February 14, 2023
While maybe not my first choice when it comes to RPGs, I can’t deny that there’s an appeal to the humble dungeon crawler. Mapping out complex mazes and fighting numerous nasties in turn based combat just feels like such a pure RPG experience, and over the years games like Etrian Odyssey and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey have hoisted me up onto the dungeon crawler bandwagon. After seeing trailers for Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society I was ready to go diving into a dungeon all over again, and I may have got a little more than I bargained for.
Upbeat protagonist Eureka has always always been good at finding things, and after spotting a help wanted advert asking for someone with her skillset she heads off to a manor in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that under Galleria Manor is a maze full of treasure known as Curios just waiting to be found by someone clever enough to do it. That someone is a witch called Madame Marta, and she’s the one who put the advert up.
Getting the treasure isn’t as simple as taking a bunch of tough warriors down to search the deadly maze though, because the only way to get into Labyrinth is by going through a wardrobe that kills anyone who enters. The witch has a clever plan to deal with this, and uses her powers to create an army of wooden dolls with the spirits of powerful fighters inside. Your job is to telepathically guide them through the deadly corridors and locate the Curios, because who else but a spunky teen girl could manage that.
Your first task is choosing the warriors you want to take into the dungeon. There’s a host of different classes to choose from, from ranged fighters who stay in the back row to tanks who are happy to absorb all the damage they can. Once you’ve got a selection ready (preferably naming them after your pets or colleagues) you need to assign them to brigades. Each time you go down into the labyrinth you can take five brigades with you, each of which have a selection of special abilities you can unleash in battle. Eventually you’ll be able to add multiple characters to each brigade and will have a full army exploring the winding corridors and fighting the horrific monsters below.
Combat in Labyrinth of Galleria is fairly simple to start with, often boiling down to just getting everyone to attack an enemy until it dies. Tougher fights might see you using other abilities called Donum, which come in all shapes and sizes. Deciding to order a healer to boost your tank’s health while they provoke enemies is simple enough, but when you start adding different elemental attacks and stat buffs the battles get a little more complex.
Complexity really is the name of the game in Labyrinth of Galleria. Every single party member has a vast list of passive skills they start with and can unlock, with descriptions like “increases stun value by number of times attacked” which are just thrust upon you. Characters also have three types of stat growth (flat, sharp and normal) to choose from which I think affects the distribution of points when you level up, but honestly I could be entirely wrong. There are even three different types of critical hits, and even after dozens and dozens of hours playing I have no idea why.
Whereas character growth and battling can be a bit overwhelming, exploring the labyrinth is straightforward and satisfying. As you walk around the grid based environments your map is drawn out for you, and before you know it you’ll have a whole load of passages to explore, chests to open, and enemies to fight or avoid.
What’s really clever about navigating the environments in Labyrinth of Galleria though are the abilities you unlock as you go. One of the first of these that you obtain is the ability to smash through almost any wall at the cost of some Reinforce points. This is the equivalent of going into a hedge maze with a flamethrower, and changes the way you look at each floor of a dungeon. Combined with the ability to jump across gaps and drop down holes, it almost always feels like you’re cheating the developers when you find a new route deeper into the maze and it’s just so satisfying.
Your main goal in the labyrinth is to find those Curios the count wants, but there are plenty of other goodies to collect as well. The most important thing to bring home from a run though is mana. This crucial resource allows you to unlock new upgrades from the witch that make your life so much easier, from providing small amounts of healing after a battle, to the ability to store up experience and multiply it by chaining fights together.
You’ll also need mana to use the synthesis cauldron, which as you might expect can be used to combine or power up items by chucking them in the pot with a few things you don’t need. Outside of grinding this is the best way to strengthen your party of wooden misfits, so make sure to check every glowing wall for bonus mana on your adventure.
There’s a lot to love and dive into during the extremely long runtime of Labyrinth of Galleria, but ultimately the numerous stats and systems were just a bit overwhelming for my taste. Arriving on a character status screen only to be greeted by over twenty pages of tutorial text is not my idea of a good time, and it’s not even like the depth makes battling or developing your characters any better than other JRPGs.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is an interesting and inventive dungeon crawler, but its complexity is a little excessive. Exploring the labyrinth is a blast thanks to some clever abilities, but the combat can’t quite hold its own. There’s definitely an audience for a dungeon crawler with this level of depth, but I just wasn’t it.
Exploring the labyrinth is a blast
The story is lovely
Loads of depth
Too complex for its own good
Combat is just okay
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has some interesting ideas for a dungeon crawler, but is too complex for its own good.