrian Odyssey essentially allows you to build your own in a Party of Five.

Within an Explorer’s Guild, you can create your own team of heroes and choose from various class types, such as a Survivalist, Medic, Dark Hunter and a Landsknecht, those seen as the greatest of heroes in the land.

As you first play Etrian Odyssey, the different class types probably won’t matter a great deal as you fend off lesser enemies such as Treerats and Woodflies. But later you’ll find all sorts of ferocious abominations where you’ll need to make full use of your party.

Etrian Odyssey is essentially a game of discovery. You start out at the beginning of the Yggdrasil labyrinth, a deep, open space filled with floors of enemies, treasure, traps and other surprises along the way.

Fortunately, you can use Ariadne Thread to take you back to the main town if your party are weak and weary.  Geomagnetic Fields also let you jump between Stratums which makes journeying through some of the game’s later content easier or if you want to revisit older areas to fulfil new quests.

Because of course, as a hero, everybody wants your help with something, Whether it’s collecting materials to craft new weapons or visiting sick children to inspire them back to health, the Labyrinth is the key to your success.

And just like A Bard’s Tale and others in the genre, you move square by square, encountering random mobs, bumping into dead ends, while trying to fulfil your obligations to the heroes guild.

Fortunately, the town is well supplied to help you with a blacksmith and apotehcary easily accessible. There’s an inn where you can rest, a pub to eat food, and of course the Explorer’s Guild where you tweak party formation, switch in other members and can even adjust skills.

I mean, it wouldn’t be an RPG without some levelling up, would it? Each class has a skill tree which you can build out, whether you make them a proficient healer (and, to be honest, that probably makes sense for a medic) or adjust their axe skills. The beauty here is you can customise your classes as much as you like.

But the big draw here is the map building, which is a fascinating, different approach for any game. Nowadays, you gradually unveil a map when you visit an uncharted area, and the game builds it out for you. But Etrian Odyssey requires you to fill in the blanks.

If you don’t, later on you’re going to get confused which door takes you where, whether you’re going around in circles, or you’re missing a crucial detail like somewhere to mine or dig.

This can be done by dragging and dropping items on your map screen, drawing outlines of the walls to show where’s cordoned off or where you can travel, and marking points of interest which you can visit at a later point.

Of course, the Labryinth is full of peril, with set enemies also floating about to challenge you and your team. You can build out their skills, of course, and really become a force to be reckoned with. Or if you just want to focus on exploration and the challenge isn’t too grave, you can automate the action.

From a story standpoint, there’s not a whole lot here. It’s a standard hero fare without much to convince you otherwise, but the core loop can be surprisingly compelling as you dot little treasure chest icons therepeutically on spots you’ve already visited. And when you leave yourself in a good position to come back and progress to the next level after ruling out certain pathways or eradicating part of the danger.

As I was progressing through the levels and the danger started to become more challenging, I met more people and the quests were less straightforward, I was finding it really difficult to put down my Switch, even at the expense of some of the huge games releasing right now.

Of course, that is the big question here in regards to which format you go with. And it’s perhaps not as straightforward as you might think and more than likely depends on preference. Playing on the big screen, Steam is definitely the way with the mouse and keyboard support. The art is beautifully recreated, with colours that pop and dazzle at high resolutions, and the sound is charming, leaning heavily into that 90s MegaDrive era, which transported me into such a fun, happy place.

But the game is a natural fit for handheld and touchscreens as it’s been the franchises’ bread and butter for so long. At times, it can be hard to make out some of the icons and if you’re a bit big-fingered like me, the touch element can be a bit hard to pick up and place things. So we’d highly recomend having the Switch Stylus – which you can pick up with Brain Training – as this makes everything feel more natural and easier to handle.

However, if you’re looking for a fun dungeon crawler to play while sitting in the garden this summer or while watching TV, this is the perfect accompaniment with its light, pick up and play approach, easy to learn mechanics and surprisingly satisfying map development which feels incredibly fresh, different and rather rewarding in a day and age where it’s almost always automated for you.


Etrian Odyssey has an easygoing nature that blends beautifully into the background, making it a perfect summer game for nights in the garden or while you’re watching TV. The map building is surprisingly satisfying, the visuals are stunningly rebuilt for Switch and the soundtrack transports you to wonderful retro eras past, while being a fulfilling, rewarding game in the modern era. 


+ Map development is quite therapeutic and satisfying as you progress
+ Good range of quests and objectives
+ Gameplay flow is incredibly addictive once you’re drawn in
+ Aesthetic is perfectly retro with a delicious modern flavour


– Drag and drop on Switch can be challenging without a stylus
– Could use more icon variety for different points of interest

Etrian Odyssey HD is out now on PC and Switch. Sold Seperately or as part of the Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection

Code Kindly Provided by Atlus/SEGA for review purposes

Played on Nintendo Switch

Full overview of all games to follow.

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