Labyrinth Legend is a recent release on the Switch from NIS America. This action RPG started life on mobile devices and is a perfect example of a game where the numbers go up.
Title: Labyrinth Legend
Suggested Audience Age: Everyone 10+
Time to Play: 10 minutes at a time for the rest of your natural-born life
Availability: Switch, PC, Android, iOS
Recommended for fans of: Hacking and Slashing, Mobile Gaming, and stat boosts
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I went into Labyrinth Legend knowing next to nothing about it. I knew that NIS America was known for publishing fantastic RPGs with big stories and crunchy systems, and I knew that this particular game, with its top-down combat, gave me Zelda vibes, and that was about it. Now that I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit in Labyrinth Legend, I can report that it has almost no story and unrewarding combat and… I still keep going back to playing it over and over, because the numbers go up.
A Template for Rogue Likes
I’d like to start this review by telling you a little bit about the story of Labyrinth Legend. That’d be nice, right? We could settle down together, maybe you’d be sitting on a rug in front of a fireplace while I slowly rocked in a big, comfy rocking chair, regaling you with tales of adventure and magic while the embers slowly faded away…
Yeah, that’d be cool. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the story of Labyrinth Legend because I’m not entirely sure that this game has a story. I mean, I’m sure that when I first started it up a villager in the town that serves as your home base told me something about the monster-infested wilderness just across the river. They must have given me some reason to venture into that dangerous territory over and over again. I’d guess there was even some sort of an explanation for why each of the different environments I can visit is procedurally generated, or how I was able to revive myself in the town with all my loot each time I died.
But if they did, I have no memory of any of it. Instead, the basic mechanics I’ve come to expect from any roguelike game superseded any narrative hooks, and my progression through this game became purely about “doing the roguelike thing” rather than being driven by any kind of plot.
Combat is… fine
I mentioned earlier that I was getting Zelda vibes from the screenshots of this game. It’s a 2D, top-down adventure where you use a sword or other weapons and magical items to take out enemies as you progress through a dungeon. Unfortunately, taking out enemies is the only way that you progress at all. This game is nothing but combat. If you’re looking for a game rogue-like game that borrows a lot more from the Zelda franchise, Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is what you are after.
The big problem with the focus on combat is that the combat in Labyrinth Legend is never very satisfying. There’s a big variety of weapons and magical spells you can equip, with different ranges, fields of effect, and DPS. However, since the enemies mostly don’t react to getting hit until they are dead (the same issue I had with Demoniaca) the best strategy I found was to equip a weapon that would attack all around me, then run and dodge away from enemies as I slowly eroded their health. You don’t even have to time out your attacks, since just holding down the attack button will rapid-fire them.
There are a lot of enemies you’ll come up against, but most of them just sort of wander towards you like a sad zombie from Vampire Survivors. Unlike that game, though, you’re always going to be in some cramped corridor, so even running doesn’t feel good. The boss fights at the end of each level are pretty dang cool. There are good patterns to work out, and some of them have really neat animations. However, since the game gives you a checkpoint when you reach the boss I almost always died on my first attempt, went back to town to buff up all of my gear, then just started at the boss with full health and healing items and beat them immediately.
Nothing here is broken, it’s just not very rewarding.
The Numbers Do Go Up Though
I like to fashion myself as an individual of class. I value the finer things in my video games, like a rewarding cover-based tactical system or a story that would bring a tear to the eye of even the most steadfast Thwomp. Video games are, indisputably, the most involved form of artistic expression, wherein every detail from the shading of a pixel to the sound of footsteps works together to create an interactive experience that enraptures the heart and mind of the player.
But sometimes all you need is for the numbers to go up.
Labyrinth Legend may not have a compelling story or a rewarding combat loop, but boy-howdy does it have numbers that go up.
As you hold down the attack button and vaguely walk near shambling enemies to exterminate them, they frequently drop new weapons, spells, armor, and accessories. Each piece of gear has a star rating to indicate its rarity, so you are constantly checking your menu to see if you can equip something new to make your stat numbers go up.
On top of the base stats, you can visit the blacksmith in town to augment your equipment. Spending a few resources gives you a new boost to your gear so the stat numbers go up even more.
There’s also a merchant in town who will sell you all sorts of items to increase your carrying capacity, the number of pets you can keep in storage (they provide passive number increases), or specialized weapon techniques. This guy basically runs a Numbers Go Up R Us.
There are several environments that you unlock as you play through the game, each with a difficulty number assigned to them. When you clear a level, a hard mode unlocks and the difficulty number goes up.
I honestly have no idea whether I like Labyrinth Legend or not. It’s a pretty route game with a kind of generic art style and bland combat and nothing about playing it feels very satisfying. It’s taken me ages to write this review because every time I try to sit down I find myself with absolutely nothing to say about it. So, naturally, I boot the game back up to try to figure out how I feel about it, and then an hour or two later I come out of a fugue state with only one thought in mind: the numbers do go up.