Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society Review (Switch)
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a first-person dungeon crawler. The uncertainty around every corner, the satisfaction of filling out maps, and yes…even the heartbreak of falling four floors to your death. Hey, nothing comes without some effort, right?
Having covered five DRPGs for the site last year, I was looking forward to what 2023 had in store for the vintage subgenre, including Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society – a sequel to 2018’s Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. Many enjoyed Coven of Dusk for its charming characters, unique spin on mechanics, and solid dungeoneering, and The Moon Society seemingly only improves on the pre-established formula…if you’re willing to let it simmer for a while.
The young, ditzy Eureka accepts a job at a distant, supposedly abandoned manor after the labor description completely fit her bill: caring for marguerites and being good at “finding things.” In reality, the dusty old estate was acquired by the snooty noble Count Bismont, who has a fascination with an ancient labyrinth built deep below the surface of the property. It is said that the original owner long ago built it to house some of his most prized possessions, with seven “curios d’ art” serving as the capstone of his rather peculiar collection. They clearly never intended for others to meddle with them though, as many have died trying to trek the labyrinth and none have ever returned.
This is where Eureka comes in, as she acts as a medium for a spirit capable of leading an army of soul-bearing puppet soldiers down the ancient labyrinth below the manor. Totally not outlined in the initial job description, but she’s a natural nonetheless. There may also be a witch or two involved, and the lord of the manor is only interested in results. But weird things start to happen around the manor…and even stranger things in the labyrinth itself. Will they find the treasures they seek, or will they learn that some things are better left undisturbed?
Much like Coven of Dusk, Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society balances its dark narrative with many lighthearted moments and characters, though some of it could certainly be viewed as a bit too over the top, particularly the blatant bits of fan service scattered about. Either way, the comedic relief does help offset the fact that there’s a literal deathtrap full of cursed objects below their very feet, and you’ll never be able to shake the feeling that something is just “off” about the whole thing.
The uncertainty helps carry you between what can be lengthy spaces between story bits depending on your luck in the dungeon, as it gives you some things to mentally chew on while you’re exploring. It’s definitely a slow burn…but if you are willing to give it ample breathing room, it does get to be really interesting, especially once you realize that achieving the “bad” ending a couple dozen hours in is essentially setup for even more story content and deeper mechanics after beginning New Game Plus. While the conditions for beginning this new branch of the adventure isn’t as obvious as it probably should be, the wealth of content it provides more than makes up for the potential additional effort necessary to get things started.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is a first-person dungeon crawler that has you commanding an army of puppet soldiers through a dangerous labyrinth deep within the manor. Enemies, hazards, and roadblocks abound, and one wrong move could spell disaster for the party. The ultimate goal is to explore the labyrinth for curios – more specifically, the seven curios d’ art – though you’ll often have to return to the witch whenever you hit a snag in the adventure. Miasmic mud, sanity-crushing zones, and underwater channels are just a sampling of the obstacles you and your witch friend(s) will have to overcome, as although the puppet soldiers can thrive in the dense mana of the labyrinth, they ultimately are susceptible to poisonous swamps, drowning, and yes, even those dang pitfalls that always seem to come at the worst time.
Speaking of puppets, they act as your boots on the ground in the labyrinth. Puppet soldiers are organized into one of five covens, and each coven can have more than one puppet soldier associated with it. Puppets form covens by way of soul pacts, which offer a variety of abilities (aka donum) and traits to the assigned puppets. Most soul pacts lean towards either offense, defense, or support, but nothing is stopping you from mix and matching covens with different types of puppet soldiers to find the combinations that work best for you. There are some soul pacts with specific puppet class restrictions, but the majority are very flexible when it comes to loadout.
Covens can be set in the vanguard or rearguard, and generally have slots to affix puppet soldiers into either an attacking or support position. The vanguard is attacked more often, though the rearguard can still be focused at times, and puppet soldiers in attack slots in a coven will be the ones actively participating in battle, while the support slots will primarily passively support the attackers safely from harm’s reach. Puppet soldiers can be created with a handful of classes with similar archetypes anyone a fan of RPGs will recognize, and can be equipped with a wide array of weapons and armor that can be found within the dungeons.
Not all progress is made within the labyrinth, though. Your base of operations back at the manor is key to successfully dungeon diving. The majority of the narrative will unfold via the Witch Report, which tends to unlock in bite-sized sections as you explore further in the labyrinth. Witch Petitions will periodically be added that unlock and strengthen additional dungeon features, such as the ability to hold your breath underwater longer, partially heal after victorious battles, create “mud exits” to quickly escape a dungeon, and more.
These petitions are purchased with mana, a currency that can be found within the labyrinth that also determines the overall droprate of items from enemies. That said, carrying around too much mana in certain areas can be dangerous, as truly sinister enemies are drawn to large amounts of it which can prove to be fatal. Eventually, you have the ability to to bring mana into dungeons with you which can give you an immediate boost to better drop rates. On the experience front, you also will have the option to stockpile your rewards for a rolling multiplier bonus once redeemed, though escaping from battle, failing to get out of a dungeon alive, or hastily exiting one through a shortcut can make all that hard work vanish in an instant.
Regarding staying alive, the puppet soldiers themselves are rather hardy, but are susceptible to severe damage and even death. Receiving “critical critical” hits – known as critical gores – can destroy parts of a puppet that will reduce their overall survivability until repaired back at the manor. This incentivizes sound party compositions, crowd controlling, and having a few puppets capable of dealing with the majority of blows so that potentially dangerous situations are kept at a minimum.
Needless to say, there is a lot of nuance to dungeon crawling in Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society, and it does an excellent job of piling on additional layers as the game progresses all while not overwhelming the player in the process. However, it’s likely not the most forgiving game of its type for genre newcomers since it doesn’t always hold your hand, lacks certain features that other DRPGs have, like auto travel, and isn’t particularly bothered by making you lose some sort of progress if you take one too many wrong steps. With how the dungeons are designed – hazards galore – auto travel in particular wouldn’t particularly work well and isn’t necessarily missed, and there are some alternative features (placeable shortcuts) that help fill that void without compromising the labyrinth’s integrity.
Also, depending on how thorough you become with dungeon exploration, there may be several times where your story progress is impeded until you find very specific items or fulfill certain conditions, some of which can be very obscure. This can possibly lead to wandering the labyrinth’s halls seemingly aimless for some time, but these moments are typically met with an “oh, of course!” rather than shouts of obscenities once you finally figure them out. Like the story, you have to be into dungeon diving for the long haul…but the game provides an excellent balance of risk versus reward, and a solid progression of engaging gameplay that’s sure to pay off.
In terms of overall aesthetics, anime fans and those particularly fond of other NIS works, such as the Disgaea series or the aforementioned Coven of Dusk, will be pleased with what Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society has to offer. While there are noticeable visual improvements over the first game, I wouldn’t say they are drastically different from one another (though it has admittedly been a while since I’ve played Coven). The narrative cutscenes outside of dungeoneering are animated well, although some sections of dialogue oddly do not have animations while others do.
The first-person 3D visuals are fine, and the enemies are detailed if lacking a bit in the overall variety department. The sound effects are great, particularly when it comes to critical and gore critical hits, and the soundtrack rides a fine line between creepy and silly that perfectly complements its theme and tone in a not-so-different way than the Disgaea series does.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society rewards you with excellent first-person dungeon crawling, an interesting story, and loads of customization so long as you give it some time to develop. There are some obvious upgrades in comparison to Coven of Dusk, but at the end of the day it’s ultimately more of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to the more uncommon DRPG genre. With some patience and perseverance, though, Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society easily proves that it’s among the best first-person dungeon crawlers on the Nintendo Switch.