Monday 19 June 2023

Labyrinth of Zangetsu Review (Switch)


Of the many genres that have seen a revival in the last few years it is fair to say that the 3D dungeon crawler has been somewhat ignored. There have been a few of course, but aside from Etrian Odyssey and Legend of Grimrock there isn’t much that has managed to make an impact with a wider audience. Labyrinth of Zangetsu is certainly trying to standout though with its unique look, which is admittedly what first drew us to it.

When in doubt it’s normally a fairly safe bet to add a Japanese flavour to something. The developers here have bult their world to look like a precession of Japanese ink paintings. The bleak world of black and whites is uniquely and unmistakably set in a land of Japanese folk law with the various monsters and demons from the country making up the monsters to bash. As you move through the world clouds of ink spiral in front of you and serve as your warning that a battle is about to begin should you venture forward another step.

It all looks gorgeous in its grim way and the different environments and monsters are beautifully recreated out of the thick inky black lines and empty whites of the intentionally limited colour palette. It is perhaps a touch of style over content but then it kept us interested far longer because of it and made the dungeons seem so much more interesting than the usual brown blocks of games like Eye of the Beholder.

Away from the aesthetic, the game plays in much the same way as other dungeon crawlers. You move around in a first person view one square at a time disarming traps, searching for keys and encountering monsters. Combat is turn based and each of your team of six has various options depending on their class such as attack, using magic, items, stealing etc. You can decide if you want characters to be at the front or back of the group but generally your options are limited. It follows a standard template so if you’ve played one of these games before you’ll know what you are getting.

Should one of your team die you can try and resurrect them once you are back on safe ground but there is a chance they will turn to ash. When this happens, you’ll need to role another character before exploring again which can be frustrating if you’ve put a lot of time into a certain class. Another thing that makes your journey tricky is that characters only level up when they are back in a town or village. This means you could be out in the wilderness a long time and no matter how many beasts you slay you’ll remain the same level until you return home.

Overall, Labyrinth of Zangetsu is a beautifully atmospheric and wonderful looking game that has standard gameplay underneath it. If you are into dungeon crawlers there’s certainly something here to get into but it lacks the more general appeal of the Etrian Series with all its bells and whistles. We enjoyed our time with the game though and for some a refresh of the setting and a change of the art style will be enough to make the adventure worth undertaking.

Overall 7/10

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