Coven of Dusk satisfies that itch for an Etrian-styled RPG on the Nintendo Switch that has yet to come, but with all things that come from Nippon Ichi's RPG powerhouse, it's a study of excess for better or worse.
This is a very good blobber who's closest analog would be the Etrian Odyssey games, because of the cute anime artstyle, concept of worlds that resemble strata, elite purple enemies that are like Etrian's FOEs, the homebase/hub that you return to after excursions, and many other things. There are many differences to the EO series as well though. For better or worse this game doesn't have the brutal difficulty and finely tuned game balance of EO. That's mostly because of how open ended LoR is. There are many more options to advance your characters other than grinding out levels or farming for rare high end equipment. LoR has a job class system that allows you to keep good skills and increase your stats, similar to FF14 or the Wizardry series, and you can make some overpowered builds here. They also have an alchemy system that allows you to combine equipment into higher level items, and this allows you to create some really overpowered gear. The combination of these 2 abilities allows you to become quite OP in the game. Although on the other side, the game is pretty difficult. There are purple FOE enemies and some nasty bosses that can ruin your day. Worst of all are randomly appearing elite enemies that can appear in any random battle, similar to the elites in Diablo 3. These enemies can have a variety of modifiers that make them far stronger than normal enemies. Like very difficult to hit and 1 shot members of your party strong. Buyer beware, but I rather like them; they make life interesting.
As a whole, the gameplay is more and less than EO. There's much more variety, but I feel something is lost as well. I love EO's finely tuned challenge, where I have to use the best builds and equipment just to barely be on par with the bosses and elite enemies. I felt LoR became faceroll easy towards the last 1/3 of the game. There is an option to increase difficulty to a nightmare mode though, so lack of challenge might not actually be a factor. There is also something kind of goofy and over the top to how many character you need to create in LoR. You can eventually field a full brigade of 15 active combatants, and 25ish support. These are all characters that you need to create and maintain with gear. I found it kind of silly and tedious. I'd rather just maintain 4-6 characters I can focus on.
By far my favorite thing about this game though was the story. It was dark and twisted. The main character, Dronya, is spiteful, manipulative, mean-spirited, and hilarious. I loved following her story. Bonus: This game has an incredible post-game dungeon that was pretty tough and a lot of fun.
While breaking all of the typical conventions of the genre, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk somehow manages to stay true to the spirit of a JRPG. Although it's held back by repetitive combat and some disturbing cutscenes, the game has a lot to offer for hard-core fans of turn-based, dungeon exploration games, especially those with a darker sense of humor.
Even with its flaws, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is one of the most enjoyable dungeon crawlers that I've ever played. The somewhat open-ended progression system and rewarding party growth mechanics make for one satisfying adventure.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk deserved a second chance, especially for a deep and rich turn-based combat system. Unfortunately the plot is not told with the right rhythm, and the technical department is backward. Recommended for old-fashioned dungeon crawler and GDR fans.
Definitely not a fairy tale, but if you’re okay with playing something with a darker, more mature tone then it’s worth giving this a go. Exploring every inch of the labyrinth is addictive, and its unique battle system and an in-depth character creation system will keep you busy for quite a while.
An altogether fun but often repetitive dungeon crawler let down by its weak cast and uninteresting storyline. Moments spent in the labyrinth dungeons, though initially confusing, are bright spots in an otherwise uninspiring game, giving the opportunity for exploration and presenting an intriguing battle system which allows for plenty of customisation and experimentation.
Hmm I have mixed feelings about this game: I really enjoyed the story and it had some dark tones but also funny ones, and the combat is easy to get in but somewhat hard to master, especially when you have a lot of choices with the covens and such.
The game itself is a dungeon crawler RPG, very similar to games like Etrian Odyssey or Demo Gaze, and the story revolves the witch Dronya, who possesses a book called Tractatus de Monstrum (which is somewhat latin for Treaty of Monsters) which allows her to control puppet soldiers to do her bidding. Alongside other characters, like the cheerful Luca, the story revolves about solving the mystery of the Labyrinth of Refrain, the city where the story is set.
Now I will say this: combat is pretty fast and the character creation pretty deep, enough to give enough variation to a class since it's more about giving the right spells to the right class, of facet. You get spells not by levelling but instead putting the puppets into a coven, which is a group of fighters where all of their stats will combine into one and create a powerful brigade. This allows a lot of customization but it's very strict at the start, as it costs reinforcement points, so you'll be sticking with few puppets for the first hours of the game.
Now, with that out of the way, I wish to speak of the main reason why this game isn't perfect and that's the story, which has the issue of being fragmented and hard to follow.
The main protagonists are two: Dronya, the Dusk Witch, ****, the book. Yeah you're actually playing the role of the book, not Dronya, which is more of a secondary MC. The story is split between the labyrinth section and the city sections: in the labyrinth you'll find characters to speak with and will follow various stories inside, from how the gnomes got a tyrant queen or how the trolls will kill anyone they meet. In these parts you can see what makes this game pretty charming: it has a cheerful look at first glance but it can turn very dark at times and despite showing no graphics of what's happening, a lot of people will die and in very gruesome ways. Not only that but some enemies are pretty creepy too, like the giants in the gnome city - which are actually humans lobotomized - or how trolls look like beasts from the nightmares, with one scene literally telling how "he strips the clothes of a woman and proceeds to put into his mouth", followed by a gush of red. It's very effective at showing how dark the place can be and that's without showing a hint of gore, which I guess they didn't or else the rating would raise to 18+ or even adult only!
So while you, the book, follow the story of the labyrinth, dronya has a completely different story which is loosely tied to you for most of the game: while you explore the maze she is doing all sorts of stuff that aren't always that important....like making a prank with a love potion, or being flirted from a nun, or having a birthday party. It's not always bad though and some parts ARE important but it feels like I'm following two separate stories: it's like I'm watching an anime and every 30 minutes I have to stop and play the game for a certain amount of time before resuming. It feels extremely disconnected and hard to get interested sometimes, which is a shame.
Overall, It's a solid game and there is a lot of cure into it: the facets aren't many, only 8 in total, but are very varied and have a lot of customization possible in how they grow - similar to Disgaea, complete with "reincarnation" - and Dronya is an interesting character that makes you wonder a lot about her and how she came to be.
I do recommend it if you can find on discount, but otherwise, I'm inclined to say "get Demon Gaze II"
This is a surprisingly good first person tile-based dungeon crawler (DRPG). It's a must-play if you like DRPGs with dark stories.
You play as a soul bound to a magic book. You're tasked by a witch to explore the labyrinth of town of Refrain with player-created magical puppets (your characters). You're not directly involved in the daily lives of your witch master and people outside of the dungeon, which is the majority of the story, but I found it acceptable story-wise, since you're a witch's minion.
The story is dark, brutal, and good. Everyone is experiencing hardships, but most find ways to enjoy life despite this. The themes and overall feel of the game is great, mainly because not many games reach this level of well-written plot-hole-free darkness. A few story scenes actually left me shocked due to their brutality, which is rare.
Though it's not all great. It reaches its writing peak about half-way through the story. After that, it becomes more of a predictable "save the world from the villain" story. It doesn't get bad, but I expected more after the great first half of the story.
The gameplay mechanics are good overall. They're different than most other DRPGs, which is great if you're looking for something new. Most mechanics are well-thought-out and fun and aren't just different for different's sake.
A big difference is the number of characters in your party. You have 5 covens that can contain 1-3 characters each, giving you a maximum of 15 characters in your battle party. And you can choose from a variety of covens that have different bonuses. Basically, you're able to choose character quantity or quality, or a mix of the two.
Front and rear rows also work differently. Front rows don't necessarily protect rear rows: enemies can attack either, but some of their attacks are limited to a single row. Character traits can be set to attract enemy attention to a row. Most weapons work best in a certain row. And you can set variety of row/coven formations that give you different bonuses. There's a lot of customizability here and it's all great.
To go over the other interesting mechanics quickly: Weapon and gear upgrades are easy and useful. You can change a character's class and carry over class-specific bonuses to the new class. There's a fortitude point pool that does a variety of things, such as set different covens, perform special actions in battle, stockpile experience for bonuses, and create warp points.
The only mechanic that annoyed me was the process of changing classes after getting to level 99. Near end-game, characters get to level 99 quickly, so you'll frequently be doing this. Calculating which classes you need, and which skills they should bring over (to avoid hitting the skill limit) is time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of characters.
The dungeons are okay. Environmental obstacles consist of poison (which can't be avoided), miasma (which can be avoided), door switches, holes to lower floors, and darkness (which has no real affect, since you can still see the map). There's no real traps or ways to avoid (such as float over) possible hazards. It's a bit lacking when compared to other DPRGs, but isn't horrible.
The layout of the dungeons is okay. After I learned of breakable walls, I expected every dungeon to have every square of the grid filled with something, but this isn't the case. There's a lot of empty/inaccessible space in every dungeon. But even if all of the grid space was fully mappable, there's not much to fill it with, so it seems as though they reached a good balance.
Combat is relatively easy on normal difficulty. I only had two or more characters die during a single battle when I encountered rare super-buffed enemies, strong enemies (which you can see and avoid), and bosses. Normal monsters should pose no problem for DRPG veterans. I didn't try the harder difficulty level since the story was my main focus and I didn't want to extend my dungeon crawling (the game took me 90 hours to complete).
If you beat all of the optional bosses before the final boss (which is relatively easy), you get access to the post-game story and dungeon. The post-game dungeon isn't that long, but is harder, and its final boss is the toughest in the game. The extra story bits are well worth this effort, since it gives you a few more dark and interesting things to think about.
Highly recommended for DPRG fans or for people who like good/dark stories and can tolerate DRPGs.
So this is a great dungeon crawler. The mechanics are unique, graphics are good and the music is amazing. There are tons of strategies you can set up with the coven system and in typical NIS fashion, tons of stat management you can get into, if that's your thing. My real problem with it is the sexualization of little girls. There's also two only female classes, with one of them being populated by these "sexy" children. This genre is rife with games which can aptly be described as "hentai crawlers". I'm not saying don't put their hentai in their games, but maybe be a little more inclusive to women and **** guys and for god's sake keep the pedo **** out.
Great art style, okay-ish ****...
This game can be super frustrating at times. Enemies constantly spamming AoE attacks with multiple status effects, super grindy boring & slow time consuming repetitive combat, way too many trial and error sections around the maps that CAN instant-kill your parties - things like this make game too annoying to play.
I beat this game around 70 hours, though investing all those hours didn't feel like it was entirely worth it.
Play Etrian Odyssey series instead, far enjoyable, more rewarding, and stress inducing than this.
This is a frustratingly crappy game. And it should have been good. I'm a huge fan of Wizardry and Disgaea, and let me tell you, this brings together all the worst of both,
I'll try and make this as brief as possible, but there are some many problems with this game I don't know how successful I'll be.
First, the music and graphics are fine. They accomplish what they are supposed to, so I would give both 1 out of 1. So the last 8 points are for the game play and story.
The story isn't good. I don't know if it's just me, but I found it boring or annoying filled with characters that I felt nothing for. The whole thing seems to be about a lesbian in denial trying to bring her lover back to life while taking out her frustration by abusing a little girl. Maybe there was more, I'm not sure. I was skipping it for the most part by about halfway through the game.
That brings us to the gameplay - a disaster. You start with an irrelevent tutorial that'll just confuse you. When that's done you make a party to hit the dungeon. All the classes are the same. I made a diverse party at first, but eventually I had changed my whole party to just 2 out of the 8 classes and finished the game easily with this. All the skills come from pacts (which are formations) that you find in the dungeon. Literally any class can use any weapon, armor, or skill. Very quickly you'll realize that just the basic attack is all that's necessary to complete the entire game. I even used almost all lances. Horrible.
Every enemy that poses any kind of a threat always uses a group attack that can't be stopped or avoided, so using any sort of strategy is irrelevent. Just have lots of hit points. Strategy over.
There's nothing to buy. All the gear is found in the dungeon so money is useless. If that wasn't bad enough, all the gear is randomly generated junk. There's no reason to explore. Everything is generic, randomly generated garbage that means absolutely nothing.
Navigating the dungeon is terrible. Not only is there nothing interesting to explore for, all the points of interest are marked on the map. You warp from the dungeon whenever you want, so there's no fear or skill or threat of any kind. Just leave and save every 5 minutes. I did. They try to balance this out with a lot of random insta-kills in various forms, but these are just irritating bumps in a crappy ride.
I feel like I could write pages more, but I'm not a professional reviewer and I'm trying to be quick. It's just not a good game. It's such a contrast to everything wrong with RPGs today. Maybe if you're like 20-something and you don't remember when RPGs were good, you might back able to enjoy this one, but I sure didn't.
SummaryBecome the living book, Tractatus de Monstrum, and command a brigade of puppet soldiers as you navigate the twisting passageways of the labyrinth of Refrain.
When at your base, prepare for your journey by upgrading your brigade! Create new puppet soldiers, assign them different squads and formations, synthesize better equipment, take re...