On Stream:https://store.steampowered.com/app/566540/Labyrinth_of_Refrain_Coven_of_Dusk/

About This Game

Become the living book, Tractatus de Monstrum, and command a brigade of puppet soldiers as you navigate the twisting passageways of the Labyrinth of Refrain.

When at your base, prepare for your journey by upgrading your brigade! Create new puppet soldiers, assign them different squads and formations, synthesize better equipment, take requests from townsfolk, and get assistance from Dronya in the form of Witch Petitions.

Once you’ve entered the labyrinth, be sure to search every nook and cranny as you jump over barricades, solve puzzles, and smash your way through walls to delve further and further downward in search of treasure and rare artifacts. But be careful, the more riches you obtain, the more vicious the dungeon becomes. Can you survive long enough to bring your haul back?

Fight past terrifying monsters by giving orders to your puppet brigade. Change their formation, use special skills, or call for an all-out attack! The battles you face will be challenging, so your success depends on your preparation and your strategy.

KEY FEATURES

A Massive Maze

Dive into the miasma-filled labyrinth as the Tractatus de Monstrum along with your brigade of puppet soldiers to smite monsters and uncover dark secrets.

Fast-Paced Combat!

Strange creatures and traps of all sorts will stand in your path as you go deeper in the maze. Give orders to your army and crush them with special skills!

Build an Undefeatable Army

Create your very own puppet soldiers, grant them a variety of different roles, and assign them to specialized squads to make your own unique brigade!
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 64bit
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-6100 3.7GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Intel HD 520
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Storage: 20 GB available space
    • Sound Card: Onboard
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk / ルフランの地下迷宮と魔女ノ旅団-0
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Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk / ルフランの地下迷宮と魔女ノ旅団-12
Size: 2.8 GB

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SuccHunter

Posted: November 10, 2018
Fun and unique game, despite its many flaws.

Pros:
+Insane party system that lets you bring a small army into battle (maximum of 15 characters fighting at a time, with 25 characters in reserve, ready to be switched in right there in battle). On top of that, you can rearrange your frontline and backline on the fly into specific formations (i.e all-out attack, withdrawl, pincer, decoy, envoy, donum defense, etc…) to get special bonuses. This allows for some very unorthodox party setups with crazy min-maxing potential. Never feel lonely in a dungeon again because fights are quite lively, featuring constant character pop-ins and a cacophony of cheers and comments and battle cries, etc…

+Character creation is in itself another game. There are 6 starting classes and 2 unlockable classes. Each class has 3 starting portraits and 1 unlockable portrait for each gender of each class. Same with character voices: there are 3 starting voices and 1 unlockable voice for each gender of each class. Beyond these aesthetic choices, there are other parameters to choose from, including stat growth, stance, lucky number, etc… you get the idea. You can also reincarnate a character into another one, starting again from lvl 1 but transferring skills over. As is tradition for any Nippon Ichi game, this game is a min-maxer’s heaven.

+Unorthodox mechanics such as wall-smashing make for some interesting dungeon-crawling moments. Nothing is more satisfying than deducing where hidden rooms are and smashing the wall down to find 5 treasure chests lined up ready to be looted.

+Graphics and artstyle look clean and stylish. It definitely has that patented wacky but visually pleasing Disgaea vibe to it.

+Dark fantasy setting with a more mature and morally grey story. Madame Dronya’s anti-heroics are fun to behold. There are some problems with it though.

Cons:
-There is a constant, pervasive sense of disconnect between the dungeon crawling and the story. Once you hit certain designated "checkpoints" in the dungeon, the game tells you to go back to base and read the next story scene. Usually, the story unfolds independently of whatever you did in the dungeon. It doesn’t feel as if you’ve influenced the events or played an important part in the story in any way; Madame Dronya & co. will just do their own thing in the normal world, and you, a soul trapped in a book, will just do your own thing in the dungeon world. A lot of times it feels as if you have zero stake or control in the story beyond exploring the dungeon and coming back to report your progress or fetching something Madame Dronya tells you to. Over time, this is detrimental to your ability to care about anything that is happening at all.
More often than not, the story just…"happens." It’s like the writer wrote the story without realizing that the game designer also made a game, so he hastily shoehorned the dungeon crawling into the story, without properly merging the two together. To provide a counterexample, let’s look at something like Etrian Odyssey: the story may be thin and bare-bones, but you actually feel like you and your party are at the forefront of it. Whenever you take down a boss or progress in the story, NPCs will actually acknowledge it and talk to you about it. In other words, the story revolves around you, making it much easier to care.

-General lack of direction, in both the dungeons and in the story. Sometimes, but not always, it is unclear how to progress while dungeon crawling. There’s gonna be those frustrating moments where you spend half an hour or so running in circles in the dungeon before giving up and looking up an online guide or walkthrough, only to realize that you missed one obscure part of wall that needed to be smashed down to progress, or that you did not hit some switch in the corner of the map to open a door. The fifth dungeon is the worst offender, and it nearly made me quit the game out of frustration.
As for the story, a lot of times it feels as if it’s going nowhere. It doesn’t have a clear structure or goal, and it can be hard to trudge through the dungeon to unlock the next story segment when you don’t even know where the ♥♥♥♥ the story is going.

-The dungeon crawling, while fun, still pales in comparison to other giants of the genre like Etrian Odyssey. First of all, the dungeons are nowhere near as interesting or gimmicky as EO dungeons. For the most part, if you’ve gone through the first dungeon, you’ve seen them all. Except the wall-smashing, any gimmicks introduced in subsequent strata usually fail to shake up the formula in any meaningful or entertaining way. Second of all, the combat, while chaotic and fun, is nowhere near as tight and polished as Etrian Odyssey. In EO, combat feels satisfying and rewarding. Here, combat feels boring after a while. You can get by most of the time just normal attacking with sheer numbers. Having 3 tanks, 2 healers, and 9 physical attackers bumrush the enemies in forward formation gets the job done in most normal encounters. Boss battles don’t make you adapt or think on your feet much either; they just have a lot of HP and spam AOE spells.

Conclusion:
Despite all its flaws , Labyrinth of Refrain is still not a bad game. It will have no trouble entertaining most dungeon-crawling enthusiasts for hours and hours on end, and it definitely brings some refreshing ideas to the table. If some sort of sequel for this game can make the gameplay and story complement each other better and make the overall experience tighter and more consistent, I think we’ll have something that can go toe to toe with Etrian Odyssey as the king of first-person dungeon crawlers.

Yoon

Posted: September 24, 2018
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk
Challenging, grim, unique

Run-through

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a Dungeon Crawler RPG game by NIS. A name you might recall as they published games such as the Disgaea franchise. Rough around the edges, Coven of Dusk still offers a refreshing gaming experience with some very Old School vibes on the plus side. In the game, we will be following a witch and her apprentice in their quest to explore a mythical underground Labyrinth. Contrarily to what you might think, we won’t actually be appearing in the game as a flesh and bones character but rather we will impersonate the Tractatus de Monstrum, a magical living book that can summon "puppets" to fight for him when exploring the underground. We are the only mean that Dronya, the witch, has to discover more about the Labyrinth and reach her goals, by any means.

Pros:

• Good story: interesting, with both funny skits and grim bits
• The sprites for the game are very nicely drawn
• Dungeon exploration is fun and offers a huge spectrum of secrets to uncover both during the main storyline and the post-game content
• The combat system is smooth, the "covens" concept is well thought and properly developed
• Nice variety of spells through the use of Pacts

Cons:

• As of now, the game presents a game-breaking bug: the black screen. It usually happens upon reaching the Opening Scene and it prevents us from progressing
• At times the story tries too hard to be funny, resulting instead in extremely inopportune situations
• Unbalanced: playing with casters will result in us wiping out anything that stands in our way

Gameplay: in depth

General information
Labyrinth of Refrain is an incredibly refreshing experience for lovers of the genre, it also presents itself as a more unique take on the Dungeon Crawler concept. As I have mentioned, instead of doing all the exploring by ourselves we will be aided by Puppets, divided each in their own Covens. Starting with Covens that can hold only one at a time, we will slowly find stronger Covens during our adventures and this will eventually allow us to bring up to three Puppets in each of them. That means a total of fifteen playable Puppets, plus passive support slots where we can allocate more of them for even greater bonuses.

Every Coven has its very own and unique Spells that our heroes can use during battle. The fact that we won’t be locked with a specific set of Spells and Skills leaves a lot of room for the team’s customization based on what we think is the most suitable asset. Since Covens each come with their own Skills Set, it means that a Puppet in a Coven cannot act independently: once we choose an action for the Coven to carry out, the whole Coven will act as a whole, which is why we need to pay particular attention to combinations.

Combinations in this game come in a Weapon:Range formula. In other words, there are different types of weapons for different roles and those roles are decided through where your hero stands. Your characters can be either in the Vanguard or the Rearguard. Some weapons work only if you’ve positioned your Puppets in the Vanguard and vice-versa. A wrong Weapon:Range combination will result in a Mismatch which will weight greatly on the damage that your Puppet could do.

Achieving the highest damage output does not depend solely on this but rather, we must consider Classes (Facets) as well. At the start of the game, we will be able to choose to make Puppets out of 6 playable Classes, while more can be unlocked later on. Every Facet comes with 3 base Appearances to choose from and there is no gender lock.

Exploring dungeons might seem very straightforward at first, but it’s far from the truth. There are a lot of hidden treasures and locations to be discovered while playing, things we can’t simply stumble upon unless we go out of our way looking for them.

Story
The story has been very intriguing. While on one side we have Dronya’s main story, which apparently is to uncover the mystery that envelops the underground Labyrinth beneath Refrain, on the other side we have the stories that we stumble upon in all the different realms we visit. Though in some instances the writers have tried too hard to make the script funny, resulting in some very cringe-worthy situations, the real gem here is how unexpectedly grim the Labyrinth "side" stories are. I must say some of them left me either speechless or appalled. Sadly, they lack emphasis and thus it’s hard for the reader to actually care about them.

Combat System
The combat system stands way above the story in its entirety. As we’ve covered before, we can place our Puppets either in the Vanguard or the Rearguard. This will become important very soon in the game since the formation we choose for our Brigade will impact the passive bonuses that we receive at the start of every turn. The combat is turn-based. At the start of every turn we decide what our Covens are going to do: attack, use donum (the Coven’s special Spells) or fortify coven (boosts defenses). We don’t have an actual way of knowing who’s going to attack first.

Another neat little thing about the combat system is that we don’t have to wait it out every turn. Instead, we can hold down either ENTER, SPACE BAR or X to speed the battle process up. While I don’t recommend doing it if you’ve just started the game, once you’ve gotten familiar with the system it’s a good way to progress faster.

Content
Labyrinth of Refrain’s content is incredibly extensive. I am 30 hours in and I don’t feel like I’ve even covered 10% of the game as a whole. Between main and post-game, Labyrinth offers up to ~100/200 hours of gameplay, depending on what you wish to do.

Technical Analysis

Graphics
The graphics aren’t anything special in Coven of Dusk, but they don’t need to be. The main focus of the game is the characters after all: as opposed to a somewhat lacking setting and atmosphere, particular attention was given to the sprites so to create most detailed representations of the characters that we have to come to hate or love.

VA and music
Labyrinth of Refrain’s composer is Tenpei Sato, a seasoned artist whose pieces are always on point with any given situation creating tunes that will undoubtedly leave you awestruck.

Highly accomplished voice actors have taken part in the game’s making, both for the Japanese VA team as well as in the English one. Between them, we have Jun Fukushima, Eri Sendai, and Kenta Sasa.

Performance
The game runs very smoothly. Haven’t experienced stutters or fps drops at all. Speeding up battles never caused problems with special effects overlapping with each other.

HUD
The HUD has been nicely laid out and everything is easy to see and reach. No annoying hidden menus.

Bugs Encountered
The Opening Scene’s black screen. Merely restarting the game is useless. Instead, change the Text language to Japanese and skip until the next save point. Then switch to English once more. You’ll lose some lore.

Wrapping up
I dived into the game with little to no expectations and came out extremely satisfied. For any Dungeon Crawler fan, this comes very close to being a must. There’s enough content and depth to make it very well worth the price it’s asking for.

RATING: 8.5/10

Disclaimer:
This product was reviewed with a key provided by the developer for free.

Follow our curator page, Alexander’s Club Curations if you like and want to see more reviews like this one.

KRAUSER-SAMA

Posted: October 13, 2018
Follow our curator page, OCG-Curations if you like and want to see more reviews like this one.

The Short of it

Pros:
+Fairly enjoyable story
+Great art for fans of Disgaea
+Strong combat system
+Interesting exploration mechanics
+Quality music and voice work

Cons:
-UI is a bit cluttered
-Dungeon designs can get old

More In-depth

+Story: The story as well as the dialogue that’s exchanged by the characters is enjoyable with it’s ups and downs. As a dungeon crawler the majority of the game’s plot is involved with the labyrinth you’re exploring. The story in it’s basest form, isn’t that interesting per se, being “get to the bottom”, but the interactions you unlock as you progress as well as the new locations and enemies you encounter make the experience worth it.

+Art: The art is incredibly well done, those who are familiar with works by Nippon Ichi Software will notice an uncanny resemblance to their popular Disgaea series. The reason being that the artist is the same person. From a more general perspective, you will enjoy the 2D sprites in the game, but if you’re a fan of Disgaea than you will be far more infatuated with the game than the average player.

+Exploration: Now here’s the main spectacle of the game, the dungeon crawling. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, then it’s most simple to say that you’re in an unknown location (no map provided) and you must explore it and make your way around as you learn the different paths and where they lead. The thing that Coven of Dusk does however, is stray from the ordinary in this formula. Particularly, by giving you the ability to destroy walls, quite different from finding a switch and unlocking a secret room. You’ll often be met with dead ends or seemingly no way of getting to the other side based on what you’ve mapped out. The solution? Break down everything and discover a way around that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Not all walls are destructible but you learn to differentiate based on the map.

+Covens: Covens are your battle stations more or less. You assign fighters, mages, healers, etc. to different covens and will receive bonuses based on what that coven is meant for. Some covens will give you more damage, others can provide certain spells. You can have up to 5 of these covens and the formation you take with them is flexible and entirely up to you. Though I imagine on much harder difficulties, much smarter fine tuning will have to be involved (Side note: Difficulty is changed based on purchases in game with mana which I think is interesting versus simply having it as a setting to change, and no not with an in store purchase with real money). For the most part, these covens are pretty self explanatory, and become easier to understand just by playing the game. The game does offer some tutorials that lay out the basics but the more in-depth stuff is left for you to figure out. Ultimately, I find these covens to be well thought out in how they were designed, and allow for a more balanced experience (It should be noted party/coven management can get a bit daunting later on in the game as you unlock covens that can house multiple characters).

+Sound: The music wasn’t anything that particularly hit home with me for this game, but that isn’t to say that the music isn’t good. I will however say that the english dubbing of the game is well done and is used in all main story dialogues, while it would be nice if all dialogue was voiced (like those with NPCs you meet in the dungeons), I suppose I can’t complain on that account as this is the case with most JRPGs

UI: I’m going to be frank, I had to look up how to do simple things more times than I care to admit. The UI looks nice, but also feels cluttered or poorly described. My personal example of choice is figuring out what certain skills do when you join a coven. When joining a coven you often see the list of skills that are granted when you join, but those skills are only named and don’t provide any more information. Apparently, you need to press the “Y” equivalent of an Xbox controller, which the UI only refers vaguely to as “Menu”. There are other small things that are very easy to miss that are useful in the game, but their impact on the overall experience is only somewhat annoying.

Dungeons getting out of style: There are many floors to the Labyrinth of Refrain, and floors are allocated to being a part of a certain area. For easy visualization let’s say, floors 1-4 are area A, while floors 5-8 are designated to being area B. The overall style and design of the two areas are completely different, but you can imagine how long it can take to get out of any given area. While reaching a new area is nice and refreshing, you’re often going around the four floors of the area for a while, and each floor honestly looks too much like any other floor in the area. Simply put, it’s pretty bare bones in terms of its dungeon design and can get slightly old for some players.

Conclusion

While the main attraction of the dungeons can get a bit bland depending on your patience, the game is filled with content and maintains being entertaining for the most part as long as you progress through the game at a steady rate. Controls and mechanics are fairly easy to pick up for any players who may be unfamiliar with the genre. Whether you’re new to dungeon crawlers or not, if you have an interest in the genre, I recommend picking up this title.

Riesling

Posted: November 15, 2018
I cannot recommend this game in its current state. The random crashes in the later parts of the game are very annoying and need to be fixed.

The concept, gameplay and even story are all great. Just not sure if it is worth it if your experience keeps getting interrupted

korsobar

Posted: September 19, 2018
A modern dungeon crawler that even has 4k textures so it looks really nice and crystal clear on 4k screen (a first for dungeon crawlers on steam afaik).

There is a deep system of building sub-units for your party. Puppet units fit into covens that can have several active (controlled) and supporting (stat buffing) members. You arrange your five covens into a front and rear line and eventually unlock formation bonuses depending on how you arrange them.

The dungeons seem simple at first but then you suddenly are able to smash the walls and find out what you thought was empty space might just be filled with treasure and with monsters that can be much harder. Loot has rng rarity levels to keep things interesting.

There is an intriguing story to give the dungeon crawling some purpose and the music seems pretty good, too. The main character is amusingly mean and vindictive. Some of the areas are designed around fun themes like a city of tiny gnomes where you are giants.

Mobs in the dungeons are visible shortly after the start of the game. You can run from them, surprise them, hide from them, etc. Weak monster groups may simply run away. This is a nice time saver when you have to go back over older areas compared to games that have random encounters.

More importantly to me and unlike in some other recent dungeon crawlers, death isn’t super heavily penalized. I’ve wiped several times already and wipes seems inevitable since you can incidentally wander into areas with mobs far past your party’s ability or fall into a deep hole. A party wipe kicks you out of the dungeon and you will have to pay silver to fix up your puppets but you are earning decent silver from treasures constantly as you explore — even when you are retreading explored areas– so you should always be able to recover. However if you want more pain and suffering (or less) there is an option to adjust mob difficulty for greater rewards.

Finally, there is also a pretty open-ended re-leveling system that improves stat growth each iteration and allows cross-class skill transfer. Put together with the equipment enhancement system, this leaves a lot of room for extreme builds to tackle extreme post-main game content.

If you are into dungeon crawlers, this is an easy purchase. It is by far the best looking one I’ve seen so far with enough depth and quality to make it worth the high price.

cublikefoot

Posted: September 18, 2018
Product received for free

Video review (including score):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4v97IIhaqY
The rundown:
Pros:
+ Cool party system
+ Easy to learn, hard to master combat
+ Interesting dungeon-crawling mechanics
Cons:
– Bland dungeon design
– Lack of direction
– Stuttering issues

It seems that NIS America has learned their lesson from Ys VIII with their latest release, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. On top of being a great port, Labyrinth of Refrain offers up plenty of fun for a dungeon crawler, including a cool party system, easy-to-learn combat, and a number of interesting dungeon-crawling mechanics to shake up the experience. However, the game is not without fault, especially when it comes to its sense of direction and dungeon design.

Pros:
Cool party system. Labyrinth of Refrain has an excellent party system to it, one of the best I have seen in a dungeon crawler. The exploration in the game is actually done by puppets, which can be created, repaired, and destroyed at the player’s discretion. When creating a puppet, there are a number of options to choose from. This includes the basics (such as class, appearance, name, and starting skills) as well as some other, more customizable traits (such as nickname, attitude, lucky number, and even flavor text). I quite liked how in-depth the creation system was and was happy to see that level of customization extended to the actual party configuration. In order to be used, puppets need to be assigned to a coven, which is basically a smaller group in the overall party. These covens decide both available spells and party size. As one gets later into the game, covens can be found that include higher-level spells and allow several puppets to be assigned to a single unit, which in turn allows parties of massive sizes. By the time I was six hours into the game, I was managing a party of nine members, all with custom builds and item loadouts. The amount of customization the game allows in that regard really lends itself well to the overall experience.

Easy to learn, hard to master combat. Despite the complexity behind the game’s party system, the combat is actually rather easy to pick up. The commands available are pretty much self-explanatory. There’s attack, use spell, fortify, escape, and formation, all commands I was able to get the hang of pretty quickly. However, the combat is not any less satisfying due to this simplicity. In fact, the combat falls into the whole “easy to learn, hard to master” category. This is because the customization of the party system plays a huge role in how the combat plays out. Factors like coven layout, vanguard or rearguard status, and spell availability can all have a massive impact on how battles turn out. For example, you probably would want to avoid assigning a healer or support puppet to a fighter coven, as they would lose access to the spells that make them useful. As such, the combat can be quite in-depth at times, but nothing is stopping the player from just assigning every puppet to an offensive coven. In fact, if the player wants to keep the combat as simple as possible, he/she can do just that and can also apply a difficulty option that makes all enemies weaker (at the expense of less rewards earned from exploration). There is even a reverse to that option, which makes all enemies tougher, but with more rewards available. As such, the combat can be as complex and difficult as the player likes.

Interesting dungeon-crawling mechanics. It is quite normal for dungeon crawlers to have gimmicks such as holes that can be fallen through, tiles that can be jumped to, and doors that require switches to be opened. Labyrinth of Refrain has all of this and more. In fact, there is one mechanic in particular that really shakes up the gameplay: the ability to break walls. This adds a whole new level to the gameplay, as now there are secret rooms, hallways, and entirely new areas that can be reached just by breaking a wall in a previously-explored area. I quite enjoyed breaking a wall or two to discover a hidden chest, it made the exploration far more interesting.

Cons:
Bland dungeon design. For a dungeon crawler, Labyrinth of Refrain has some pretty barebones dungeon design. There is so little variety in the assets used in each dungeon that discovering a new area or going to a new floor is almost always a letdown. For the most part, it is more of the same — same textures, same models, and even similar layouts. In fact, it seemed as if the only real difference between each floor were the enemies contained within. For a game that does so well elsewhere, it is an absolute shame that the dungeon design could not match that quality.

Lack of direction. While the wall-breaking mechanic is neat and all, it certainly does not help that the game provides little instruction on what to do at any given moment. Usually, the only instruction given to the player is “to continue exploring the labyrinth”, which would normally be fine for a dungeon crawler like this, but the game actually has a story to it with objectives that need to be completed. At one point during my playthrough, I had managed to get stuck for almost an entire hour because I did not realize that I had accidentally explored past a story objective. In fact, I had somehow managed to complete the requirements for the next two story objectives before I realized I missed something. The game at least provides some sense of direction by placing exclamation marks on the map for events, but not all of these are story-related and there are even some that do not appear to add anything at all to the game. I found one such point that just stated something a sign could have, without triggering any sort of event. The game could really do with some more pointers on what needs to be done, so as to prevent players unknowingly going down the wrong path.

Stuttering issues. Labyrinth of Refrain may be an excellent PC port, but it is not perfect. One of the technical issues I ran into was some minor stuttering issues during combat and dialogue sequences. These stutters would freeze the game for a second and then loop the background music back to the start. They did not occur often, but it is a technical issue regardless and should be noted.

Overall:
For a dungeon crawler, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk has a really nice party and combat system. Combined with the interesting exploration mechanics and you have a pretty solid game. However, the actual dungeon design is rather subpar and the fact that the game provides little sense of direction certainly does not help either. Even so, I enjoyed my time with the game and do recommend it.

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PvtRyan

Posted: December 27, 2018
I’m not even a fan of DRPGs but the gameplay is easy enough to get into once you get past the daunting learning curve regarding menu-ing. The real shining aspect of the game is the cast, which, honestly, is absolutely ♥♥♥♥ing hilarious. Every character has had me figuratively rolling on the floor at one point or another. They’re amazing and I love them. Everyone’s a bit of an ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ (except Luca), but even the worst of the bunch is so funny that the snark is more than justified.

The game doesn’t skirt around sexual/crass topics, which is very refreshing. It simply presents them in bold and full form in a manner comparable to Gilbert Gottfreid’s rendition of "The Aristocrats." It doesn’t have that "teehee" sort of middle schooler view of sexual stuff, either. It just skips straight past all that to play it all for laughs.

Obviously avoid if you’re offended by that, but for the rest of you all, give it a try. It’s amazing. The only complaints I have are the occasional black screen bugs (which seem to have been mostly fixed?), the ocassionally-repetitive music, and an early-mid-game slump in party customization.

Clareity

Posted: October 21, 2018
Grand total: 8/10

Characters: 8/10

Honestly, give the characters a chance. At the beginning of the game, it feels like the cast is fairly stereotypical, and you have good reason to not like a lot of them. As the game unveils, a lot of the interactions are given fair justification and I came to like a lot of them.

Plot: 10/10

Hands down, this is one of the best JRPGs stories i’ve ever played or read through. The story is extremely sparse, and there really isn’t that much "going on" in the story as most of the plot development happens in the past or future . But the delivery and the way the story unfolds is simply amazing. Moments which were bleh and overlooked super early on suddenly becoming extremely relevant and intentional – and that’s the amazing part about the game. They manage to make REALLY important moments seem completely irrelevant, stupid, or dumb. A lot of the heaviness of the story is downplayed early on, and only when then plot twist comes in the later half of the story do you realize the significance of the events.

This even fits in perfectly with the pacing of the game, with the opening half being fairly light hearted and cheery and growing naturally in a more serious and brooding tone.

My favourite moments: The Tutorial and the Credits. The latter was a legit tearjerker.

Combat/Gameplay: 7.5/10

Love it or hate it, the game is GRINDY. I found it a tad too grindy for my tastes as the grinding was not interesting at all (walk around, stockpile exp, mash auto attack or donums). The gameplay is fairly interesting and there are quite a few interesting things you can do to make your characters really strong or weak – unfortunately I found myself hating the grinding more than I enjoyed it. i wish there was a bit more strategy in combat, as once the game is "figured out" you basically do the same thing over and over (tank in front, defending, everyone else mashing attacks, heal once in a while). It feels like there weren’t enough interesting mechanics to really challenge you in most fights. Make no mistake though, the game is HARD until you get the hang of it.

Dungeon exploring can be fairly fun and interesting – but what’s super annoying is the lack of proper hints to objectives. Sometimes your objectives can be extremely difficult and obtuse to find, especially in situations where they leave red exclamation marks on the map EVEN AFTER YOU’VE GONE TO THEM, and you’re supposed to go to old points AGAIN. I don’t mind some exploring, but damn they couldn’t have had markers of different colours to highlight which point is relevant to your objective? Some backtracking is to be expected but honestly some parts of the game can make you extremely frustrated. Amadeus Necropolis is hell

Other stuff: 7/10

The overall world building is fairly average, the aesthetic is your typical NIS stuff. Really nothing to rave about.

Closing comments:

This game has one of the best stories i’ve ever read through, hands down. The gameplay is unforunately a slight letdown in that it has a good base, but can get very repetitive once it’s "solved". It’s interesting for the first 25 hours, which I would say is pretty good in terms of how the game plays out, but once you reach the endgame, it becomes an incredible grind and it loses a lot of it’s novelty.

Is it worth playing?

Definitely play it, if only for the story. You can always change the game to easy mode just to get through the story faster, and IMO is 100% worth it, because the story is that damn good.

Ω/眼鏡bot

Posted: February 10
wow i bought this bc my Etrian Odyssey Nexus still hasn’t shipped yet



+ An upgrade with a twist to dungeon-crawling-first-person-turn-based-RPG-anime-portraits-whatever Etrian Odyssey series has done for us. Seems like a copycat at first, but NIS managed to bend all mechanics off enough, thus making Refrain entirely another game with an inspiration from Etrian series.

– Scratches your Etrian Odyssey itches well, however doesn’t satisfy you with some elements Etrian has to offer, such as: difficulties, customization, fill-in-the-blanks, etc.

+ Less punishing than Etrian. The game offers alot of strengthening choices other than level grinding and team composition. (May change post-game. Although, Etrians have the super-bosses and post-dungeons that are entirely pain-in-the♥♥♥♥♥to finish also.)

+ Unique and interesting choices of visuals, themes, and story-telling. The M-rating for the game is real, for NIS’s dark humors that half of the time is really bizarre and disturbing. Reminds you of those endings the Grimm Brothers always write at the end of their tales.

– In comparison with EO5, this gives for a too few visual customization choices. Although that can be understood with the amount of personal content used for the brigade, such as voice actings, monster designs, and "resonance" arts.

– The amount of stats for the characters can be easily considered overwhelming and sometimes hard to master, even though this makes the stat customization very personal and varied.

– IMPORTANT: As of February 2019, the black-screen bug has still not been fixed. This is the only downside that’s unforgiving for this game if you’re going to buy it; please be considered about this bug, and if you’re the type to get irritated over saving often or restarting the game every 2 floors dungeon runs, PLEASE RECONSIDER THIS.



Tl;dr, a turn-based dungeon-crawler with dark-fairytale-humor and storytelling that’s not too hard to learn, not as punishing as Etrian Odyssey series, but hard to master and can sprout a personal challenge.

Coffeebadger

Posted: October 7, 2018
I want to love this game I really do! but these crashes with no autosave kills like 30-40 min of my gametime and I am constantly losing progress. Until these random crashes and freezes are fixed I thoroughly do NOT recommend this game.

Update, after a few patches it looks like they still haven’t fixed crashing bugs. Sadly I cannot refund this purchase but I won’t be buying anything from NiS on steam anymore.