Dungeon-crawling RPG’s are becoming an ideal genre to relax to. It’s a genre that is slipping into the mainstream, just like the soulsborne genre before that. There’s something special to furthering the depths of a dungeon not knowing what’s coming and slowly exploring every inch of the map. Some are more action orientated like Hades, while games like Slay the Spire require intellect. Most use randomised elements that make every match feel different, although you never get a true sense of accomplishment like you do when conquering a level completely. Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society lets you learn the entire map over subsequent delves into the dungeons with so many layers combined in a unique and gratifying story.
The story begins with Eureka, a young noble woman who travels to Galleria Mansion after finding a job posting. After the witch, Madame Marta takes the chance on Eureka she gives her the job as her assistant. The two both answer to the Count of the manor who is seeking rare artefacts hidden underneath the grounds. Madame Marta sends Eureka along with her lantern Fantie to explore the labyrinth underneath the manor left behind by a previous owner years ago. She’s not sure how far it goes, but after finding the catalogue of Curios d’art the Count of the manor sends them out to collect them all. Every time Eureka hits an obstacle stopping her progress Madame Marta will find a solution for her to further her exploration efforts. Between each delve you meet new characters that become allies and a story that is seemingly much darker than the cheery disposition each character is conveying. In the later half of the game things are upturned in an unexpected and shocking way that will keep you hooked.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has a lot of content and game mechanics that are revealed with each map allowing you to go deeper into the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a massive puzzle that you must uncover step by step as the map is completely blank. In the beginning the path you carve out is very linear, and then you learn the spell Wall Break which lets you break down walls. After learning this skill your fundamental thinking of how to play this game changes. You find key items behind walls that are only accessible by breaking them down. Eventually you will have more obstacles that will require new skills and open up new ways to explore. From jumping over big crevices, to being able to hold your breath for longer under water. In the labyrinth you fight by using puppet soldiers. These puppets are given souls to come to life and you can customise their name and stats. You then allocate them to covens which allow for special move-sets and bonuses. You start off with a maximum of five puppets on you, until you unlock more covens allowing for you to hold up to forty.
The systems in combat can be overwhelming to learn, and I’ll say I’m still learning things I didn’t know. The more understanding of the combat you have the more you appreciate every battle, especially ones during boss battles that can wipe you out quickly if you are not well prepared. That leads to the difficulty, the game is not a cake walk or a sprint. You need to take your time and level yourself up sometimes before continuing. Each area has a helpful guide of what level you should be before taking it on. Even if you choose to go to an easier world, being the easier difficulty you still need to be careful of being overwhelmed by the difficulty spikes.
The art style is beautiful and juxtaposes the cutesy cutscenes with the gritty dangers of the labyrinth gameplay spectacularly. The character animation is great and something that is always a trademark of NIS games, as well as their deep RPG systems that let you level up your stats to intense heights. Considering the absurd amount of puppets you can have at your disposal it would have been ideal to have more choices in character portraits, as you will have multiple of the same character and can only change their portrait colour. The music is fittingly reminiscent of Disgaea games and goes well with the darker tone the game possess.
The game is being marketed as having fifty hours of gameplay, however I would say if you do finish it that quickly you are very skilled and have left a lot of areas unturned. There is a ton of content in this game that could have you even double the marketed time. The game was originally released in Japan over two years ago and in that time they have given the game a full English voice cast. The voice over is very well done and brings life to the characters. It would be great to see these localisation efforts have a quicker turn around time in the west.
Overall, Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has a wonderful story with the deepest DRPG systems I’ve encountered. There is strong competition in gaming this year and this game may not find itself in the hands of everyone, but will be a surprise hit for gamers that do take the plunge. Hopefully the series continues and acts like a sister series to NIS’s mainstream hit Disgaea. This game is great up on the big screen, and feels at home on the handheld. I played much of it on the Backbone through remote play and hours would fly by laying on the sofa. Of all the NIS games I’ve played this is one of my favourites, and one of the best. May it leave its hooks in you too.
Review copy provided by NIS America.
Available from February 14th on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.