Authors Note: I’ve played more Limbus Company since this writeup, and I’ve realized a few things I said were incorrect. You can read those corrections here. I’m leaving this writeup as is though, in order to preserve my initial understanding and perspective.
It would make sense that after 10 hours of Limbus Company, I would have a strong feeling on whether or not to recommend it. Thing is, I really don’t.
Limbus Company is fascinating. It’s unlike any other RPG I’ve played, and it’s tonally different than any other F2P game I’ve played. But its F2P mechanics, poor tutorials, and awful information display make it a very tough sell.
Side Note: I saw someone mention that you need to be a rocket scientist to understand this game. I asked my friend who worked at NASA to try it, and they completely bounced off it.
Limbus Company is a game from Project Moon, a Korean indie game studio. Project Moon’s other games include Lobotomy Corporation and Library of Ruina.
All three games share the same world and story. I mention this because I will be talking about Limbus Company’s story, and that means general spoilers for the other two games. Sort of.
It’s a bit hard to explain. Much like the rest of Limbus Company!
Story and Art
Limbus Company has a strong visual style. I’ve always really liked 2D images in 3D environments as a design choice, and it’s done very well here. The story is unusual, and tonally a bit wonky.
For reference, the game opens with the player character cutting off their own head and replacing it with a clock. The individual story arcs run the gamut from “Haha, weird,” to “What the ever loving fuck.”
Notable moments in the first category include a casino run by people in Mariachi outfits who fight with maracas.
Notable moments in the second category include a sympathetic NPC being gutted and worn like a flesh-suit. By a giant apple.
Anyway, game mechanics. Let’s talk about game mechanics.
How Limbus Company Works (I Think)
I’m going to try to explain how Limbus Company works. If you don’t care, you skip this bit. The extra knowledge is useful for deciding if you’d like the game, but not necessary for me to explain my problems with the game, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Limbus Company is a combat game. The player controls a group of characters (sinners) in fights against enemies and abnormalities. On a given turn, the player chooses from two available cards and builds a chain of cards across the characters they control.
Cards have: Power, Coins, Damage, Attacks, Damage Type, Sin Type, and Count. Power determines who wins Clashes, but only after Clashes are resolved by flipping the Coins. There’s a secondary value that determines the increase to power based on the number of coin flips that land heads during a clash or one-sided attack phase.
Damage is the amount of damage inflicted. I think. Honestly not sure. Attacks are the number of attacks to be inflicted on the use of a card, or that will be used for resolution of Clash during a Clash. However, it’s important to note that Sanity has an impact on Coin flip resolution, increasing or decreasing the rate at which you flip heads. This makes the Coin Flip not actually a coin flip.
Damage Type is the type of damage inflicted. There are three types, which are modified by enemy resistance, but also change if the enemy is staggered or panic based on their sanity. Abnormalities though, don’t have sanity, and cannot be panicked.
Sin type determines resonance and absolute resonance. In addition, resolving an attack of a given sin type grants Sin that can be used to activate Ego.
Count determines how many copies of a card are in a sinners deck.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, good. Because I’ve played 10 hours of this game, and I don’t get it.
Anyway, combat! Combat is against either abnormalities or everyone else. In fights against abnormalities, individual abnormalities and body parts of the abnormality can be targeted, but in general fights, characters pick targets on their own.
Limbus Company has multiple game modes. I’ve only unlocked a few of them, but most are just “do combat, get different resources.” However, there is one mode that’s very different, and that’s the game’s mirror dungeons.
Mirror Dungeons are semi-randomly generated path of various encounters, similar to a “run” in Slay the Spire or Inscryption. The characters are reset to start at level 10, and after winning a fight, there’s a reward of either a random item in the vein of Slay the Spires artifacts, or the ability to level one of the current party members up.
Personally though, I’ve found that Mirror Dungeons got stale fairly quickly. Because there’s no reward for experimenting, and Limbus Company is F2P, I usually just ran more or less the same team, and picked safe options.
Story mode has something similar. While 90% of the story is a set of single linear combat encounters, the mission of each story chapter is a large non-randomized dungeon. These have been some of the more interesting parts of the game for me so far, and feel more like playing an actual video game than a free to play game with a gacha system.
The Collision of Money and Mechanics
There are two large pain points I have with Limbus Company. The first is that the game did not spend enough time and detail explaining the aforementioned combat systems, and doesn’t display in-game information in an easily accessible way. The tutorial is brief, and while not unhelpful, is overwhelming. I had another friend download and try the game to confirm that it wasn’t just me being stupid, and they had a similar level of drowning in information.
While bad onboarding and scaffolding can be a problem with games, it’s not one that necessarily turns me off. As perusing this blog for any length of time will make quite clear, I am willing to play games with janky or unexplained systems. I will play games that are horribly broken. I will play games that are in a language I can’t speak or read.
But learning a game’s systems by experiencing them requires me to actually be able to play the game. Limbus Company is F2P play, which means it has an energy point system. As with every energy point system ever, it boils down to the following core loop:
- Spend Energy to enter levels
- Get more Energy over time, or by spending real money.
- There is no three.
I mentioned in my Arknights writeup a while back how much I liked that the game had a parallel energy system that gave free tries at clearing levels without any rewards.
A system like that is exactly what I want in Limbus Company. Something that lets me play the game, experiment with builds and try to figure out the incredibly obtuse systems that make up combat without “wasting” my energy on fights I can’t clear.
Right now, I felt discouraged from actually experimenting with the game’s mechanics, unless I hit a wall and had no other way forward.
Limbus Company has a compelling, if occasionally frustrating, story and solid art. The mechanics are interesting, and I wish I understood them better, or that they were easier to learn by playing.
If you’re looking for a F2P game, you could certainly do worse then Limbus Company. But enjoying it requires a high level of patience and tolerance for what initially feels like esoteric bullshit.
Limbus Company can be played for free on Steam, and also on phones. I suggest you avoid playing it on your phone unless you have an electron tunneling microscope so that you can actually read the text.