NIS America’s Lapis x Labyrinth is out, and it’s a little bit unconventional. It’s an action-RPG that sends you into dungeons on a constant search for loot. Except, there’s also a focus on brevity. It wants to get you in and out of a dungeon ASAP. Which can feel a bit odd. In fact, it can actually feel like it’s learning from mobile games, even if it isn’t directly calling to mind or playing like a specific title.
To start, Lapis x Labyrinth, made me think of Dragalia Lost. In particular, the feel of that game when someone has a dagger-user as their primary character and the speed doubled on a quest. Things become a flurry, where you don’t really focus on what’s in front of you. You just keep tapping away, attacking anything that gets close to you. There are many times when that happens in Lapis x Labyrinth. You walk into an area. When only a few enemies are around, it is easy to prioritize. But, it never stays that way. A few steps in can temporarily trap you with a horde that all needs to go before you can keep going. When that happens, focusing isn’t a luxury you have. It becomes about button mashing, knowing which character is next in your stack for certain skills, and beating down anything in range to survive.
Lapis x Labyrinth’s time limits can make it feel as though the game is trying to rush you along. When handled in the right way, this can be a virtue. For the most part, it works. You get five minutes. If you dawdle, a one-hit death awaits you. It forces you to think fast. Again, it feels like a mobile experience, where someone might not be encouraged to really explore.
The equipment limitations remind me of games like Fate/Grand Order and Revue Starlight Re Live. When you find new pieces of equipment, you can’t just go ahead and equip it. Instead, you have to earn the right to have all of the nice things you have earned. The two aforementioned mobile games cap you at certain power levels until you play more and reach a higher rank. Which means you only can have a certain number of party members or have to wait to have certain items equipped.
With Lapis x Labyrinth, your limitations don’t have any effect on how many party members you can or can’t have. You can always have up to four with you. As well you should, because you want to have more so you can jump more times or use additional skills. But, that power limit means that maybe the Maid you have later in the stack doesn’t have weapons as good as the Hunter that is your active party member. Maybe only the Shielder gets to have the “good” armor and an actual artifact equipped, while a Necromancer only gets to have a weapon.
Speaking of equipment, the method of acquiring rewards after a dungeon run can feel like you’re participating in a gacha system. Your performance after a run gives you keys. You get to see a number of chests you have earned from your performance. (Defeating more enemies, finding more items, and reaching higher ranks means more chests and keys.) Except, you don’t know what you’ll find here. You aren’t even guaranteed you’ll get equipment for the characters you are actively using. For example, before I even made a Necromancer, I was being offered scythes. There is also the frustration of wasting keys on previous treasure pulls, only to find yourself presented with a good chest later on and not having enough keys to open it.
It is a direction that feels familiar, but also a bit off-putting. People might expect that sort of brevity in a console game. Then again, since the whole point is to go into the labyrinth, complete a quick task, get your goods, then head back in, people might learn to appreciate that. After all, if you know you’ll have to perform a repetitive task multiple times in a row to make real headway, might as well know it won’t take you too long to advance. If people are willing to adjust, they might find it an interesting experience, especially on a hybrid system like the Nintendo Switch.
Lapis x Labyrinth will come to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in North America on May 28, 2019, in Europe on May 31, 2019, and in Australia on June 7, 2019. It is immediately available in Japan.