What makes the dungeon crawler genre of gaming enjoyable is smartly designed labyrinths to explore & engaging gameplay systems that keep you invested in fully mapping out every inch of the game. It is a great feeling and past Vita dungeon crawlers captured this feeling nicely with titles like Demons Gaze and Ray Gigant coming to mind. Idea Factory dabs its foot into this genre of gaming with MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death for the PlayStation Vita and its current out now on the NA & EU PlayStation Network Storefronts.
This first impressions post covers the first two dungeons of the game. My review will be releasing within the next few days as of this post, so I just wanted to make this first impressions article to share my thoughts on this title.
The plot of the game revolves around five Mechina Mages, magic users who have the ability to interact with special machines that can fight for them. Our main character Estra soon is pushed into the dungeon alongside five other mages and they compete who can explore every dungeon & save the world, as the one who saves the world is the new main mage.
What makes the set up rewarding is the characters as they are very enjoyable with well-written dialog, charming English Voice Actors (the game has an option for JP VA if you prefer that though), and mostly appealing character designs. Each one has unique quarks and its funny seeing them bounce off one another.
Gameplay & Design
MeiQ is very simple, in the sense that it mirrors other dungeon role playing games with its mechanics. You explore dungeons with a number of different floors while avoiding traps, fighting various creatures and discovering treasure. These core mechanics are done very well in MeiQ, with the map being able to become full screen with some taps of the Left Analog Stick while also giving you a run button to dash through the massive maps faster.
Combat is an area where comparisons to other games outside the dungeon role playing game start appearing, as you are warped into a battle map where you & your Mechina Guardian partner fight. You can switch between your party members (who can use magic and attacks) or the Mechina Guardians (who can use different attacks based on the ‘arms’ you have equipped to them). This system offers fast battle (animations speed up) and auto-combat (holding down the R button), making fights very swift and rapid if you chose.
What makes fights fun is that each Guardian (you can get eight across the game) has different abilities and the game has a Pokemon-esc elemental system in place. So for example, Water attacks are very effective against Fire creatures. It makes battles dynamic, as depending on your party and Guardian partners, battles can be very easy or quite challenging. Outside of combat, you can switch between your Guardians making things easier if you are having trouble.
Later in the game, you get more party members joining you (the other Mechina Mages) which also offer you more slots to have Guardians (up to three). With the options presented to you, combat can be as simple or complex as you desire.
General design has four options; the shop where you can purchase items or parts for your Guardians, the inn where you can save & rest, visit the guild to accept quests/missions before venturing into the four dungeons, and a location where you can upgrade your Guardians (forge parts and upgrade ones you own). You can explore these four locations before venturing into the dungeons and its recommended you do so. When you leave a dungeon, your progress made is locked, so revisiting and picking up where you left off is very simple.
MeiQ is a great looking & sounding title. The dungeon designs have great themes (with the first being a basic blue dungeon while the second being a fire-filled area) and is supported with great musical tracks playing during exploration & combat encounters.
The character designs are solid, with their looks mirroring Idea Factories Neptuina series characters. As a fan of that franchise, that was nice to see and I personally enjoyed the main characters design and the different Guardian designs you encounter.
Regarding how the game runs on Vita, its a consistent frame rate with native resolution, ensuring that everything is clear & visible when exploring. The game also supports dual-audio, so if you enjoy the Japanese or English Voice Acting, you can switch to the one you prefer. As I mentioned during the story portion of this first impressions, I enjoyed the English Voice Acting and plan on sticking with that for my playthrough though I did enjoy the Japanese Voice Acting from the little I heard of it.
Overall, I am having a great time playing MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death as the core gameplay is quite strong with plenty of options in combat alongside strong characterizations due to a solid localization and great English Voice Acting. If you are a fan of Dungeon Crawler JRPG’s, I can safely say you would have a great time with the game. My review will be releasing later this week, so more detailed and critical thoughts will be found there.
The game is currently out now on the PlayStation Vita in North America & Europe, with it being out on both Digital & Retail formats. If you own a PlayStation TV, the game is playable on that iteration of the PlayStation Vita as well.