An a-maze-ing DRPG?
Some games try their absolute utmost to please as many different audiences as humanly possible. Others, on the other hand, are so niche that it can prove difficult for anyone other than hardcore fans of particular genres to enjoy. Take Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk – it’s a first-person dungeon-crawling JRPG (or DRPG), with lengthy static cutscenes that venture into visual novel territory. It knows its audience, and I’m quite sure you already know whether or not this is a game that will appeal to you. As for my own experience, whilst I fully appreciate that it’s clearly a well made game, I don’t personally fall into its target audience, and as such didn’t particularly enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t.
Developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software, Labyrinth of Refrain sees you control a book (yes, a book) known as Tractatus du Monstrum which brings with it a party of characters (which are basically puppets) throughout the dungeons. These characters, of course, fight the monsters you may come across during gameplay via turn-based battles. These battles themselves are presented in a first-person view, with the monsters showing as 2D sprites. It’s a surprisingly pleasant aesthetic, and the detail that has gone into the environmental design and the monster design is impressive.
Traversing the dungeons themselves are fairly self explanatory, even if the controls themselves aren’t the most intuitive. You need to hold down the A button to move forward, whilst pressing left or right on the analogue stick to turn at will. You may come across gaps you’ll need to jump across (also by holding A), and you’ll definitely discover a multitude of locked doors, many of which can be opened by locating nearby switches. Much like other dungeon crawlers, of course, you’ll also pick up many helpful items on your journey. Knowing what you’re getting into is important to your enjoyment of this game – the dungeons can feel repetitive after a while, but those who relish collecting items and slowly working their way through a maze will definitely find plenty to like.
Fans of RPGs in general, particularly JRPGs, will feel right at home with Labyrinth of Refrain. There are so many different statistics to consider if you’re to progress through the game without too much difficulty. You’ll often be taking many different characters into the dungeons with you – way more than traditional JRPGs – so you’ll definitely need to take into consideration which characters might be better suited to certain situations. You can also assign your characters to covens, which are basically squads that make up your overall band of fighters, so choosing which of the game’s multitude of classes for each coven is also a significant part of the experience.
As for the cutscenes and story, these more or less take a bit of a backseat to the far more meatier dungeon-crawling aspect of the game. The plot is decent of the most part, but rather inconsequential. Having said that, a lot of thought has been put into the design of the characters and the accompanying voice-over work. I found myself smiling or giggling at multiple occasions, which is definitely more than I can say for other JRPGs.