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Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk Review

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a dungeon crawler RPG featuring puppets as your fighters. As you might guess from the title and genre, you explore a labyrinth with multiple levels. A few intriguing features are likely to catch your interest, not to mention there’s always something to work toward, although a sense of tedium in the combat might intrude on your experience unless you’re a fan of the genre.

PULLING STRINGS

What makes this release unique is that you control living, wooden puppets and send them into the labyrinth. Their wooden constructions render them vulnerable to heavy hits. If an enemy lands a Gore Hit, you might want to exercise caution, given that attacks can damage the limbs of your puppets. This vital damage lowers that puppet’s stats until the injury is repaired. Should an attack smash a puppet’s head, it’s a one-shot, and the puppet is unable to fight again until fixed.

You need parts to repair broken limbs, which you can purchase from the shop. Fortunately, they aren’t too expensive and you have a decent reserve of silver starting out, but making money by selling loot and unwanted items you find while exploring the labyrinth doesn’t always yield as much as one might hope — early on in the game, at least, unless you’re willing to part ways with a useful item, such as the Witch’s Bell. It’s easy to obtain one on a run, however. Soon enough, you may find other items you may sell for a hefty sum. (You could hold onto these various loot and artifact items for later use.) After just a few hours of dungeon diving, I found my silver reserves and healing items in abundance and having little need for either for some time.

PERKS

Another aspect that makes LoR:CoD intriguing is the double-edged sword of collecting Mana. The more you collect on a run, the higher your item drop chance, plus you need Mana to unlock Witch Petitions, which are handy perks; but, collect above the Mana density threshold and your luck could turn sour. You can stockpile Mana, so there’s no need to push your luck (unless you want to).

There are only a few Witch Petitions available at first, and none seem too useful unless you want an easier or more difficult experience, although the Find More Items perk is worth getting once you can. There’s always the Nightmare Difficulty Petition for those who want a tougher challenge, but this is a costly Mana expenditure compared to other petitions available near the beginning. If you want to switch back to the normal difficulty, you can for a nominal amount of Mana, but you must spend the ten grand yet again if you want to switch back to Nightmare. More practical petitions unlock later, such as auto-recovery of HP after a match, being able to use Reinforcement points to bolster stats in a battle, and increasing your chances of escaping.

POINTS AND PACTS

You begin each run initially with one hundred Reinforcement points. Coven costs might cost a few before you even begin. Coven costs derive from which pacts you have in your setup, but this cost declines after leveling up the pact. You may find these by progressing the story and exploring the labyrinth. Each features a modifier: a few increase the attack of whoever belongs to that coven, while others might give access to useful Donum (for instance, the Healer pact has a spell to heal another puppet) or decrease the cost of using a Donum. Particular pacts permit you to place multiple puppets into the pact. Knowing which pacts a situation calls for and having those pacts leveled, not to mention having a large arsenal of puppets at your disposal who are ready to fight, can ease some otherwise tough battles.

As you progress, you can unlock abilities that, while useful, cost Reinforcement points to use. You should use caution when using your ability to break walls. While it’s necessary to use it, you could easily find yourself in dangerous territory (and quickly), making a team wipe likely. As you only have one hundred Reinforcement points initially for each dive, be careful of wasting points when it’s unnecessary: it’s a valuable resource that can save your team in a pinch.

Upon a triumphant return to the caravan, your puppets’ health and Donum Points (DP) are replenished and you can earn bonus XP. If your party is defeated, you could receive a penalty to the rapport of your puppets. The costliness of this and Gore Hits raise the stakes for deeper dives into the labyrinth; you could play it safe and over-level a bit, decreasing both damage taken and the possibility of a Gore Hit. Approaching each dive with caution is prudent, especially until you gain better equipment and familiarity with the enemies and the limits of your characters.

BUGS

On one occasion I encountered a black screen when attempting to access a menu while in the labyrinth, and it happened again while returning to the title screen. Another, even more frequent issue, is that of stuttering, which seems to occur most often when battling. There’s no autosave mechanic to mitigate the black-screen bug. The only way I could rectify this was to relaunch the application. As a dungeon run can take time, depending on your goal, running into this black screen can set you back a bit. It’s even more disheartening when you lose a good piece of equipment this way.

7

The Verdict: Great

For those who enjoy the dungeon-crawling genre and for whom tedium isn’t an issue, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is definitely one to buy. The price tag might deter, but this release offers countless hours of gameplay. Aside from stuttering, a black-screen bug, that some tutorial events come later in the game than one might hope, and there’s no in-game reference guide to revisit useful information a tutorial offers, LoR:CoD is pretty polished. The various mechanics, such as how you create a character and the Witch Petition system, reinforces playability while offering something which you may work towards. Other details, like the various areas, how rewarding unlocks are when you progress the story, and the hilarious (and at times shocking) banter during cutscenes ensure gameplay stays fresh.

Chris Hubbard
Written by
October 02, 2018
Published in Adventure

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A fan of RPGs above other genres, Chris has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. Some of the games that had the most influence on his gaming preferences have been the Final Fantasy and the Diablo series. More recently, most of Chris' gaming time has been going toward Gems of War and Clicker Heroes (give it a try, it can be addicting), along with open-world RPGs such as Skyrim and ESO. He's also dabbled with RPG Maker software, and it is a goal of his to someday create an RPG.

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