-First Person Dungeon Crawler
-Enemies Appear on the Map, No Random Battles
-ENG/JP Voiced Audio
-Battle Party consists of generics only
-Lengthy game 90+ hours to beat
-New Game+ available
In 2016, Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) released the DRPG, Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. Despite NIS' first attempt at a DRPG, the game was a solid game with an unusual heavy story focus for a DRPG. The game didn't sell many copies at first, but has since sold a decent amount. 4 years later, a sequel titled Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society was released (3 more years for a western release).
Galleria's story begins with a young girl named Eureka who was dropped off at Galleria Manor. Despite being part of nobility, her family's financial situation is dire so she sought employment at Galleria Manor. The employer was an old woman named Madame Marta who was looking for someone great at "searching" for things. Marta is a witch tasked by Galleria Manor's owner to search for special treasures in a labyrinth below the manor.
The problem is that not just anybody can explore the labyrinth. Any live human will die trying to return from it. To remedy that issue, Marta summons a Wandering Spirit using Eureka as a medium. The Wandering Spirit is able to control puppets to explore and combat the monsters in the labyrinth. Thus begins their work in retrieving the many special treasures in the mysterious vast labyrinth.
Galleria's story is unusually presented since despite spending the vast majority of game time within the labyrinth and dungeons, most of the story actually occurs in the outside world. Reaching specific checkpoints in the dungeons will trigger a new cutscene in the outside world and advance the story. You have to leave the dungeon to view the cutscenes. The cutscenes are not always directly related to the triggering checkpoints however. This creates a certain disconnect with the story and what goes on within the dungeons. This is actually something that's seen in Refrain as well although that game had notable story content in the dungeons too.
Early on, the story appears to be directionless, but all of the random story bits will converge together into intense moments as more of the mystery gets revealed. It does however start off slow since the first major story event doesn't happened until about 30 hours into the game when it goes from 0 to 100 in a span of minutes. Galleria has a number of exciting moments, but there's also a lot of mundane moments in between. It may be difficult to keep the same level of interest throughout, but it's worth pushing through for the interesting plot twists and revelations.
One aspect of Refrain's story that left a strong impression on people were the many surprising dark and disturbing moments it had. Galleria has many dark moments as well, but there aren't many that I would call disturbing. Uneasy at times, but overall, a lot more tolerable and easier to sit through in compared to Refrain. Of course, there are still humorous and comedic moments throughout to lighten the mood.
In comparison to the two Labyrinth games, I think Refrain had the more memorable and stronger story of the two. Especially when it came to the dungeon stories which made the overall story package more interesting. With that said, Galleria's story was still an enjoyable experience for me and some of its narrative is quite ambitious.
It's worth noting that Galleria takes place in the same universe as not only Refrain, but also the two "The Witch and the Hundred Knight" games. Fortunately, you don't need any prior knowledge of those games to understand Galleria.
Galleria has a large assortment of characters. The main core group of characters are well developed and interesting. They are also likable too for the most part which contrasts with Refrain where there's less likable characters. One issue with Galleria is that there are many side characters that don't contribute much to the plot and are just there. Then there's some more story relevant characters who don't get enough screentime to properly develop those characters.
Overall, nearly of the characters have layers to their characters and you won't be able to really know and understand them early on.
NIS Veteran Tenpei Sato returns to compose Galleria's soundtrack. The soundtrack is similar to Refrain where instead of Sato's usual bombastic style found in the Disgaea games, the songs here are more subdued. With Galleria, the only time where the soundtrack gets particularly intense are during some boss fights. While the music overall fit well with the game's tone and style and sounds nice in general, the songs don't really stick out much for me. Outside of the game, it's difficult to recall specific tracks at times.
GRAPHICS AND ART DIRECTION
The graphics and artstyle in Galleria haven't changed much from Refrain. The character portraits during the Visual Novel style cutscenes are nice to look at and come with various different expressions. The backgrounds are surprisingly beautiful and detailed at times. The dungeons don't stand out much most of the time and the textures are less detailed, but they don't stick out to be all that noticeable most of the time.
The monsters in the dungeons have good variety and not only do their models look good, they have decent animation during battle as well. Being a DRPG, the animations aren't anything sophisticated, but the idle movements look great compared to other DRPGs where the enemy sprites are static or in the case of 3D models, just don't look all that great.
Overall, Galleria is one of the most beautiful looking DRPG I've seen.
Other than the notable story emphasis, Galleria shines with its gameplay. The gameplay loop with the dungeon exploration is fun. The battles are interesting and and there's a deep layer of customization.
Galleria has seen a few changes and additions to dungeon exploration compared to Refrain. Before, there weren't many dungeon exploration option or mechanics to deal with. Falling off a ledge is as bad as it gets there, but that is easily avoidable. Poison floors make up the other major obstacle and trap. Galleria now has invisible floor panels, pitfalls, underwater traversal, long distance jumping, fake walls, swamp water and something like an enclosed miasma space.
The game gives you options to deal with all of them making the dungeon traversal more interesting and keeping it from being annoying and frustrating compared to some other DRPGs out there. One new good ability is the Fog cloak that not only negates swamp water damage, but also makes you invisible to enemies for a set amount of turns.
In regards to enemies, they appear as floating giant eyeballs on the screen called Enemy Symbols. Touching them will trigger a battle so there's no random battles in the game. The Purple eyeballs are the powerful monsters that roam the area. They are generally best avoided until later in the game. The Enemy Symbols move as you move like a turn based scenario. With such a system, you can plan and avoid certain Enemy Symbols by doing some simple calculations.
The wall break ability returns in Galleria which allows you to break down most walls and open up new paths or create shortcuts. It's a unique mechanic that I don't recall ever seeing in another DRPG before or at least as commonly used here. The wall break ability and other dungeon abilities make use of Reinforce Points. The starting value is 100 when you dive into a dungeon, but gets deducted base on your current Pact points (more on this later). Reinforce is an important resource not just for exploration, but also provides various benefits during combat. You can acquire more Reinforce by finding mana bubbles and mana stuck on walls.
The dungeon structures are well crafted like a puzzle. There are many floors with many staircases that connect to various parts of the dungeons. Oftentimes, exploring the dungeons are not straightforward and requires careful thinking on how to proceed. Jumping down pitfalls (and taking damage) might sometimes be needed to reach new areas.
Overall, the dungeon exploration and the structure of the dungeons are very good. That said, I do find myself missing the thematic dungeons that Refrain had. Each dungeon felt like a completely new world populated with actual characters at times so they felt more interesting compared to Galleria's dungeons which felt more in-line as a single dungeon. The designs are less visually appealing in comparison. The dungeons in Galleria also lack notable story events too.
New to Galleria are the randomly generated dungeons. There's a few of these in the game and they are all pretty similar to each other. Each floor is small in scale compared to the static dungeons, but they do make progressing much easier. The goal is to reach the staircase to the next floor and finding them isn't nearly as complicated as progressing in the other dungeons. This makes the experience not as interesting, but these dungeons are great if you just want to farm for new equipment and going through areas that are a bit more dynamic than static dungeons.
Galleria has a surprisingly large amount of customization for the puppet party members. The customization options during creation includes, voice options, character portraits, the dominant hand, lucky number, favorite item, personality trait, stat growth to emphasize primary stats or a more balance growth, and a general stance to emphasize more power in place of defense and health. You can also pick a learnable starting skill right off the bat too. The options that don't affect stats directly tend to play a role in resonating with your other characters during battle.
There are a decent amount of classes (Facets) in the game totaling twelve. All of them have Alternate Facets that are similar at its core, but have different skills, stat growths and weapon efficiencies which makes the total amount of classes much more than just twelve.
One of Galleria and even Refrain's standout feature are the very large party size. The battle party (Brigade) consists of up to five Covens which are sort of like small squads. Each Coven can fit up to three attackers during battle and up to five more in the support slots. Those in the support slots don't normally actively participate in battle (other than followup attacks), but they do provide various passive effects to the Coven's attackers. Some support slots have passive effects just for filling the slot while other times, a character might have a "support skill" that is in effect only as a supporter role. Therefore, you can manage up to 45 characters to provide some use during battles. For those that like to manage a large amount of characters, this is a rare treat.
Unfortunately, you can't just start adding 45 characters to the brigade right away. The number of open slots for both attackers and supports depends on the Pact. Before you can add any characters to a Coven, it needs a specific Pact item which provides the number of open slots, the Donum (spells) available for it and the various stat and effect bonuses each slot has. Having a full 45 character brigade won't be available until much later in the game. A Coven's maxed DP (Donum Points) is based on the combined attackers' maxed DP in the Coven.
As developers of Disgaea, it wasn't any surprise that NIS added extensive leveling and grinding mechanics. While the max level is technically 99, you can transfer a puppet's soul and reincarnate them into another puppet body. Their level resets back to 1 when that happens, but they will gain more stats on level up than before. The amount of stats gained are determined by their "Soul Clarity". Soul transfers will increase the Soul Clarity amount and the amount increase is depended on the puppet's level when it did the transfer.
Skills inheriting is a bit different than in Refrain. For Galleria, puppets keep all of the skills they learn, but only a certain number of them can be turned on depending on the skill cost. This allows for easier creation of builds by carrying over all of the skills you have learned. Turning each skill off and on is simply done in the camp menu.
It's important to note that skills are mostly passive ones. Only a few characters learn Donum spells which are otherwise only available based on the Pact you have equipped.
Like many DRPGs, the combat system is a turn based one. Despite the possible 15 attackers available during battles, you don't issue individual commands to each member normally. You only issue commands to each Coven so that one command will apply to the all of the attackers in the Coven. You can however give orders to individuals for one turn by spending one Reinforce point which opens up additional options such as item usage and equipment change.
The battle sequence doesn't start until all commands are given. When that happens, your characters and the enemies' turns are queued together with the fastest characters/enemies acting first.
Both characters and enemies have a stun gauge which if depleted, they will be unable to act for one turn. The Special Gore Hits return which are like super critical damages. Gore Hits on the party members mean a body part is destroyed thus rendering the equipment on that part null. If you were very unfortunate that the head is destroyed, the puppet is permanently KO'd until you repair them back in the outside world.
New to Galleria are the Liberation gauge and skills. Each Coven has a Liberation gauge that fills up during battle from attacking and receiving damage. Once it is completely filled, the Coven has accessed to the Liberation skill that is based on the Pact. The skills are varied and includes an attack that damages a whole group of enemies, stat buffs or healing.
On the Normal difficulty, many battles aren't difficult so auto battle can clear the majority of fights. That's assuming that party members' equipment and stats are at least up to speed. Bosses and also the Purple Powerful Enemies will be more challenging that it requires more player attention and the use of buffs/debuffs.
Labyrinth of Galleria is a solid followup to Labyrinth of Refrain and improved on the gameplay in many ways. There are more dungeon mechanics, more Facets to use, and an easier to use skill inheritance system. While the story and the lack of story in dungeons aren't as strong as Refrain, it is still had an enjoyable one with many twists and turns. Galleria does benefit on having more likable characters as well.
While there is an emphasis on the story, the vast majority of the game time is spent going through dungeons.
Combat is one the easy side for most of the game, but some bosses can be quite challenging.
Galleria overall is a very lengthy game that can take more than 90 hours just to complete all of the story and is rich in content. The random generated dungeons can add more game time for those that just want to farm for good equipment.
For those new to the Labyrinth games, Galleria is a good starting place considering that the connections with Refrain are very minor for the most part.