Spending time with Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi represents my first time playing a dungeon RPG. Going into my first experience of playing a game from the genre, I had almost next to no knowledge of what the gameplay will be like. Having said all that, I was excited to see what the game had to offer, so let’s dive in!
This game was developed by Experience Inc. and published by Aksys Games, set in 1970’s Tokyo, a large Labyrinth called Yomi suddenly appears from the ground. Excavation teams are sent to investigate, and they find valuable resources, bringing riches to those who find them. However, soon they find there are also dangerous creatures and other worldly beings hidden in Yomi that prove to be fatal to anyone who come across them. As a result, private companies illegally hire desperate civilians who are quite often young people to form teams of excavation teams of their own. They are called Undernauts, and you play a recruit tasked with finding valuable resources for the company that has hired you. Before you even begin, your team is attacked by an evil creature, and you are left as the lone survivor. You form another team, to not only gather valuable resources but to escape from Yomi.
In terms of the setting of Undernauts and the Labyrinth of Yomi itself is a dark, eery and lonesome place. First time playing a dungeon RPG, I was taken aback by how big the Labyrinth is with so many directions to go. The music itself plays upon that high tension atmosphere with danger lurking around every corner. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a horror game, but there are some elements of it within the story and characters you meet. When you are not exploring, you can find refuge in camps. Here you meet other NPCs, create items for combat, update your squad and more.
One particular item that will be very useful on your journey are Yomi flowers, these mystic flowers can be converted to items to build doors, ladders, and bridges. As you explore Yomi, you will come across sections in the map that will require you to build these structures. This will be essential to your exploration in order to progress the story, but also find more hidden treasures and characters that will help you on your journey.
I was very impressed with the game’s artwork and so if you’re a fan of JRPGs you will find yourself right at home. While there aren’t any animated scenes or any real dynamic character movement, the static hand drawn characters you come across are brimming with authenticity. It is almost like reading a Japanese manga. There is a wide range of enemy creatures you will come across too, and their artwork will have the same level of high attention to detail. The dialogue is written very well, the script for each character does a great job of portraying different personalities. Even the enemies have plenty of character and have plenty to talk about.
Having said that, this is where the grind of exploring Yomi and participating in combat will help. Be prepared that you may suffer a few deaths yet thankfully the game has a pretty good auto save so you won’t have to retread the same paths that often. But you will need to be patient and learn how to utilise your team with each enemy encounter. As you gain more and more XP you will then be able to assign and grow their attributes; here you can mold your squad into a more cohesive team. Additionally, if you’re really not happy with your squad, you can always go back to camp and change the members of your squad to more of your liking.
Now with the actual combat itself, you will use your Vanguards for basic attacks and skill-based moves for extra effects and abilities when dealing damage to your enemies. I’d recommend using your Rearguards for healing squad members and using the skill movies for environmental damage to your enemies. Eventually you will get efficient with killing enemies from random encounters and it will be the hidden and boss battles where the difficulty spikes. The game does give you an option to go back before encountering boss battles. I would heed that warning and make sure you’re stocked up on restorative items, and squad boosters, as you will need it!
A great feature they also added, is being able to select fast battle after you have chosen your moves. This is a great way of finishing battles quickly as the animations are minimalistic and the fast option gets you going to the next turn quicker. When you’re grinding and exploring, trust me this option is a gift from heaven!
As I mentioned earlier though there will be a fair amount of grinding through this game. I don’t oppose to grinding in video games, I have played plenty of RPGs where I have had to grind to get to where I want to be. But in Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, it did start to bore me and my interest in playing started to wane. The first few hours are going to be crucial, as you will need to just stick to the game. Pay attention to the dialogue and read through all the extra hints and tips the game provides. There is a lot of reading to take in, and there will be a fair amount of backtracking, but the payoff is worth it. What would have helped is if the Labyrinth itself had a bit more variety to it; it’s all one giant maze to begin with and everything almost looks the same. Even when finding hidden doors or ladders it doesn’t take you anywhere completely different to begin with. So you will need to stick to your tasks and keep solving the puzzles to get access to new levels within Yomi.
Also, when dealing with random encounters, it’s not easy to just run away so you don’t have to sit through battle and waste precious skill points and HP when you want to get to your target destination. Quite often you will need an item like a smoke ball to get away. I found this rather annoying, and it just added to my frustration of wanting to just progress to the next story quest.
All in all, my first experience playing a dungeon RPG was a very enjoyable one. What kept me playing Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi has been the story and the characters you meet. It felt like playing a game with a Japanese Manga storyline. The combat is easy to pick up but difficult to master, and I always made sure that I was stocked up on items when venturing out into Yomi. While there could be more animated cutscenes or even more voice acting, I still got invested in my squad and my search for more answers on Yomi.
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is definitely a game that you need to stick with, being patient, but if you do then you will be rewarded well, as you make your way through more dungeons and face off against all kinds of dangerous beasts.
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is downloadable from the Xbox Store