|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
An expanded bestiary offers reams of new and unique adversaries to face in the labyrinth. The previously fearsome FOEs have been re-imagined in more horrifying detail. These meandering mini-bosses appear with greater frequency, and they're far more powerful than in the first game. Some are invisible, others can traverse areas where you can't move, and all are easily capable of dispatching your entire party within seconds. The worst part is you'll no longer receive experience by taking these beasts down, so the rule of thumb is to avoid these creatures like the plague unless it's absolutely necessary to progress.
Stylus-driven mapmaking is still a highlight of the series, and a handful of additional icons are included to make the process even easier. Players are given a blank grid canvas on which to notate every nook and cranny of the maze-like dungeons using the touch screen. The auto-tile feature can be set to draw the floors behind you as you walk along them, but walls and other features must be drawn by hand. Navigation has also been improved by the ability to side-step and more frequent teleport spots that allow you to warp into (but not out of) certain levels in the labyrinth. The cartography element is still simple and quite fun, giving players a greater purpose beyond battle and character management.
To call Heroes of Lagaard a tough game is a bold understatement. The first adventure was tough; this game is downright sadistic. Even hardcore RPG enthusiasts will find themselves frequently shaking their fists skyward and uttering streams of curses at the difficulty curve. The first few levels are completely unforgiving, but things start to look up by the time your party has attained a handful of abilities and sweet armaments. There are bound to be moments when you'll feel like bashing your head repeatedly onto a hard surface - usually after spending several hours level grinding and mapping out terrain only to have your backside handed to you on a platter by one of the sadistically positioned FOEs. When all is said and done it's entirely worth the frustration, since anyone who loves RPGs will understand much of their enjoyment comes from the strategy of building and leveling up your characters into increasingly powerful, death-dealing machines.
Though it's hard to tell initially, Heroes of Lagaard features more than just a new coat of pain slapped over the first Etrian Odyssey adventure. It looks and feels only slightly newer, and it's still very much the classic dungeon crawl of the original, but the minor improvements make it a much better game. It's simultaneously sadistic and marvelous.
CCC Staff Contributor