I’ve got no strings on me
There are a lot of reasons I play video games. Sometimes it’s to escape. Other times, I just want to feel challenged, to feel like I accomplished something for the day. Then there are the games I play out of habit having been introduced to the franchise in my youth. But mostly, I play games to stave off boredom. Because when I’m bored, I eat, and I don’t want to boredom eat anymore. So I keep my hands busy with a controller, and my eyes distracted with the colorful images of whatever game I have loaded up on my console. Years ago, I would turn to games like The Sims to keep myself preoccupied, but over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself turning to a completely different genre of game to beat back the boredom: first-person dungeon crawlers.
Starting with Etrian Odyssey II and continuing with games like The Dark Spire, Legends of Grimrock, and Stranger of Sword City, I have gleefully spent dozens of hours slaughtering my way through dungeons on days I would have otherwise been vegging out on the couch, watching “The One with the Embryos” for the umpteenth time. There is just something about the genre that is perfectly suited for my downtime, so it’s a good thing NIS America has just dropped a lengthy new dungeon crawler in Labyrinth of Galleria.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is the successor to 2016’s Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. Like its predecessor, it’s a first-person dungeon crawler rife with fearsome monsters, valuable loot, and customizable parties. In Galleria, you play as the wandering spirit Lantern de Fantasmagorie — Fantie for short — who guides a team of puppet soldiers into the depths of a dungeon that resides below the Galleria Manor. Eureka is a young noblewoman who tags along on your journey via remote viewing, reporting the various incidents in the dungeons to a witch named Marta. You’re there to find treasures known as “Curios d’art”, but you’ll pick up more than just some fine collectibles on your journey.
If you’re the type of player who enjoys having a great deal of control over their created characters, know that Labyrinth of Galleria has quite the detailed puppet customization menu that not only allows you to pick the appearance and class of your fighters but how they’ll grow as they earn XP. Picking their nature and stance makes legitimate differences when crafting your characters, and players are encouraged to create multiple puppet soldiers of the same class. Initially, you’re limited to just six character classes, but as you dive further into the depths of these dungeons, you’ll unlock new forms for your puppets, including an adorable class of cats.
But the cat warriors will have to wait until you get beyond the slow and often overwhelming early hours of Galleria. Looking beyond the fact the story sections of the game are quite the Chatty Cathys, there is a lot to take in. Your puppet soldiers are complicated creatures with individual body parts that be broken depending on your actions in the dungeons. There is a coven system to consider that dictates the types of special attacks you can use in battle. About six or seven hours into your adventure, you’ll gain access to Witch Pacts that allow you to slot more than one character in a spot on your team, eventually giving you control of up to 40 puppet soldiers at once. All of that is combined with a dungeon-crawling experience that’s not as straightforward as you might think it would be.
I thought Labyrinth of Galleria would ease me into everything with its first dungeon. But that really isn’t the case as one of the first skills you unlock gives you the ability to break through walls, and nearly every wall in the dungeons you’ll traverse can crumble. I had forgotten this was a big element in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk, so it really threw me for a loop when it popped up about 90 minutes into my adventure and I had to go around breaking walls until I found the one hiding a secret staircase.
Initially, I was annoyed with this design, but now that I’m working my way through the third dungeon below Galleria, I’ve actually come to appreciate how much smarter the dungeon layouts are than I initially gave them credit for. And that admission did not come easy, because I got lost quite quickly in that first dungeon. One of the early quests you’ll undertake has you searching for a book. I searched high and low for about an hour, unlocking floors of this dungeon I clearly wasn’t meant to unlock before I realized the book’s location was comically close to the dungeon entrance. When I reported this back to the witch, I actually unlocked the next two story segments in the game because I’d already found the items necessary for those quests in my elongated search for the book.
That was annoying, but I realize now I made such a foolish error because I didn’t quite grasp the idea behind the dungeon layouts. I went in thinking it would be something pretty close to most of the other dungeon crawlers I’ve played before, but this, along with Coven of Dusk, really does put its own stamp on the genre with its emphasis on breaking barriers. If there is one thing I wish were a bit better, it’s the battles. From what I’ve experienced so far, they’re pretty basic, with only one or two attacks required to get the job done. Boss battles are far more engaging and forced me to make significant use of Donums, otherwise known as magic or skills.
Of course, I still have so much more of this game to see. Since snagging my copy, I’ve only been able to make it about it 20 hours into the game due to the rest of my life getting in my way. I’ve unlocked several new character classes, have three Curios d’art pieces, created some pretty powerful Witch Pacts, and have started to unravel more of the mystery surrounding Galleria Manor. Despite taking a bit too long to adjust to the game’s use of breakable walls so early in my adventure, I am thoroughly excited to venture through whatever comes next in my quest. Somehow, I will see this game through to the end, even if that means playing an hour a night for the next month and a half.
Apologies to anybody who was hoping for a full review rather than this impressions piece. Had time been on my side in February—and my other job not so demanding—I’d happily assign it a score below. But I don’t feel right doing that with just a 1/3 of the game under my belt. If you’d like a more conclusive examination of Labyrinth of Galleria, Daniel Bueno wrote an excellent review of the game over on our sister site Siliconera.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is now available for Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC.