So I Sat Down to Play… Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
I don’t like anime. I don’t hate it, because that’s too strong a word, but I don’t like anime in general, either.
There’s very few anime I like, and most of them I actually love. Berserk, Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy, Samurai Champloo, you know, the classics. I also really like Record of Lodoss War, but I haven’t watched it in 20 years and to be honest, I don’t want to rewatch it and ruin my memories. 20 years ago I loved Dungeons and Dragons and everything about it, and RoLW is just a D&D campaign in anime form after all. Nowadays I… don’t love D&D anymore. I still love RPGs, and elves, but the D&D setting and system? I’m kinda over that.
But RoLW still has a lot of appeal to me, so when I saw that there was a Metroidvania game being developed that was set in RoLW’s world, starring my favorite High Elf Deedlit? Well, that’s an immediate buy, I thought to myself.
Then I kinda forgot about it for a month, so I bought it last week and finished it within 6 days.
I may not like anime, but I love Metroidvanias (and portmanteaus, for that matter). I may not be as devoted as some, as I haven’t played every single one out there, I don’t do speed runs, and to be completely honest I never got 200.6% in Symphony of the Night. But, damnit, I love this genre and I enjoy playing new Metroidvanias.
RoLW: DiWL (lmao what a title) is pretty typical, as far as Metroidvanias go. You start off with a limited number of abilities and encounter a lot of locked doors. Nothing groundbreaking, but the game doesn’t aim to break new ground, it just aims to be solid. And I find that it succeeds in that.
Something that RoLW: DiWL does different than most Metroidvanias, however, is that even at the very start of the game, you don’t start all weak and pathetic. Deedlit has some powerful tools in her arsenal even in the first areas of the game; she can hover for an unlimited amount of time, which gives her the ability to pass through entire screens of enemies without having to fight them. Something that is very handy since going through the same rooms, predictably for the genre enemies respawn when you re-enter a room, and you don’t want to fight. And it’s very often that you won’t want to fight something, since respawning enemies only grant you 5XP per kill, which is a pathetic amount.
Which is a good thing since it means you don’t have to grind for experience points by killing the same enemies over and over again, something that even the best Castlevania games didn’t manage to avoid. RoLW: DiWL is a very meticulously balanced game, and any exploits that players found were quickly patched out by the company behind it. I know that some people won’t like that, but it’s good to see a company that has a very clear vision of what they want their game to be and have faith in their ability to balance it.
If we’re being completely honest here, there’s no real reason to grind for XP in this game, either. It’s not a hard game, far from it. Certain parts of it get a little more challenging, and I have this distinct impression that the pacing of the game’s pacing is a little uneven, but Deedlit is a powerful and ancient elf, and she should be able to dispatch most of her enemies with ease. Which she does, as the game gives you lots of awesome powers from the get-go.
The most distinct of these powers are the two spirits you get very early, wind and fire. You can switch between these two on the fly, and the game often demands that you do, but it’s where the game’s most prevalent feature can be found. Moreover, using one makes the other stronger, giving you a reason to switch them. Switching between these two elements creates a dynamic gameplay, making DiWL kind of like the Ikaruga of Metroidvanias. If you have the wind’s power on, you’re immune to wind attacks, and the same goes for fire. Some attacks aren’t elemental-based, so you’ll get hit regardless of which you have active. It’s pretty neat.
Another gameplay aspect that sets DiWL apart from most games of the genre is Deedlit’s bow. You also get it really early in the game, and it gives you a handy way of disposing enemies both from a distance and from multiple angles. It’s pretty unique, but I found myself not using it too much, mostly because I’m not used to ranged weapons in Metroidvanias. Still, it’s prominently used in most of the game’s puzzles, so you better get used to using it or you might find the game difficult.
Still, between the ability to ignore a lot of the damage in the game just by pressing a button, and Deedlit’s multitude of abilities (including a fully invincible sliding attack that looks like Cammy’s cannon drill) you can just recklessly attack most enemies and bosses in the game without having to learn their patterns or anything like that.
Visually, the game is fantastic. Seriously, every single frame of Deedlit’s animation has been meticulously crafted, the enemies are a bit generic in design but they are really detailed and also have really good animation, and the backgrounds are solid. There are a few too many special effects at points, making it a bit difficult to see what’s going on sometimes. But it’s not too serious.
Sound-wise, the game is exactly what you’d expect from a Metroidvania. No voice acting to speak of (heh, unintended pun), your standard ol’ sound effects, and a soundtrack made of enjoyable, vaguely renaissance fair sounding music tracks. Except for one track that was really repetitive and annoying. I don’t remember which one it was, but it was the musical equivalent of a pebble in your shoe.
The game’s story is something I’d like to focus on for a bit. It’s about Deedlit, predictably, more than any other character of the series, but they all make their cameos. It’s enjoyable to an extent, and it’s not like the genre is known for its amazing traditional storytelling, anyway. But its story does try to make a point, it does try to pass a sort of message to the player, and it does a decent enough job at it.
But there’s something about the game’s text that makes both the story and the way it’s told a bit awkward. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it feels like a game story straight out of the late 1990s/early 2000s, where so many games weren’t translated properly from Japanese, ending up a bit contrite and preachy. This is how DiWL’s story feels, as I said above the message the game tries to portray is good enough, but it feels like it’s a teenager trying to recite Shakespeare on the fly, and I can’t tell if that’s how the game was written or due to the way it was translated. Given that the original creator of Record of Lodoss War was closely involved in the game’s creation, my money’s on the translation.
All in all, don’t expect Disco Elysium writing quality and you won’t be disappointed.
I really liked Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth. It’s not going to light the world on fire, but it’s good enough to light a fire in your heart, at least for a little while. Jesus, I don’t know what’s with me and metaphors/music lyrics today.
What I’m trying to say is that this is a good game, worth your time especially since it’s pretty cheap. It’s available now on Steam for Windows operating systems (even works on XP!)