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Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

Developer - Nippon Ichi Software

Publisher - NIS America

Review Platform - Nintendo Switch

Release Date - September 18, 2018

Also available - PS4, PC (Steam)

Originally released in Japan for the Playstation Vita and Playstation 4 in June 2016 and September 2017 respectively and now west-side supporting both English and Japanese audio for the Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a dungeon crawler RPG featuring puppets as your fighters with you exploring a labyrinth with multiple levels as you might guess from the title. The fact that you are controlling living, wooden puppets that you send into the labyrinth is what truly makes this game something original.

Dungeon crawler RPGs are the bread a butter of the genre and while its been many years since they were at the height of their popularity, it is safe to say that there is a good reason as to why they have not faded away into full obscurity and one of those reasons is for games like Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk.

You start off the journey with the Dronya the witch and Luca her apprentice as they came to the remote town of Refrain where it is said to have a mysterious well that houses the deadly labyrinth that’s oozing with poisonous miasma amidst wondrous treasures. Literally you can find just about anything within the labyrinth of Refrain. The characters of the game offer unique personalities with some truly lovable ones while some others will make you shake your head. Case and point being Dronya, whom is uniquely rude and cruel despite her beauty while Luca is the sweetheart with a heart of gold and is a righteous hearted girl that’s just loveable due to her optimistic nature.

Dungeons are for the most part basic but each offers a lot of unique style to it. Going from mossy labyrinth walls to a hidden gnome kingdom or an underground cave filled with tunnels. Each of them provides their unique mechanics be it jumping over hedges as a giant in the gnome kingdom or falling into pitfalls and holes in the first few floors. Destroying cave-ins with bombs or simply getting lost with the sheer amount of quest markers available in a floor.

Another interesting aspect of this game is the two fold aspect of collecting Mana. The more you gather on a run, the higher your item drop chance, and you’ll need Mana to unlock Witch Petitions, which are handy perks; but, collect above the Mana density threshold and your luck could turn sour.

Covens act as a class system to decide what combination of skills a puppet can use in combat.

Creating puppets would also mean choosing their natures along with their puppet growth to dictate how it develops its attributes. Stance however manages the balance whether a puppet goes attack based or defensive based.

Each puppet facet has its own innate passive abilities and you’re free to choose one to learn right away.

With a total of five covens active at a time, you can have as many as 15 puppets attacking each equipped to the brim with gear looted from the labyrinth that goes from common, rare, epic or legendary rarity that can have varying bonus stats.

Formations is another way to set an advantage as each formation on the five covens be it a vanguard or rearguard will allow you to achieve nifty buffs and passives that complement the squad. Commands go from your average attack, donum or otherwise known as skills, fortify or defend, escape and formation.

And as you can probably tell, the use of consumables can only be used outside of battles. Reinforcement points can be used to increase attack or defensive capabilities and continuous attacks increases damage dealt.

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.

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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