Dungeon crawlers have been touch-and-go as of late. Sure, they’re addictive and they’ll quench the thirst of anyone who’s looking for a hearty challenge, but boy, they can be a burn. Where the genre became insipid, however, was the frequency of these all too similar experiences, and their releases lumped in so closely with one another. Refreshment is in the air for this once ambitious genre, and its name is Legasista.
From NIS America, Legasista tells of a tower covered in an ivy growth that climbs to the heavens; in it is an ancient weapon capable of granting miracles and unleashing utter destruction. Grounding the conventions of the dungeon formula, Legasista outlines its intentions pretty clearly to bridge the gap of accessibility for the obtuse crawler types. The story of one boy and his task to undertake the ultimate sacrifice hits most targets and marks a stimulating sign of the dungeon crawler heading in the right direction.
Legasista blatantly sells itself as a survival-centric dungeon crawler that demands your full attention to guard against the various elements you encounter. While it accomplishes this promise to some extent, it’s not all that well defined. And yet, this oversight of identity is what helps craft it into a nearly solid experience. The game straddles a fine line with staying true the roots of dungeon conventions, but to distinguish it amongst its peers while being limited by the same trappings it caters to. For example, regardless of its flashy colors and sharp figures, the anime aesthetic is a bit traditional to merit anything remarkable within the main art design. The main draw, however, is the actual in-game visuals, with whimsical sprites presenting an exquisite attention to detail with their limb-less hands and feet dashing about the screen, all complimented with bright graphics, boasting a sizable palette of colors that animate its world with a sense of vibrancy that was so lacking from the initial anime exterior. The quality of soundtrack even steals the spotlight, and with licks catchy enough to linger in your cerebellum and still leave room to move you when tracks keep up with the narrative’s moody outbreaks. While the presentation is surprisingly rich, despite the deceptive first impressions, you may be asking yourself, “What about the gameplay? Is it still predictable and bland as shit?” The answer is no -- for the most part that anyway.
Like most dungeon crawlers, Legasista has your hub-world, your floor traps, your incredibly risky-to-obtain rare treasures, and incredibly punishing consequences for failure. While these infamous tropes are the main reason for the genre only satisfying a certain niche, Legasista enforces them on a level that anyone can appreciate. First, and foremost, your lines of various defenses are fully fortified and customizable through energy frames, a mechanic which varies amongst the respective job classes available. Energy frames serve as an interchangeable interface for equipment load-outs that satisfy different play styles the player can choose from. Be it offensive, defensive, or an imbalanced mixture of the two, energy frames give players the option.
Frames possess slots reserved for attack, defensive, ability, and stat bonuses. Regulated by a mana pool, each slot increases with level or enhancement items, which can also be equipped in one of the frame’s slots as well. Different jobs have limited frame selections, while others have a wide array of them to choose from, and can be interchanged in between trips to the next dungeon floor. Regardless of whatever job/frame you’re equipped with, each item within your slot serves another integral function: your physical armor against damage.
Depending on the priority of slots (which depends on whatever strengths your job class emphasizes on), your life bar will also be located on the frame in where it is. For example, the Searcher job class positions the first half of your life bar as the initial protection against harm, and if depleted will then move on to the equipped slot which represents second bar of health which is measured by the durability of the equipped item. This simple yet complex mechanic gives a lot of room for advanced players to build upon as they progress, all while serving as a comprehensible health system that rookie players can adaptively progress without frustration.
The second big gimmick to Legasista’s straightforward approach is its party system. Advancing through the game and the plot of the main protagonist Alto, you’ll encounter numerous characters that will then being to join your party, and will all possess different strengths and weaknesses. Having a total party of three characters at a time creates a gratifying sense of depth, and remains accessible to those who are newer to dungeon crawlers. Not only could you counter specific obstacles with characters who boast a sizable protection against elemental damage or immunity towards potential poison hazards, but you’ll also increase your odds of survival (see what I did there) with tagging out dying members out with fresh ones in your party bench.
The big drawback for the experience is the demand for the grind. The difficulty curve from subsequent dungeon floors and the enemies within them will unreasonably jump to levels that are impossible to combat without a few trips to past dungeon floors; these grinds are unfortunately required regardless of your skills in equipping the best of what you own. In the end, you’ll need to build up stats if you ever hope of standing a chance in the new dungeon. Also, unlike other dungeon crawlers, the floors are constant and never change; they have the exact same layout and work to add on more to the game’s lapses of repetition.
The entry price may be steep, but the innovations and presentation of Legasista are a breath of fresh air in the stagnated domain of dungeon-crawling media. Small touches between visuals and surprisingly enjoyable narrative add to addictive micro-management that everyone can have fun with. Legasista comes highly recommended and deserves residence in your PS3 hard drive.
Four out of Five Hadokens