The looter genre is built upon heavy grinding and repetitive tasks in hopes to nap some sweet items for your troubles. However, titles within this genre never really hold my attention for very long after the main campaign because I just don’t see myself staying around just for the loot. Well, at least that’s how I mostly felt about these types of games until I played NIS America’s Lapis x Labyrinth and found it’s fast action-large reward systems to be addictive and fun.
Lapis x Labyrinth doesn’t really have too much of a plot. The game takes place in a town that has a labyrinth underneath it. The town is in some hard times because no one wants to take on the labyrinth anymore, that is until you come around and announce that you’re up for the task. Players choose a character from eight different classes to be their main. Then three other characters can be added to your party and throughout the game, more characters can be recruited to swap in and out of your four-character party.
Each class has a certain strength and weakness, but they are all very capable of survival in the labyrinth. My party ended up being the Necromancer, Shielder, Mage, and Hunter. With this party, I was able to get through the game and master their skills. You see, when you play through the first dungeon, it feels like your simply just mashing away at buttons and things are happening. While this can get your far in the early parts of the game, that won’t be the case in the later dungeons. However, each character has special skills and abilities that, when used properly, will increase your chances of survival. Take the Mage class, while some classes struggle to land hits on flying enemies, the Mage can summon a tornado that easily takes these enemies out. Understanding your party’s abilities is necessary to get through some pretty tough sections of the game.
Dying in the dungeon isn’t all that bad, mostly because you have four characters that each have their own health bar, but fewer characters mean less strength. Dungeons are kept relatively short and are separated into missions and boss battles which are accepted at the guild. Throughout the dungeons, players will need to find enough crystals to power the teleporter to the next floor. These crystals aren’t too difficult to find, but the dungeon maps can get large, and the game only gives you five minutes to complete a floor. After that time passes, a monster will come out that will kill you if you touch it.
There is a risk and reward system on each floor since staying on the floor and collecting crystals as well as fighting off monsters will give you more rewards and valuable experience. However, keeping an eye on the clock is a must if you want to continue on your mission. There were a few times where I pushed my luck to collect more chests, but I usually felt that the time limit was fair and not a problem.
Enemies within the dungeons are everywhere and the game has plenty of variation of enemies around. With that said, there are these flying spike ball enemies that self destruct after being defeated that I really didn’t like, but the other enemies were pretty cool. Interestingly, floor bosses are just overpowered normal enemies while stage bosses get a little more creative. Defeating bosses gives the player chests and completing the dungeons allows players to use points that can be allocated to open even more chests.
The most addictive part about Lapis x Labyrinth is its casino-like design. The game constantly has lights flashing with gold and items swirling around the player as the characters execute these fantastical abilities. This all builds up to the game’s Fever Mode which makes the character invincible as well as powers them up. During this time, which happens more often then you’d think, gems will fill the screen after every attack and breakable blocks will yield rewards. For me, every Fever Mode was just as fun as the last one since the mode is hectic, entertaining, and helped saved my character’s lives more than a few times.
During battles, players can also throw characters into the fight to unleash a special skill. These skills are unique to the character class but don’t match the powerful joint special attack that players can use. This special attack is crucial when surrounded by enemies or facing off against a powerful boss. It easily can change the flow of battle and changes depending on which character initiates it.
While missions are cleared, new structures are built in the town which adds more depth to the game. Whether it’s upgrading the amount of gear you can equip or strengthing weapons and training characters, the level of customization that the town provides is vast. I liked that these structures roll out after dungeons are cleared because it gives the player enough time to actually learn them and get the most out of their offerings.
However, while I was never too short on materials, money becomes the most important thing needed in order to create stronger items and equip powerful buffs. Things in Lapis x Labyrinth can get expensive, but dungeons usually provide the player with enough gold for a couple of upgrades, but still, things end up getting really expensive if say you’re trying to train each member of your party to the maximum level.
When it comes to in-game loot, Lapis Labyrinth has plenty of it. Throughout the dungeons, you’ll collect materials from monsters and chests that range from common to super rare. Weapons and Armor can also be customized at the blacksmith with new skills and special abilities, but finding a weapon that is already Maxed out with a few skills is what you’re looking for. I usually equipped my party with experience, Base HP, and Base Attack increase items. However, there are ways to customize characters to do more damage to certain enemy times, which allows players to create a powerful team of adventures that has the ability to take out any enemy type.
One thing I ended up not liking about Lapis x Labyrinth was the overall dungeon designs. While the themes changed throughout the game, they all felt and looked pretty similar. With that said, there were gimmicks found in levels, but I just didn’t feel too attached to the environments. Another thing I wished the game would do was to make it necessary to change your party more from time to time for an extra bonus or incentive. I found it comfortable just going through the levels with the first party that I created and never felt like I had to create a new party or recruit new members. On the other hand, character and enemy illustrations are beautiful. I mean, it may just be the adorable chubby characters that are difficult for anyone to find attractive, but I loved them.
Here’s the thing about Lapis x Labyrinth, its simple approach to game design pays off immensely to hold the attention for casual gamers while its deep level of character and item customization will hold the attention of all players. The game loop can seem like it’d get repetitive, but it’s just so overly satisfying that the game is fun in short bursts as well as long play sessions. Earning loot and going deeper into the labyrinth is just consistently enjoyable thanks to the way the game constantly rewards players with little incentives to make it easy to say, “Okay, one more floor”, much like a casino does to their guests when they want to walk away from a slot machine.
The addictive nature of Lapis x Labyrinth makes the Nintendo Switch a great platform to play the game on. Surprisingly, I never saw a dip in framerate or quality even when it seemed like hundreds of things were going on on the screen at once. The game’s steady difficulty increase and additional structures make the game so approachable and easy to manage that it made me a fan of the looter genre — and the adorable characters were just the icing on the cake. If you’re looking for an addictive and fun action RPG filled with loot and cute characters, Lapis x Labyrinth is worth playing through.
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