Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a benchmark of both the Castlevania franchise and the metroidvania genre with its free exploration, light RPG mechanics, and action. Meanwhile, Record of Lodoss war is a classic among old-school anime inspired by the rules and lore of tabletop fantasy like Dungeons and Dragons. We might not have expected these two things to come together in a single package in 2020. I certainly didn’t and I’m a big fan of both, but playing through an Early Access build of Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth on Steam has left me more than a little interested in what the whole game has in store for us later this year.
Symphony of Lodoss, & some extra tricks too
One thing has to be said early. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth plays and looks eerily similar to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in its foundation. It follows similar beats. This is especially apparent in the free exploration of the map. It features the classic metroidvania staple of being blockaded by certain obstacles that require you to search hallways, overcome platforming, and defeat bosses to discover various items and abilities that let you move forward. Even Deedlit has an almost identical swagger to SOTN’s Alucard when she moves and turns with a flourish of her cape.
In fact, it’s a big part of how Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth caught our eyes in the first place. But, make no mistake, this is no simple Symphony of the Night clone with a Lodoss reskin. That becomes apparent once Deedlit’s main mechanics come into play and really start to set her apart from Alucard. In early access, it isn’t long before you collect both the elemental spirits of Sylph and Salamander, representative of wind and fire. Sylph lets you float over surfaces and drift to otherwise unreachable places while Salamander allows you to break certain obstacles like explosive barrels and generally do more damage with your attacks. You can have either Sylph or Salamander active at any given time and switch freely between them.
Sylph and Salamander are more than their active mechanics though. For one, there are gauges for each spirit. Killing enemies with one spirit active fills the gauge for the opposite spirit and once you fill a spirit's gauge, having that spirit active automatically restores any health you've lost. Meanwhile, taking damage will knock a chunk of the active spirit's gauge away. You'll have to switch over to the opposite spirit to fill the emptied gauge again.
Another notable point is that the Early Access map was covered in barriers of fire or wind energy blocking access to certain places. By using the spirit attuned to the barrier’s energy, you can safely pass through. This is utilized in some puzzles where you must switch between the spirits carefully to traverse the area. It even comes up in some regular enemy and boss fights where certain attacks were set to one or the other energy and I had to switch spirits to safely nullify the attacks. In this way, Sylph and Salamander are both level traversal mechanics, but with a robust balancing act requiring attention to the pitfalls or enemies present, and more spirits are on the way, so puzzles, traps, enemy fights, and the overall balancing act is bound to get even more interesting.
The dexterity of an elf ranger & all that entails
Sylph and Salamander weren’t the only notably unique mechanics to Deedlit. Throughout the game, you gain a collection of weapons that are either melee or ranged bows. The bows use mana for each arrow shot and can hit foes at quite the range, but there’s more to them then just ranged combat. Arrows can be bounced off of most metal surfaces, making for a ton of interestingly angle-bending combat and room puzzles.
Weapons on the other hand are a collection of swords, spears, clubs, and more with speed and strength attributes, as well as possibly more unique functions. This is extremely similar to the way melee weapons worked in SOTN, but the addition of the ever-available ranged attack in the bows also makes for interesting balance. You can even attack in 8 directions with melee and aim the bow, though I wish the melee function had buttons that would keep you oriented in the same direction or standing in place for easier diagonal attacks.
A mystery following what we know of Lodoss
Perhaps most interesting is that Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth isn’t simply a retread of the Record of Lodoss anime or manga’s events as we know them. Characters like the Warrior Parn, Mage Slayn, and even a few surprise participants make an appearance in the early access of Deedlit in Wonder Laybyrinth, but the context of the story and narrative I saw seems to indicate that this is a spinoff taking place sometime after the events of the original Record of Lodoss War stories in the anime and manga.
The early access left me guessing at where this narrative would go once the experience came to an end. That said, it was definitely enough to leave me interested in the mystery of how Deedlit came to this place and what role her old friends and enemies will play. The monsters are various, the corridors are vast, and the puzzles and pitfalls are both curious and treacherous thanks to the bow and spirit mechanics. If you loved Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you will likely feel right at home in Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, but if the early access was anything to go on, I feel Wonder Labyrinth will have a lot of its own, unique fun to offer players when the full game launches later this year.
This preview is based on an early access digital copy provided by the publisher. Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is available in Steam Early Access now and set to release in the US sometime in 2020.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth preview: Symphony of Lodoss
This looks so good! Much better than Bloodstained. Might be time to rewatch the OVAs.