Etrian Odyssey was this incredibly difficult game. In order to make any progress you really had to dig in and take it apart, piece by piece. Advancing one level in the dungeon could take hours of exploring, mapping, fighting, upgrading and experimentation — and the next level was always harder. Always.
The EXP hill in EO1 was very steep. This is not your typical JRPG where your heroes will level up in the background, somewhere outside of your notice. You watch your EXP bars like a hawk, because every level comes with a precious, precious skill point. Every fight you inch forward, a few pixels at a time… little more… little more… and just like any MMO worth its salt your infrequent level-ups come packaged with a bright flash and a triumphant “DING!” sound.
That’s when you know to spend your newly-obtained skill point, see.
But then the game does this horrible thing where two of the classes are locked up until the twelfth floor. This is thirty-ish hours into the game, at least, and suddenly you’re expected to roll up a brand new level one character!? Unconscionable! Who would even consider such a thing!?
Turns out if you’re the type of player who enjoys Etrian Odyssey, you’re the type of player who will be able to stomach raising a brand new character from scratch. And it pays off, too, because one of these new classes is the Ronin, and is possibly the strongest class in the game. And thus did the hallowed Aardvark Guild recruit timid little Lacey:
For some reason pretty much all the characters in EO1 look like eight-year-olds. I don’t know why that is, but when Lacey showed up I instantly liked her. She seems almost… nervous. Like she’s hiding behind her sword. And why not? New, green recruit showing up and being thrown in with a gang of grizzled, experienced veterans? I’d hide behind my sword, too.
And man… socks with sandals? Poor girl was so petrified she couldn’t even dress herself properly.
But the experience paid off, and Lacey eventually grew to the point where she more-or-less carried the guild through the last five floors on her back. The Protector was only there to tank for Lacey; the Troubador was only there to alleviate her TP use. The Medic was only there to keep her HP up. Lacey herself was damage personified, each shining, glorious crit more than paying back the time it took to level her up. (And then level her up again after she was Retired at L50 for the extra skill points.)
When Etrian Odyssey II came out, there were two things I really liked about the guild options. First, I liked that all the old character designs were back, so you really could have “your” guild — and this is exactly what I did. Second, the Ronin was no longer a locked class; you could roll one up at the beginning of the game. And so did Lacey return:
With considerable combat experience and even some proper footwear, Lacey’s demeanor has changed quite a bit. She is perhaps over-confident now; she looks mean. Almost crazed. She is daring you to advance on her. “See this, pal? This is what you will get. One more step. Go ahead. See if I mean it. See if I goddamn mean it.”
Unfortunately I ended up not playing much of EO2. I had burned out on EO1 long before, and blitzed the last few floors in the run-up to EO2’s release in order to get Aardvark Guild’s import code all in line. After five floors of EO2 I had kind of filled my dungeon hack quota for the year. By the time I considered picking it back up EO3 was already on the horizon — and I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.
In the seven floors I played, though, Lacey was every bit as awesome as I expected her to be. I have no doubt she would have carried the guild again.
Etrian Odyssey III has none of the old character designs, and indeed none of the old classes either. I was pretty severely bummed out by that, since Aardvark Guild would not be returning for another go-round. I silently decided, though, that if any of the character designs did happen to resemble my old guild that I would use them cheerfully.
Well… none did. The EO3 cast doesn’t consist of eight-year-olds, for one.
EO3 does have unlockable classes, though, and in perusing my options for Shogun enlistments… there she was:
She’s doing her hair different these days, and she’s swapped the kimono out for some real armor, but that is unmistakably her. She’s definitely matured quite a bit. Her sword is a part of her now; she is neither hiding behind it nor outwardly threatening you with it. She is a combat veteran now, having left the Aardvark Guild behind to come and whip these Guild Vivecci kids into shape.
So will Lacey once again carry the team? Well, she can equip two swords at once now, and has a skill that gives everyone in the team a free attack. So I’m thinking… yeah. Lacey is going to rule the game again, and I won’t mind leveling her up from scratch… then doing it again later for the extra skill points.