Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (Nintendo Switch) Review

By TJ 20.01.2019 4

Review for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk on Nintendo Switch

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk tries to be too many things: a dungeon crawler, a visual novel, a JRPG. Unfortunately, it accomplishes very little, crumbling under its own weight. It is a dungeon crawler that relies on far too many mechanics that are ultimately underdeveloped, shallow, or boring. Without much solid design, the thin veneer peels away to reveal a bogged down and quite frustrating experience.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk's flaws are not immediately apparent, and, what looks to be a lengthy and exciting dungeon crawler, is actually weighed down by monotonous combat, uninspired objectives, and questionable design choices. Starting off, the player is in control of a party of five characters, navigating the first few rooms of a dungeon. Since this is an accelerated pseudo-beginning, the mechanics aren't explained right away. The depth is shallow up to this point, relying primarily on auto-attacks to make it through the monotonous combat.

Combat remains relatively mind numbing after this. There are several different weapon types, such as swords, hammers, lances, and scythes; and some enemies even have weaknesses that are worth exploiting, but the damage is far too minimal more often than not to give the combat needed depth. Labyrinth of Refrain does not convey combat information well at all. The combat log will scroll too fast for new players, and all of the different damage types are conveyed by colours, resulting in an incredibly unintuitive system. To compound this, the combat log actually goes away at the end of the turn, meaning players can't look back on what actually occurred during battle.

Screenshot for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk on Nintendo Switch

In addition to this lack of information, there is a degree of inconsistency that might confuse newcomers. At first, encounters can be expected based off of a proximity meter at the top - a little tool that alerts you when enemies are nearby. What seems to be random encounters are actually invisible enemies that patrol the dungeon halls, however, but can only be seen after unlocking a specific skill. This is a fine enough idea in theory, but it actually works in detriment to the dungeon crawling.

There's specifically one huge discrepancy with the visible enemy skill: it won't always show all the enemies, and oftentimes, the invisible ones are obscenely powerful. In a title like Etrian Odyssey, the scarier enemies are used for tension, and are preferably avoided due to how one-sided the fight would be. Here, however, there is no distinction. All enemies appear as demonic, floating disco balls. Frustratingly enough, there is an area that can be discovered on the first floor that houses incredibly strong enemies. They are easily as strong as the fourth floor enemies, meaning that most players who discover it the first time will get destroyed, leading to a full party defeat.

Screenshot for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk on Nintendo Switch

Being defeated in the dungeon isn't the end of the world, but the punishments are severe. The main consequences are: party member injuries, reduced resource gain, and, the worst, a random loss of equipment. The injuries are repairable once out of the dungeon, but cost silver, which is also used for items that heal, cure ailments, or revive characters. Losing equipment is easily the most frustrating thing that can occur, as even currently equipped gear can be lost after a defeat, resulting in aggravating setbacks.

These last two points play off of each other to create a type of progression marred by an inability to predict danger, and random setbacks that stunt not only player progression, but a sense of overall exploration. A game like Dark Souls thrives on its difficulty, and while there are plenty of times where it can feel unfair, all of the information needed to survive is given. Running into invisible enemies is infuriating, unfair, and just bad design.

Screenshot for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk on Nintendo Switch

One of the coolest facets of the game is the massive brigade party: five groups, with three members each. This ends up being a huge fifteen member army. However, getting to that point takes far too long, as even ten hours into the game, there is no sign of progression, and there were only five characters to use. Pacing on a whole is abysmal, and having key mechanics, like the full party size, be locked out for a lot of the game takes a lot of engagement away.

The story is interesting, with surprisingly good voice acting to boot. Complete with eye-popping art and inspired music, from a purely visual novel perspective, it would make for a much more complete experience. The plot is the most engaging part, so it's a shame that the dungeon crawling gets in the way of that. Unfortunately, Labyrinth of Refrain would have ultimately been a better game had it focused less on gameplay and more on story. As it stands now, the objectives needed to progress are boring, and detract heavily from what's going on in the town of Refrain.

Screenshot for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Although Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk presents itself well enough, it ultimately falls short due to the incredible lack of pacing, a roller coaster of a difficulty curve, and generally not that engaging gameplay. Combat is mindlessly repetitive, exploration tedious, and progression is severely stunted. This is the culmination of too many moving parts that are for show, but don't achieve any real goal.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Anonymous (guest) 27.01.2019#1

Did you write this late review to adjust the Metacritic score?

Anonymous (guest) said:
Did you write this late review to adjust the Metacritic score?

Did you make this post to reveal how pathetic you are that you care about Metacritic scores?

Josh (guest) 28.06.2019#3

This seems like an eminently fair, well-reasoned critique.

Rob Davey (guest) 21.01.2021#4

I thought this game was great,
I especially liked the different musical scores on each dungeon style ,
my score 9/10 highly recommended 

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