From the moment you load it up, you can tell that Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is very much a Nippon Ichi Software game.
The art style, the humour, the familiar voices; anyone who has grown fond of the type of games that Nippon Ichi Software has tirelessly developed for some 20-odd years now will feel right at home with Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk, even though it tries to shake the formula up a little.
You see, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a first-person dungeon crawler, and while Nippon Ichi Software has published plenty of them in the past, they don’t have a habit of actually making them. Though I don’t know why, because Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk demonstrates that they can do a good job of them.
While the gameplay in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a bit of a departure for a Nippon Ichi Software game, its story and many of its features are typical of the developer. Initially, for example, you could make the mistake of thinking that it’s another entry into The Witch and the Hundred Knight series thanks to its nasty witch called Dronya who quickly puts you into her service. She yells at her child assistant and hits her over the head, and then follows that up by kicking a lamb down a well. She really is mean.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk truly begins when you find yourself taking possession of a book. You are the Tractatus de Monstrum, and with your party of puppets it’s up to you to explore the depths of the titular Labyrinth of Refrain. And while you can’t talk, you can respond to Dronya’s questions in a similar manner to the Hundred Knight; either agreeing, disagreeing or simply staying silent.
It’s when you start assembling your party that the start to feel a hint of Disgaea in Labyrinth of Refrain. The puppets that do your bidding have to be created from scratch, and so you’ll form a group to your liking using the resources you have available. There are a myriad of classes, covering the usual range of fighters, assassins and magic users, and during creation you can tweak their capabilities to shape their growth and abilities.
Once any puppet has outgrown its usefulness, you can either dismiss it and break it down, or remove its soul and implant it in a new puppet to make it stronger. Anyone that loves creating and developing characters in games like Disgaea will be in their element with Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk.
Admittedly, there’s nothing that special to note about Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk‘s actual dungeon crawling, but then it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. What gets the game by is its humour and deep character development. That’s all it needs. You’ll put up with the game’s over-complicated menus and the frequent feeling of repetition just to push on and see what happens next. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Nippon Ichi Software’s back catalogue, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is another game that you need to check out.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is available now on PS4 and Switch. Buy it on Amazon.