Thursday, January 6, 2022

Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth- Review

Developer: Team Ladybug
Publisher: Playism
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, NS
Price: $20, $25 on Switch because Switch Tax LOL
Version Played: PC

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a Metroidvania based on the long-running Record of Lodoss War series of novels, RPGs, manga, and anime. I've seen a few episodes of the 90s anime, but I have no connection to the series besides that. It looks like an anime take on high fantasy swords and sorcery stuff. More like Fire Emblem than Final Fantasy, though. I don't even know if a Metroidvania is the best fit for a Lodoss War game, but this turned out alright.

I'm sure the first thing most people will notice about Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is its graphics. This game is gorgeous. Deedlit's sprite alone has a ton of stuff going on. Her hair is flowing, her cape is fluttering, she has shadows trailing her, and she has a little familiar following her around. It's almost a little too busy sometimes. All the sprites are incredibly detailed, very well animated, and even though it's yet another high fantasy anime game, the environments have their own unique flavor. I wish there was a little more variety, though. I guess good pixel art just takes a lot of time to make. That's probably why we don't see pixel art this nice very often. The game runs really well on PC too. I never saw it drop below 60FPS.
The soundtrack is also really good. It's mostly orchestral classically-inspired stuff. It’s very epic and grand and reminds me of PS1 era RPGs. There is no voice acting and none of the enemies make much noise, though. That’s kind of disappointing. This series is best known for the anime after all. It’s also strange to kill a giant buzzard without it making some kind of squawking noises.

The gameplay and structure of the game are tried and true Metroidvania. This game is exactly what it looks like. You battle your way through monster-filled halls and stairwells to get to the next save point, explore, fight bosses, hit switches, and acquire new abilities which help you reach new areas. There's nothing new or unique about that. What sets this game apart from the pack is the way magic and the bow are used to fight enemies and solve puzzles.
I've seen bows and guns in lots of 2D games, but they're usually just weapons. While you can certainly use the bow as a weapon here, it's really more like an ability or key item. You mainly use it to solve puzzles. Most of them have you ricocheting arrows off metal plates to hit targets. Aiming works kind of like aiming eggs in Yoshi's Island. You hold down the bow button and a line showing the trajectory of the arrow pops up. You can hit gears on pulleys to open doors and move platforms around, cut ropes, and hit sand bags to make them swing and break stuff. It's pretty cool, and it's something different from the kind of puzzles you usually see in Metroidvanias.
Magic isn't just for shooting fireballs out of your hands here. It’s also used to get past obstacles. There's 2 types of magic, water and fire. You can switch between the 2 with the press of a button. If you're using fire, you can absorb fire magic attacks, so you can pass through fire magic barriers, walk through lava, stand in dragon breath, and all sorts of stuff. Water works the same way, but there really aren't many water obstacles. Your equipped element is also infused into all your melee attacks, arrows, and abilities, so you can also use fire magic to blow things up.
All enemies have resistances and weaknesses to both elements, so you’ll want to constantly switch between them to maximize your damage. It’s a really cool system that’s more than a little reminiscent of Ikaruga, but feels unique in a Metroidvania. It’s especially fun during boss battles where enemies do both types of attacks. Although, it feels like the game sometimes asks too much of the player when bosses do both types of attacks at the same time or in quick succession. I know I did more potion chugging than skillful switching during a few of them.
The more traditional traversal abilities really aren’t anything special. You have a slide, double jump, underwater breathing, the usual. The only thing that’s kind of different is the glide, which is tied to the water element magic. The glide lets you float in the air and even fly up a little in certain places. They made sure to not let you fly high enough to make it onto platforms that are too high for you to jump on, so it’s really only useful for floating over long stretches of spikes or long gaps between platforms.
Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth looks great, has a nice soundtrack, and tries new things with its gameplay, but it feels like there’s something missing. I don't think it's just that I don't know much about Record of Lodoss War. It just isn’t a very long or deep game compared to other popular high fantasy Metroidvanias. The only types of equipment in the game are bows and melee weapons, there aren’t a lot of abilities, the XP and leveling feel like they could have been left out and no one would notice, and the map is not even half as big as the games it's trying to emulate. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is fun while it lasts, but it's too shallow to be the next masterpiece Metroidvania.