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Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

The main protagonist of Labyrinth is a witch that is looking to explore a labyrinth found at the bottom of a magical well in a village. Unfortunately, that well is filled with a deadly substance called "miasma", and so the witch instead tosses a magical book down the well, which has the ability to animate puppets to do the exploration for her. Much of the story flashes by, in short, often unrelated vignettes when not exploring the darkness below. After every great milestone that the player book pulls off, a Witch Report can be made, informing Dronya of your continued efforts and giving some insight as to where to explore next. These reports are accompanied by the aforementioned story vignettes and quick skits that are often unrelated at first but lead into one another to create a mildly intriguing story.

Despite originally being a PlayStation Vita game that released in 2016, he art style holds up refreshingly well.

Adventuring through the labyrinth is done in the first person, with you taking a step at a time. Most dungeon crawlers go to great lengths to carefully construct winding corridors and intricate space-based puzzles. Labyrinth of Refrain gives you the ability to knock down a wall, allowing you to find rooms that have no doors, or create shortcuts with few - if any - inhibitions. That's not to say there aren't puzzles, and right from the start Labyrinth throws puzzles at you that require you to move around multiple dungeon levels and navigate around environmental hazards, but there's something downright subversive in the way the game gives you a tool that instantly obliterates the principles of good dungeon crawler design.;

Labyrinth of Refrain also eliminates random encounters in favor of placing enemies on the map. If you're not in the mood to fight a battle, than in most cases you'll be able to maneuver your way around an enemy so that you don't have to. To engage an enemy, you just walk into them in the labyrinth. How to engage the enemy dictates how the battle will begin. If the enemy is approached from the front or is alert to your presence, then you will enter a standard battle. Manage to approach them from the side or back, then you open your enemies up for a surprise attack. Surprise attacks have a chance to allow you to get a free turn against your aggressors. Beware though that the enemies can also engage you from behind, allowing them to have a surprise attack against you.

There are various damage types both physical and elemental, turn based combat is pretty basic, with you essentially choosing to attack, block, or use magic abilities that consume DP (the games substitute for MP). Slash, Blunt and Pierce will be effective or ineffective against specific enemies and a Facet’s weapon type will determine this, whether it’s a Sword, Lance, Lamp, Hammer, Scythe, Crossbow, Bell, Katar, or Shield. No character is tied to one weapon type, however. Each character can equip a weapon for each hand as long as one of them isn’t two-handed. Every character can equip onto 6 slots: Right Hand, Left Hand, Head, Body, Shoes, and Relic. Even when you’ve equipped yourself optimally and are ready to continue pushing forward, players can improve their strategy by using specific party members with another.

Each character you have available is a puppet with a soul attached to it. Puppet Soldiers require being in a Coven Pact, though. Think of these as this game’s version of “jobs”, just different. When you attach a soul to a puppet, you can choose your puppets name, class, look and magical ability. From there you can choose what coven for the puppet to join and be on your way. There are ways further in the game that allows you to assign multiple puppets to single coven, which takes up a single character spot in battles.

The itch for an Etrian-styled RPG on the Nintendo Switch is finally here with Labrynth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. This isn’t just your standard dungeon crawling JRPG, it’s a JRPG done in the style of excellence and while this may not be for everyone its definitely one that for those looking for a true to form dungeon crawler will enjoy.

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