May 30, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth (for PC) – Review 2020

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is an action-RPG that shares many traits with Konami’s classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, in terms of visuals and game feel. Both titles make heavy use of complex, highly animated sprites; feature gothic backgrounds and imagery; and share a similar loot inventory system in which you gain new items by slaying monsters and exploring the world. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is currently in Steam Early Access, with a release scheduled for later this year. The Early Access build contains the game’s first area and includes several enemy variants, weapons types, spells, and abilities, all of which paint a solid and fairly polished picture of what the finished PC game should look like.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth's excellent sprite work

RPG Legacy

But first, let’s step back a bit. Record of Lodoss War is a franchise with a fascinating history. It started as a transcript of a Dungeons & Dragons session that was rewritten and published in a Japanese magazine as a “replay,” a trendy form of literature in the late 1980s. This series grew in size and popularity, eventually spawning novels, an anime series, manga, and RPG companion books.

The anime, in particular, is one of the series’ most recognizable iterations, breathing visual life to iconic characters like Deedlit the High Elf and Parn, a young knight. Because of the franchises’ tabletop RPG origins, Record of Lodoss War is also the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to a proper Dungeons & Dragons anime. 

2020 marks the anime’s 30-year anniversary and developer Team Ladybug, a team whose previous works include Touhou Luna Nights, is hard at work crafting Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, a game set within the Record of Lodoss War universe. You play as the green-garbed High Elf Deedlit, who awakens in an unfamiliar maze that’s haunted by monsters and littered with traps. She sets out to find her compatriots and unravel the labyrinth’s mysteries, felling any nasty beasties that get in her way.

High Fantasy Castlevania

Deedlit moves and fights very much like Alucard does in Symphony of the Night, albeit with a slightly different control scheme and with unique gameplay wrinkles. Deedlit moves at a brisk pace, and while there isn’t a faster movement option, she can backdash to avoid damage or slide under hazards. Her backdash even leaves behind a shadow image, once again like Alucard, which is a great touch.

Sprites are massive, detailed, and extremely well animated. Deedlit has several attack variations, each with several frames of animation that give the game a silky look and feel. She can attack directly in front of her, while crouching, diagonally, or even straight upward, similar to the angled whip attacks in Super Castlevania IV. This gives the game a very nice sense of control, since you can launch an attack from virtually any angle.

Deedlit starts off with a thrusting rapier, but very quickly amasses an arsenal of weapons dropped by enemies or purchased from a shop run by a dwarf named Ghim. You can swap weapons at any moment. These weapons include knives, swords, halberds, and clubs. Deedlit has two distinct attack animations: one for thrusting weapons, and one for slashing/swinging weapons. 

Deedlit’s weapon determines the attack speed and range. For example, the knife has tremendous attack speed, but very limited range. The halberd, on the other hand, causes you to slowly swing the pole weapon, but at a much longer range. Every piece of gear has speed and attack stats, so it is relatively easy to see what each weapon can do from their numbers alone. Interestingly, the game lacks armor, though it is unclear whether this will change during the title’s development.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth's action

Spirits and Elements

Wonder Labyrinth has an interesting spirit-and-element system that mitigates and outright nullifies certain damage types, so it could serve as the game’s armor replacement. As Deedlit explores the labyrinth, she discovers two spirits that assist her in combat, the wind-based Sylph and the fire-based Salamander. Only one spirit can be equipped at a time, but you can cycle between them with the press of a button. Deedlit’s active spirit imbues her base attacks with that element’s power, which can be used to exploit enemy weaknesses. The wolves that overrun the ruins, for example, take heavy damage from fire, so attacking with the Salamander spirit equipped drops them in a single hit. The spirit system also utilizes a dynamic leveling system that fluctuates depending on how many enemies Deedlit has killed, and whether or not she has taken damage. As she defeats foes, the spirit’s level increases, up to a maximum of three. At stage three, Deedlit’s elemental attack buff gets a noticeable boost strength and she receives health regeneration capabilities. Taking damage, however, drops the spirit down a level and removes these boons, discouraging you from taking needless hits. 

More importantly, the active spirit also protects Deedlit from attacks of the same element, so wind attacks are nullified when Sylph is active, and fire attacks are nullified when Salamander is active. This becomes an extremely important gameplay aspect, as there are wind and fire hazards that prevent you from advancing and deal heavy damage when touched. Bosses also demand efficient use of this system to avoid some of their trickier patterns. In fact, these sections remind me a bit of Treasure’s Ikaruga, a shmup that utilizes a polarity-switching system to negate shots of opposing colors. Wonder Labyrinth isn’t quite as intense as Ikaruga, but the bosses and puzzles introduced so far have made very clever use of the mechanic. The system pushes the gameplay beyond simply hacking and dodging attacks. The spirit system is Wonder Labyrinth’s big gimmick, and I am very curious to see how the development team utilizes it in later areas.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth's puzzles

Magic Over Melee

In addition to melee combat, Deedlit gains access to several bows, each of which has distinct stats. Bows are a decent way to deal damage from a distance, but Wonder Labyrinth has a much more pertinent use for them: puzzle solving. Strewn across the maze are various locked metal gates, hoisted by ropes or by chain-bound gears. Shooting through a rope or nailing gears opens the gates and allows passage. Of course, none of the gates, save for the first one, are easy to open. As you venture deeper into the labyrinth, gated rooms become geometrically complex and filled with metallic surfaces for you to ricochet arrows. You need to line up tight trick shots by bouncing arrows off several walls to get at hidden treasure or to clear a path to the next room. I quite liked these sections, as they are a nice change of pace from the platforming and monster slashing. 

There are also discoverable spells that deal good damage. For example, Will of the Wisp fires a homing wave of magical missiles at the nearest enemy, while Undine summons a magic orb cascade to shower enemies. Both bows and magic use the same resource: they draw from a magic point (MP) gauge next to Deedlit’s health. This gauge fills steadily over time, letting you cast spells or fire arrows with regularity. The spells make for a better alternative to Deedlit’s bow in most cases, so I eventually relegated archery almost exclusively to puzzle solving. That’s not to say that arrow damage is bad, but whenever I was presented with a situation where ranged offense was a better option, blasting away with a spell was more effective than pelting foes with arrows. 

Technical Details

There are a few quality of life changes I would like to see, as the game is still in Steam Early Access. The option to see locked doors on the map would be nice. An option to lower the game volume wouldn’t go amiss, either, as the boss track, in particular, is quite loud. That said, Wonder Labyrinth is surprisingly polished even at this point in development.

The game isn’t at all demanding, and ran perfectly for me on my gaming desktop that features an Intel i5 4690 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU. Wonder Labyrinth’s Steam page states that the minimum specs include, a Windows operating system (be it 2000, XP, Vista, or 7/8/10), an Intel Core2 Duo CPU or better, and a graphics card that is OpenGL compliant. 

In terms of visual customization, you can select various screen resolutions, from the diminutive 360p to 720p. There are also full screen and VSync options. The game supports Steam Cloud Saves, too. 

Castlevania Revival

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth’s current Steam Early Access build is just a morsel of what’s to come. It brilliantly encapsulates the SNES/PS1 era side-scrolling action that made Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night so memorable. If Team Ladybug can deliver a beefy game with the same level of quality as this demo, we’ll have a real nostalgic treat on our hands later this year. 

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