- Developer: Experience Inc.
- Publisher: Aksys Games
- Release Date: 28/10/2021
- Price: $59.99
- Review code provided by Aksys Games
Introducing Undernauts Labyrinth of Yomi Review
I knew within an hour of my review that Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi was going to be one of my favorite games this year. As I’m partial to first-person dungeon crawling RPGs, Undernauts had been on my radar for some time and is the latest game to hit the Nintendo Switch from Experience Inc. If you had the chance to read my review from Experience Inc’s previous Switch title, Saviors of Sapphire Wings, you’ll know I was overly critical of the game. (If not, you can read it here). I gave it an average score which was pulled a bit higher considering the inclusion of Strangers of Sword City, another complete first-person crawler. It’s safe to say, Undernauts has far more polish and implements some great practices in creating a standout game in the genre. So how does this entry differ and what steps has it taken to revitalize the first-person dungeon crawling experience? Read on to find out.
It Starts with a Step
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is a turn-based RPG which has you exploring a mysterious underground maze. Instead of recruiting a highly trained team of skilled undernauts (a subterranean explorer), you’ll be picking up fresh rookies still green around the gills. There are a lot of wealthy corporations with savvy experts but yours isn’t one of them. The main protagonist of your design is the chief of undernaut exploration for a newly formed, low budget company. As such, you have to hire the bottom of the barrel. Oftentimes kids still in high school or people who have no business delving into monster infested dungeons.
This premise actually works well for the starting of an RPG. After all, you’re starting at level one here, and, as you would expect, a cheap company with few resources finds itself in a bit of a predicament. The game starts with you nearly dead in the middle of a dungeon. The rest of your party is massacred and eaten by a gruesome abomination of a girl. Making it back to the safety of your base camp, you learn the situation is even worse. You’re trapped in the dungeon and have to charge up a portal to escape. To do this, you and your next party of intrepid amateurs have to destroy several bosses over varied dungeons to find freedom.
When I jump into this genre, I hardly care about the story. To me, it’s all about the party creation, customization and exploration. Though it has those things in spades, the story was more than decent and presented well at the same time.
Draw your Sword and Ready your Spell
As a first person dungeon crawler, Undernauts makes good use of exploration and turn-based combat. You start by creating six unique party members and explore grid based maps. There is a hefty dose of flexibility as you can sub in new characters at any time and even reapply stats and skill points to your existing team. Likewise, you can change the portrait appearance and job class. I spent hours just experimenting with different party combinations and classes. Though you have your typical Warrior/Ranger/Mage classes they fit into the modern corporate world a bit better. Instead you have jobs like Taction/Hunter/Fencer with backgrounds like blue-collar, youngster, athlete, or vagabond.
The combat is fairly typical where you input the commands for all six party members then begin each turn. There’s a huge variety of spells and skills to unlock with a ton of loot to recover, and holding true to staying current with modern gaming, Undernauts has features to speed up combat and map navigation for points you’ve already visited. As much as I enjoyed the combat in Undernauts, the only thing that bugged me was the balancing. A few of the boss battles were overly difficult for where your level was expected to be. Even a bit of grinding wouldn’t compensate for a few battles in particular. However, Undernauts also opens up several paths with increasingly difficult dungeons that you can enter at any point. I’m not sure if it was by design to reach a boss at one level and then move on to explore a new dungeon before returning, but I found I had to do that a couple of times to beef up my party. It was a minor inconvenience and nothing that couldn’t be solved for but it made the pacing seem a bit off.
One new aspect I really enjoyed with Undernauts was the ability to alter the dungeons. You can construct doors and ladders to expand where you can search. Now, it’s pretty linear and you can only alter the dungeon in predetermined areas and in predetermined ways, but it was nonetheless a great addition by allowing you to interact with the world in a new way.
Concealed in the Shadows
One of my favorite things to do in games like Undernauts is building my party and picking portraits, or the appearance of my team. Undernauts not only gives unique options with variants, you can pick images from past Experience Inc. games. Want to add Riu from Sword City or Saul from Sapphire Wings? You can! And the list goes on. There’s even characters from the original concept version of Undernauts you can use. Aside from all the character options, there’s a lot of variety and detail in the dungeons. I played the initial dungeon for so long that I thought the whole game might take place there. How wrong I was. More and more dungeons open up and each with their own flavor.
The music is adequately done and adds a sense of foreboding to your journey. The sound effects add a nice touch as well and give the whole game a great level of polish. The overall experience is exactly what I was hoping for in a modern dungeon crawler. I didn’t run into any technical problems and the game looked great on the big screen and in handheld mode.
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi has a bizarre setting with some interesting characters. It works well in the world it has created and gives the player a lot of customization. There’s no shortage of places to explore and fiends to vanquish. Some of the boss battles will test your RPG prowess and ultimately offer hours upon hours of playtime. Undernauts is a great step forward for first person dungeon crawlers and avoided many of the pitfalls of its predecessor. I highly recommend this game to RPG enthusiasts and it can even win over newcomers to the genre.
- Flexible Character Customization
- Great Variety of Mazes to Explore
- Interesting Combat with Several Creatures
- Slight Balancing and Pacing Issues