Labyrinth of Refrain – retro dungeons in Disgaea’s style

Labyrinth of Refrain : Coven of Dusk

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is an old-school dungeon delver from Disgaea studio Nippon Ichi, in the style of Sir-tech’s classic Wizardry games. Assemble an entirely custom party, loot, level and explore dungeon mazes in first person while trying not to lose too many of your characters to greed, overconfidence and bad luck before you can return to the surface to restock. It’s launching this September.

So that you don’t feel too bad about sending your minions to their untimely demise, Labyrinth of Refrain puts a nice psychological barrier between you and your troops. While the story may revolve around a witch’s quest to protect a town from monsters, you play as her sentient spellbook – Tractatus de Monstrum – and summon puppet soldiers to assemble into squads to send into the dungeons. They may have faces, and personalities and voices, but they’re just expendable toys, right? No reason to care at all when they get fangoriously devoured by a grue.

Unlike Wizardry, it looks like you can deploy some impressively large parties, with multiple characters filling a single ‘formation’ slot in your ranks and multiple characters in the back row apparently being drawn on if you have enough points in your reinforcement gauge. It seems safe to assume the studio’s obsession with hilariously large numbers will continue well into the inevitable endgame grind, but it does look to be a little more mechanically restrained than their famously wild strategy-RPG series.

All of this is held together with Nippon Ichi’s trademark style. Disgaea artist & composer duo Takehito Harada and Tenpei Sato return to give the game an immediately familiar vibe although the subject matter seems a little darker and more gothic than Disgaea’s slapstick war across the cartoon netherworld. It also seems more than a little bit raunchier, as the Mature rating and this eyebrow-raising clip would imply.

The lady with the eyepatch is apparently a nun of all things, but has clearly gotten into some bad habits. Nippon Ichi really seem to be stepping up their focus on PC publishing, although they’ve had a fair few technical issues releasing on our multifaceted platform, with the upcoming Disgaea 5 now hovering in limbo without any launch date. Here’s hoping this one’s journey to PC is a little smoother.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk will be released this September 18th, and you can wishlist it over here on Steam. You can also get a peek at some extra details on the official site here.

12 Comments

  1. bigpilgrim says:

    nooo!!!! I only just got Disgaea 5 which will take hundreds of hours to complete, probably! is there any way to double the length of summer?!

    very excited though, haven’t played one of those first person dungeon crawler things since I was a kid. if the developer’s track record is any indication I will fall deep into this dark[er] dungeon.

  2. Vinraith says:

    Somewhat reminiscent of the (outstanding) Etrian Odyssey series on DS (which I wish they’d port to PC). I’m not big on anime styling but I can look past it for a good dungeon crawler – will keep an eye on this one.

    • NetharSpinos says:

      See, that’s sort of the opposite problem for me. I love the Disagea artwork, but the Etrian Odyssey approach (or, I suppose, the Wizardry approach) of little to no attack animations is what kills my interest. I did for a while play a Touhou fangame built around EO’s style of play, but even that couldn’t hold my interest.

      • juan_h says:

        I like a fancy attack animation the first time, maybe even the first couple of times. The problem with long attack animations in a game like Disagaea, though, is that I end up seeing them hundreds of times. Maybe more, given all the grind. There eventually comes a point where I start resenting them. As it happens I’m (still) playing Disgaea 2 these days and I’ve taken to using low-tier spells–which have much, much shorter animations–in combat because I’d rather save time and skip right to the damage number at the end than do the very maximum amount of damage.

        • vvcq says:

          But… Disgaea lets you turn off the animations entirely, though? Or is this just something they added for the re-releases?

          • juan_h says:

            If they do, I have not yet discovered how. It may not be a thing in Disgaea 2.

          • vvcq says:

            I’ve only played the PSP versions of the first two games, but they certainly had that option. It may have been titled something like “show effects” instead of “play animations” in the options menu, though.

          • bigpilgrim says:

            I’ve been accidentally skipping through some with a button press on Disgaea 5 for Switch, but I hear that’s the most streamlined version with all the bells and whistles, so it may not apply to older ones.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Etrian is completely built around the dual screen gimmick of the 3DS. So much that the series is likely dead after the next entry as most Nintendo game devs move over to the Switch.

      I’d love to see a PC version but they’d literally have to rebuild the games from the ground up.

      • Themadcow says:

        I disagree somewhat. The dual screen isnt necessary for EO – it’s just very handy. It would have been very handy for Bards Tale, Wizardry and many others in the past too. There’s no denying that a dual screen format is ideal for blobbers.

  3. Themadcow says:

    The Sakura Dungeon vibe is strong with this one.

    I’m a fan of Disgaea, Wizardry and Japanese pervyness so count me in.

  4. Mara says:

    Excited for this, but that in-limbo PC release for Disgaea 5 is driving me insane. I want it now and check for updates multiple times a day (and have done for the past several weeks).
    I need my fix!

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