NIS America have always been my go-to company when it comes to game releases outside of Japan. Having a lesser market in the west NIS usually delivers when it comes to adding that English seal of approval to JRPG’s.
Dungeon Crawlers are an even more niche market so having a JRPG make it more the “what is going on?” It isn’t all surprising when Etrain Oddysey and Demon Gaze have made an appearance with games going back to the original Phantasy Star and Shining the Holy Ark, there is no denying these style of games are popular, obscure they may be but there is a market for them; so let’s get down to business.
Labyrinth of Refrain Coven of Dusk is a new take on the Dungeon Crawler formula by Nippon Ichi Software. The game takes place in the village of Refrain and features some wacky characters as you might expect. Dronya is a cold-hearted young witch who wishes to explore the depths of a well in the middle of the town of Refrain but due to Miasma covering the depths below no normal human can survive down there so Dronya sends down a book known as Tractatus de Monstrum or as Luca calls it Tractie. Luca is a young child who is Dronya’s younger assistant who gets pretty upset when Dronya is pretty mean to her with some dark sense of humour but in all makes for a hearty and great story where you will feel at ease with the characters.
Although Dronya and Luca take centre stage of the story you actually play as Tractie the aforementioned book. Tractie records all details of your journey through the depths but although Tractie doesn’t actually fight you are able to fight with dolls created by magic who are able to survive the depths hostility. You are able to create your party of characters who will fight down in the depths of Refrain by picking a Class, Gender and other Traits such as a few personal ones like the voice although these characters will have no significance in the game’s story or cut-scenes at all. The game’s premise is that you will get to milestones in the lower dungeon and report your findings to Dronya where some cut-scenes will take place then you will go back down in the dungeon.
The combat is turn based and your party isn’t usually seen in battle. Combat is very simple but it takes some getting used to as the game’s terms which it throws out early on which you will not of heard before but they are just a different word to a mechanic well known in any RPG universe. A ‘Coven’ is your team’s alignment in your current party. These determine the abilities available and party size. The word ‘Donum’ refers to your characters abilities. Once you pick up on these terms then combat becomes easier to navigate. The real strength of your party is determined by your classes and set up of your Covens outside of battle, it is a great system and tweaking it to your own desire is a lot of fun but just know while the game starts out easy, the difficulty does ramp up, this of course can be changed to suit you if you find it too difficult although you will be required to grind a lot more if you are on the easiest difficulty.
Once you have finished the main task at hand you usually are given a new enhancement or task allowing you to progress further. I did not know that battles aren’t completely random until I found out that they appear on the map and chase you down. I was also completely overwhelmed you can break down walls to uncover further secrets; this really showed me the sheer scale of just how large this game is. It is also unclear sometimes as to where to go as I had found myself ahead of the task at hand. If you are not careful you can fall, the amount you fall to the lower level depends if there is a floor below you; fall too much and you will find your party wiped out. Traps and enemies are abundant and it is easy to get lost. Collecting too much Mana is bad and using all your Reinforcement Points can leave you stuck not being able to make a quick exit. All of these are points you should remember when navigating the Labyrinth as wiping too much will cost you extra time and resources.
The game has a sheer amount of customisation to get around and anyone familiar with the Disgaea series will know how much as here it is on the same level. You will be finding new and better upgrades constantly such as new weapons and armour and a vast amount of Mana which will help you to better your team. Of course, with such a long game you want the soundtrack to be good and Labyrinth of Refrain again is great, it has that quirky and, but charming feel and again any Disgaea fans will feel right at home.
A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by NIS America