MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death Review
While Compile Heart is most well known for their Hyperdimension Neptunia series, every once and a while the developers get a chance to stretch their legs and try a title not starring the purple haired virtual goddess. These non-Neptunia games are, of course, not as popular as what is essentially Compile Heart's flagship series, but they are usually good efforts and fun games that can stand on their own... fan service aside. Entries to the developer's portfolio like Monster Monpiece and Sorcery Saga are well liked and solid titles on their own, but others can be considered less than stellar in the long run. Unfortunately, MeiQ: The Labyrinth of Death falls into the latter category.
The world in which MeiQ takes place in has stopped moving. The land is cast into eternal darkness, and monsters have begun to roam the dying world.
Thankfully, this is not the first time that this crisis has been faced, and the answer lies in an ancient myth--the chosen Machina Mage must turn the key to restart the world once more.
As such, once mage is chosen from each part of the world, and the five of them embark on their journey.
MeiQ is a bit heavier on the plot than many dungeon crawlers. The five Machina Mages are actual characters, with their own personalities, specialties, and reasons for attempting to turn the key that saves the world. However, in the end all of the major characters boil down to being extremely one dimensional, whose reactions and 'character growths' seem to come out of theoretical dictionary entries for their tropes.
Additionally, most the of leads' outfits (who are all conveniently female) are downright ridiculous, to the point that you can wonder how some of these characters walk without having constant wardrobe malfunctions. Amazingly enough though other than the highly questionable outfits and bust sizes MeiQ doesn't really have anything in terms of fan service; they even ignored the extremely low hanging fruit of bathing CGs (as the mages must bathe in a spring to gain blessings).
Of course, the overall lack of fanservice is only really a small plus given how typical and downright boring the plot is. It's a very one-note 'save the world' story, and with the stale characters, there's really no motivation in this department to play the game.
As if to make matters worse, MeiQ also loves being long winded, since all these characters need to put in their two cents about any of the game's events, and cutscenes can quickly drag on much longer than they need to.
Moving on from the general story though, MeiQ is pure dungeon crawler at heart, and the crux of the game involves exploring the towers and defeating bosses. Exploring in itself is fairly typical for the genre--you explore step by step in first person mode, occasionally finding landmarks, traps, and shortcuts to spice up your trip through the area.
Backtracking is something you'll have to do at multiple points of the story though, as the game is not content with you simply traversing the towers and calling it a day. Fetch quests and walking back and forth between two areas to get cutscenes are both common in MeiQ, and can get infuriating when you just want to get to the top of the tower and end the chapter, instead of going to find a statue that was never mentioned before the exact point you needed it.
Eventually you'll get into battles (of which MeiQ has a surprisingly low encounter rate), and that's where this title changes things up a bit. As their title might suggest, the Machina Mages aren't mages in the most traditional sense of the word. They are able to control Guardians to fight for them in battle, which are essentially robots with a will of their own.
Each Guardian has a specific element assigned to them, and using elements to your advantage is at the core of MeiQ. The element system is actually fairly complex, as you must remember how the five elements work with one another (what's strong, what's weak, and which elements work together).
Thankfully there's a chart that's always available, but it can get overwhelming at times.
Or at least it would be, if MeiQ wasn't overall an easy game. Most enemy mobs and bosses on Normal can be easily defeated without worrying about the elements, provided you have semi-decent damage output. But every once in a while there will be an exponentially more difficult boss that appear to be points to make players stop and attempt to grind, which is a stark contrast to the remainder of the game.
But putting it the whole package together, MeiQ is far from Compile Heart's best effort. The story is very basic and overwrought, the overall difficulty of battles make exploring boring and without tension, and even the graphics and music are below average. It feels low budget and as if the developer just phoned in the effort, and makes what could have been a passable--or even fun--dungeon crawler into an easily skippable Vita title.