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.