Fatal Labyrinth is an action role-playing game developed and published by Sega in Japan in 1990 and in USA and EU in 1991. Fatal Labyrinth introduced something with the game that was not seen until more recent games that if the player attacks within a set rhythm, then the player can consistently hit the enemies without missing. This reminds me heavily of the 2015 release Crypt Of The Necrodancer where the player has to attack and move within the rhythm of a song. Fatal Labyrinth does not require the player to move to a rhythm, but once the player releases the rhythm of attacking enemies, then defeating them is made quite easy.
Fatal Labyrinth is also considered to be a roguelike game because of the levelling up system and the fact that the player begins with extremely basic gear. Roguelike games stem from board games such as Dungeons and Dragons, where the player has to fight their way through a labyrinth to survive and find more powerful equipment. Fatal Labyrinth embraces these concepts of Roguelike games, but does not have class choices unless other Roguelikes. Instead, Fatal Labyrinth takes most of its concept from dungeon crawlers because there are areas where the player has to find a solution to what looks like a room without an exit.
The player controls a character that the game remained unnamed and the character agrees to enter a forbidden 3o floor labyrinth to recover a stolen goblet. However, on the 30th floor, there is a dragon that is guarding the goblet and no one in the village is brave enough to face the labyrinth, hence why the village turn to the character the player controls.
So, my major issue with the story is the fact that the game’s story is so thin on the background and the game doesn’t explain why or who the goblet was stolen by. It definitely is a problem because it didn’t give me any incentive to even care about the character or the village at all. I feel like the story should have explained in a lot detail about the character that the player is controlling or even some information or backstory related to the village. Even if the information does not make any difference to what happens in the game, at least something interesting or some context to the world that the player is in would help make the game feel more interesting.
I just feel that the story is extremely bland and not very interesting and because of this, it doesn’t really do much to really show the player what the game is all about. If anything, the game just throws the player in the deep end with no context to what the player is doing. The major issue is that the village and the main character are unnamed and whilst this can mean that the player can imagine the hero is them and the village is their town, not allowing the player to name these things makes the game feel too light in terms of story. However, on the flip side because of the fact that the game is a roguelike game, similar games within the genre are quite light in terms of storyline. There are other roguelike games I have played that have more depth and interest in the story that the game is conveying. (Edit: The story is really important because at the end of the day the whole concept of the game is to see how far you can get into the labyrinth before you die.)
Fatal Labyrinth is roguelike game, however the game does some RPG elements like the ability to level up your hero as you defeat enemies. The game has a level system where when the player levels up, the player receives 1 to PW, which is power and relates to the amount of damage that the player can do to enemies. The level up also increases the hit points that the player can take from other enemies, which in the later sections of the game the player will be needing.
I do like this RPG element to the game because it is not all about how good the player’s gear is, but also the level of the character has a direct correlation to the damage dealt as well. However, the main issue I have with this mechanic is the fact that throughout the game, unless the player grinds quite a lot and defeats every enemy and I mean every enemy, then the player will feel unpowered all the time. The reason for this is the fact that the defence of the character is dictated by the gear rather than level ups, which means the player might be able to deal a lot of damage, it is very susceptible to taking large amounts of damage.
The main problem I have regarding to this is that the game is way too difficult for it’s own good to the point where even if the player grinds every enemy, the random number of enemies on a floor will decide how much experience the player will gain. There were so many times where enemies would wipe me out on the first floor and the game would not give me enough time to get settled in and find some gear. What this means more often than not is that the player will not progress very far without dying and what is worse is that continues only come into play from floor 5 and every 5 floors after that. So, the player could have had to grind several levels to reach floor 10, get wiped out by way too powerful enemies and then have to continue from floor 6. This created a situation where on multiple occasions I would do really well and grind and then get frustrated at having to repeat large sections of the game over. (Edit: One of the main things about games of this type is that the game is meant to difficult because the game it originated from, Rogue was a difficult game.)
Another issue is that the game requires the player to find food to stay alive in the labyrinth, but if the character eats the food immediately rather than the letting the player decide when to eat it. This on top of the fact that there are scrolls that can wipe out the food stats down to 0 makes this mechanics feel like it was added to add to the sheer difficulty that there already was in play. If the game gave the option to store food and eat it when the player felt it suited the situation best, then this would have not been an issue, but the fact the character eats it immediately makes finding food when the character is already full annoying.
(Edit: The attacks are based on dice rolls and are completely random whether they will hit the target or not. I like this aspect because there is an element of randomness. The floors, enemies and items are completely randomised throughout the game, meaning that the game will be different every time, lending itself well to replayability)
The other problem I have with the game is how bland and boring the graphics look. There is literally zero variation in the patterns on the floors between each level the player ascends and only changes every 10 floors. This makes the game feels extremely boring to look at and also makes the game feel like it was rushed and the focus was more shifted on the mechanics. (Edit: Games in the roguelike series previous to Fatal Labyrinth did not have graphics so Fatal Labyrinth having graphics was a step forward in the genre.
The music in Fatal Labyrinth is boring and repetitive. There is no development in terms of music structure and it feels like there was stock music used for the soundtrack. What this means is that this alongside the graphics makes the sound and feel of the game feel really bland and a boring spectacle to listen to and look at. The major criticism is that there is only 4 themes throughout the game and they loop within 20 seconds of starting and even worse is that all sound the same. I just think that there was so little effort put into the sound and I recommend if you play this game to have some other music on.
(Edit: Fatal Labyrinth I feel now was a step forward in the roguelike genre, but there were certain things about the game that I could not grasp because it is not a typical RPG. I like the fact that the game is different every playthrough and the game gives the feeling of progression. I just feel that this game and this genre of game is simply not for me, but I can appreciate what it did for the genre.)
Many thanks to Aaron Hickman of Genesis Gems and Matt Daley for the edits you see in the review because they offered a perspective that made me think about what I wrote as this was my first roguelike game.
Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use