Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk Preview
I love dungeon crawler RPGs (DRPGs). The aspect of truly creating my party from the ground up, exploring dungeons that are more akin to a puzzle than anything else, and surmounting their usually infamous difficulty makes the sub-genre one of my favorites. It should come as no surprise, then, that NISA's recent announcement that they'll be bringing Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk west this Fall filled me with the same sort of glee I'd get from a new Etrian Odyssey announcement, or a cursory look at Experience Inc's catalog in general. Doubly so considering the game was available in a playable state during NISA's recent press event.
There are two main characteristics that separate Labyrinth of Refrain from its other DRPG contemporaries. One of those would be the importance of its story (which is unfortunately hard to get a real grasp of during a preview session), but the other would have to be its party mechanics. Players take the role of the Tractatus de Monstrum, a sentient book which commands a small army of puppet soldiers through the labyrinth sleeping underneath the town of Refrain. However, the way that players set up their party is a bit different than what you might expect from most DRPGs - to me it resembled something like Square Enix's The Last Remnant.
You see, each party slot in combat isn't so much built for one specific character, but rather for a group - known as a Coven - that you place multiple characters into. The type of squad you want to assign to each party slot determines the overall role that the squad will fulfill. Tanks, Magic users, healers - and a bunch more. The types of parties you can create can be expanded both through the story as well as completing side activities, but even with the options seemingly available to players at the start, there appears to be room for plenty of customization and flexibility for party construction.
Of course, the types of Covens you create aren't just limited to archetypes. Different dolls equipped to their respective parties will have their own feelings towards their fellow squad members. If they have a stronger bond, then there is a higher chance to deal more damage with an attack, among other things. Then you have the usual situations with differing attack types, weaknesses and resistances, and more.
It's a lot to keep track of, but it's undeniably Labyrinth of Refrain's defining characteristic. After having seen some of the impressions of the finished game from Japanese players, this certainly seems to be a game to look out for when it releases on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam this Fall.