Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk Builds a Better Mining Canary

People who enjoy importing and playing Japanese games may get a feeling of deja vu with Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. This is because this title was originally released for the PlayStation Vita in Japan as Coven and Labyrinth of Refrain. The following year Japanese gamers were given a release of Coven and Labyrinth of Refrain for PlayStation 4, and to keep this title’s release an annual event, gamers in North America and Europe will be given this game with the slightly modified title. Oh and it’s also made by the same developers as Disgaea, which may factor into personal levels of interest.

In the world Tanis there is a town called Refrain, and beneath Refrain is a miasma filled labyrinth. The labyrinth is unexplored, though legends speak of what might lurk within. Some say it holds the key to ruling the world, or perhaps it may hold the secret to immortality. Possibly, but no one knows for sure though one day the witch Dusk Witch Dronya, who is in possession of a book called Tractatus de Monstrum, which is supposedly written by the only person who ever explored the labyrinth and survived (spoiler: he eventually died). The problem with exploring this labyrinth is that aforementioned miasma that’s all over the place has the inconvenient side effect of death.

Death can put a damper on one’s exploration plans, but being a witch Miss Dronya has a solution figured out in order to explore the labyrinth and remain not dead. She is able to create puppet soldiers which are considered Manania. When these soldiers are exposed to the high levels of magic energy found in the labyrinth they end up coming to life as sentient beings, able to explore the deadly miasma clouds and remain alive long enough to unravel the mysteries of the labyrinth and live to tell the tale. This is assuming that there are no monsters in the labyrinth that will completely obliterate these living doll soldiers, which is where the player comes in. The player actually assumes the role of the Tractatus de Monstrum, so you get to play as a book. And the book needs to bring in a brigade of soldiers to explore the labyrinth.

The player will command groups of soldiers called Covens. Each soldier will be assigned to one of six classes (called Facets) and is meticulously handcrafted by Dronya’s apprentice Luca. The strength of the coven will be determined by the individual soldiers within, and several Covens (called a Brigade) will fight the various monsters in the dungeon. The gameplay is a 3D dungeon crawler, explored from the first person perspective with random enemy encounters fought in good old turn based RPG combat.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk 
has an interesting premise. While not enough time was spent with the demo to form a strong opinion in either direction, it shows enough promise to be a title for fans of dungeon crawlers to put on their radar. While this is a different type of game, the character designs have strong echoes of Disgaea which can cause one to speculate that some of that franchise’s charm may permeate this title like some not so deadly miasma. Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is scheduled for release worldwide on PC September 18, and North American PlayStation 4 and Switch on that same day, while Europe has to wait until September 21 for their PlayStation 4 and Switch release.