Earlier this year we saw the release of Trillion: God of Destruction in the West and now the second game in the project that spawned that title has been released in the West by the name of MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death. Not connected to the first game and offering a different style of play by being a dungeon crawling RPG with a few unique elements, is this one worth your time?
The world in MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death has stopped rotating and has plunged the land into eternal night. This darkness has caused monsters to begin to roam the land and the people to suffer but despite being an apocalyptic event, this isn’t the first time that this has happened. Legend tells of a powerful Machina Mage conquering four towers and performing a ritual in each before she managed to return the world to the state it once was.
With this legend in mind, five Machina Mages have been summoned from across the globe to Southern Cross city where they must undergo these trials in an effort to save the world. Players take on the role of a bubbly but slightly airheaded Estra, a young Machina Mage from a tiny village who wants to be friendly with the rest of the girls who have been assigned this task. Unfortunately, since legend tells of only one woman being able to restore the planet the last thing on these girls’ minds is co-operation as they wish to put their names down in history.
As one would expect, this initial rivalry does simmer down as players progress through the game and eventually things settle down to the girls traveling together and interacting with one another in standard fashion. One thing that is worth noting is that while many dungeon crawling RPGs such as this one are usually light on the storyline, MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death does its best to keep players interested in the story thanks to these characters.
Sure the majority of the cast feels as if they are simply checking off various tropes when they are introduced and unfortunately they rarely go beyond these simple characteristics but when the whole cast is together they do form a rather interesting group that does its best to keep players around since the actual storyline rarely develops in an interesting fashion and often fades into the background.
For the most part players will find that MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is a fairly standard dungeon crawler as players are given a hub world of Southern Cross where they can rest and save at an inn, purchase and sell items, take on side quests, and create new parts for their Guardians at the Machina Factory before setting off to one of the towers that they must travel through.
The one key aspect where this game stands out is the way it handles the combat system and the Guardians. Guardians appear to be mech like beings that are controlled by the Machina Mages and each Guardian can be customized with different limbs and cores that come with different slots allowing for players to equip them with gems to augment their abilities. Unlike the main characters, the Guardians’ attacks and skills change depending on the arms that they are equipped with and they can be customized any time outside of battle, allowing players to change up their Guardian’s on the fly if they encounter enemies that are being a bit difficult.
You see, combat in MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is still a turn-based affair like one would expect but as mentioned before; the Guardian system adds a little twist. Your party can consist of three Machina Mages at a time and while each girl brings a Guardian to the fight, each member can only attack once. This means that while the Guardian can deal and take the most damage, the mage herself can utilize special skills to heal or buff their party members while being fairly squishy as fighters. If a Guardian is eliminated in combat, the mage can continue fighting on her own but if a mage is downed, the Guardian will also be removed from combat meaning players will often need to play it safe to avoid losing a valuable team member.
Every enemy and character in the game also has various elemental strengths and weaknesses so using Guardian abilities or forms that are strong against certain elements while resistant to others is a good way to power through difficult enemies. While this strategy works well, it rarely comes into play and isn’t nearly as complex as one would expect. I say this primarily because on Normal difficulty the game is incredibly simple to power through without even paying attention to the elemental system. Players can easily find themselves customizing their Guardians into forces to be reckoned with and breezing through standard fights and only getting caught up by the boss fights that raise the difficulty a bit, this means those who are looking for a real challenge will need to go for the harder difficulty setting.
The dungeons that players travel through are unfortunately one of the worst aspects of MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death primarily due to their poor designs and efforts to pad the game’s length. Players will travel through your standard dungeon locales while coming across various locked doors, traps, treasures, pitfalls, teleporters/elevators to other floors, and more while exploring but be prepared for plenty of backtracking and dead ends as the dungeons feature numerous routes that are designed more like a maze than anything else as players bump into numerous dead ends hoping to find a switch or treasure for once.
This problem is alleviated slightly by the fact that players do have an option to run through the dungeons and make automatic turns at corners but when you add in the fact that the dungeons often force players to leave the area entirely, revisit an old dungeon to obtain an item, and then return back to where you were in order to unlock a door or get past an obstacle it is hard to justify it as anything more than needless padding that appears way too often. In fact, even the side quests that players can take on are nothing more than simply trying to obtain rare drop items from the simplistic enemies that you encounter and are unfortunately nothing more than that, so those looking for a bit of extra excitement to fill their backtracking will be disappointed.
Visuals & Audio
It is interesting to note that while MeiQ was denied a classification in some regions, it is very difficult to see why. The characters in the game do have a few skimpier designs but nothing that really stretches the imagination and thanks to these colorful designs they help stand out a bit from your standard leads and the title even avoids placing any emphasis on any of the potential fan service sequences in the game. Alongside the character designs players will find that the Guardians feature quite a few designs that are well handled but the same cannot be said about the dungeons and the creatures players will face off against which are unfortunately incredibly simplistic in nature.
Idea Factory International has released MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death with both the original Japanese voice track as well as their freshly recorded English dub for the game with players being able to swap between the two at any time. The English cast handles their characters quite well and in fact certain characters come off as far more enjoyable sounding in the English dub than in the Japanese version. The soundtrack accompanying the title is fairly impressive as it features a number of unique sounding tracks to explore dungeons and fight to.
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death brings some unique elements to the table but not enough to really look past the generic styling of the dungeons and enemies that players encounter and will spend far too much time being forced to backtrack through simply to clear another inane obstacle. Sporting a fun combat system that utilizes Guardians and their mages working together and an enjoyable cast of characters with colorful designs help raise MeiQ above simply being a standard dungeon crawler but not much more than that.