Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth – Early Access Impressions

Gare – Thursday, March 26, 2020 5:00 PM
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Team Ladybug’s Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is here – the project has, at long last, launched via Steam Early Access, affectionately mixing the setting and characters of the famed Lodoss War franchise with stylish Metroidvania action and gorgeous pixel art. Which sounds fantastic on paper, but how does it all work out in practice? Thankfully, I have good news to share: although the content available in the current Early Access build of the project is admittedly meager at best, I still came away from the game with fairly positive first impressions. I did, nonetheless, take note of a few things that could be improved upon in the future.

First and foremost, let’s just go ahead and address the elephant in the room: yes, the game itself is still in development, and the current build only gives access to the first level of the campaign. In practice, this translates to roughly an hour’s worth of play time – even less if you decide to rush. As such, the game only really has enough time to lay down some basic groundwork and showcase its most fundamental mechanics.

When it comes to moment-to-moment gameplay, Wonder Labyrinth offers a sufficiently addictive – and very much familiar – Metroidvania cocktail: there’s a bit of platforming, different types of enemies to fight, a few minor puzzles to solve and two bosses to bring down. What spices things up a touch, though, is the presence of Salamander and Sylph, Deedlit’s elemental companions, who grant our elven protagonist a variety of unique skills. Sylph and Salamander can be freely switched between with the press of a button, and depending on which of the two you set as your active companion, Deedlit will have access to different abilities – use Salamander and be able to blow up explosive barrels with a fiery attack; switch to Sylph and gain the power to levitate over gaps you wouldn’t be able to jump across otherwise. You get the idea. Similarly, the two spirits grant you elemental immunity as well: when switched to Salamander, Deedlit absorbs fire, while Sylph works the same way for wind-based attacks. In other words, you’re strongly advised to frequently switch back and forth between the two spirits depending on the situation you find yourself in. In many ways, the dual-spirit mechanic of Wonder Labyrinth feels somewhat reminiscent of the color-swapping sci-fi shoot ‘em up, Ikaruga; the first boss, for example, shoots projectiles that can be absorbed by using Salamander’s fire immunity, but later also launches attacks that require you to quickly switch back to Sylph for a few seconds, which creates a fun dynamic. Overall, I found this aspect of the game to be quite neat and sincerely hope it’ll be utilized to its full potential later down the line, as it adds an enjoyable extra layer to the game’s combat mechanics and boss fights.

Defeating enemies also nets you bonus orbs that help level up your two spirits, making Deedlit more powerful and capable of dealing additional damage; what’s more, once a spirit reaches Level 3, Deedlit even gains the ability to automatically regenerate her health on the go. Now, giving players relatively easy access to HP regeneration might sound a tad too lenient design-wise, but there’s a catch, as getting hit by enemies will decrease your spirit level and consequently rob you of all its associated boons. As a result, the game ends up incentivizing skilled, careful play, making players learn that they need to be quick on their feet if they wish to take full advantage of the spirit system’s juiciest rewards.

Aside from a variety of admittedly samey-feeling melee weapons, the game also hands Deedlit a trusty bow that feels almost too good to be true. Put simply, it’s a tad overpowered: keeping a safe distance from enemies while filling them up with arrows requires little to no effort, and even the Early Access version’s two available bosses can be taken out with surprising efficiency if one relies heavily on ranged combat. I did, however, enjoy the brief, bow-centric puzzle segments of the mini-campaign that had you ricochet arrows off corners to hit a specific target, so there’s that. Naturally, I’m not saying the game should ditch the bow altogether – it’s entirely too much fun to use, after all – but some tweaks to its damage output would be more than welcome in order to make it a little more balanced and less like a tool of utter destruction.

In the end, I can say that Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth has the potential to be a stellar addition to its genre. It does, however, need to further expand upon what has been shown thus far, because in its current state, the project is more like a proof-of-concept demonstration, albeit a very competently made one. Still, the game’s fundamentals are rock solid, its controls are tight and responsive, and the rather lacking difficulty of the Early Access version can also be easily chalked up to the fact that you’re still essentially in the tutorial area. If Team Ladybug takes feedback to heart and adds in more complex mechanics, a higher difficulty level and a few other bits and bobs, Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth could very well become a modern classic in its own right.

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