ASTLIBRA Revision – The Cave of Phantom Mist DLC

If there’s one thing I loved about ASTLIBRA Revision, is how it was never afraid to introduce new mechanics. Just when you think the game doesn’t have any more surprises, you beat the game and unlock the post game. The post game doesn’t just continue the story of the game, it adds a bunch of new mechanics on top to keep you engaged.

Eventually, you reach the final dungeon and you notice that it isn’t quite like the others. Rather than being a normal dungeon, it has this arcade-y feel about it, where you have to clear randomly generated levels and make it to the end. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that this was a proof of concept, but with ASTLIBRA you would have been excused if you thought this was just another of the game’s surprises. But now we know the product of that proof of concept: The Cave of Phantom Mist.

Developer: KEIZO

Publisher: WhisperGames

Platform: Steam

Release date: Feb 13, 2024


The Cave of Phantom Mist is a side-story from the main ASTLIBRA Revision game. It retains all of the gameplay elements you know and love from the original game, with new twists and customization added for this extra chapter. In this new chapter, you play as the baker’s daughter and embark on a quest to solve the mysteries of The Cave of Phantom Mist alongside our favorite dog: Polin.

A New Adventure Every Time

The biggest difference from the base game is that The Cave of Phantom Mist plays out exclusively in a single dungeon: The Cave of Phantom Mist. However, the cave takes after the final dungeon in the main game as a dungeon that’s different every playthrough. Think of this game as a roguelike.

The Cave of Phantom Mist is divided into stratums. Each stratum has 10 floors, with the last of them being a boss encounter. Each stratum has its own theme based on the chapters from the base game. To beat a floor, you must play through a sort of mini metroidvania to find the exit lever and then exit the floor. However, most rooms are filled with dangers that will make your search a little more challenging.

Luckily, we don’t need to do the entire cave in a single sitting, as you can choose to start from any stratum you’ve unlocked. There are also halfway points within each stratum, so at most you need to do 5 floors in a single sitting before reaching a checkpoint.

Welcome to the Casino

Since each floor is completely randomized, the rooms present its own unique opportunities. You might find tough monsters along the way, but you can also find valuable loot that will help you out. Most importantly there are all sorts of bonus rooms scattered throughout each floor, some being good and some being bad. This adds a nice little dose of tension behind every door. Will you venture inside and see what’s in there, or play it safe and find the lever?

Bonus rooms can range from good or bad depending on your luck. Some of them are filled with treasure chests or ore veins that let you in on free loot. Others present mini games like a bow target practice or timed challenges where you must try to break the statue or the force orbs for nice rewards. If you’re unlucky, you’ll run into a monster locker that traps you until you clear out the room.

But if you’re really unlucky, you will run into a very powerful foe! These foes will be extremely familiar to you, as they are the mini-bosses you encountered throughout your main adventure in ASTLIBRA Revision. Upon completion, you will get rewarded with treasure chests for your troubles.

The Ultimate Price

Upon death, you will be kicked out of the cave and sent back to town. You will be able to keep all the treasures you’ve acquired, your weapons, and spell mastery, but you will lose some of the force you acquired along the way. Force is the main currency for the GROW grid where you permanently increase your stats, collect treasure and learn new magic.

And this is one of the aspects I disliked about this side-story. The force you lose on death is dependent on the difficulty you chose at the beginning of the adventure. Normal costs you half your force while Hell and above cost you all of your force. Since there are no traditional levels in The Cave of Phantom Mist, GROW is the main way to become stronger. But unlike most roguelikes, a failed sortie doesn’t let you grow stronger for your next outing.

The reason for this is that progressing on The Cave of Phantom Mist represents a constant risk/reward scenario where you must choose to either venture further or return to town and bank your force. Sadly, the choice is made for you most of the time. Just like the main game, The Cave of Phantom Mist has a habit of instantly killing you.

The Strength Board

Ultimately, I feel like the dropping of force makes the game feel unnecessarily punishing. Every death ultimately feels like a waste of time where you have almost nothing to show for it. In most roguelikes, the loss of progress is usually the punishment, but at least you retain ways of growing permanently stronger for your next attempt. Not so much at The Cave of Phantom Mist.

To make matters worse, he GROW grid can only be used from your room back in town. The reason for this is that you are only allowed to use the force you banked after a successful sortie, but a side effect of this is that you can’t learn new magics while at the cave.

Even if GROW is the main mechanic by which we grow stronger, it is just one of many systems that we can use to strengthen ourselves

Style Change

The Cave of Phantom Mist introduces a new way of customizing your play style: styles. Styles are “classes” that can be equipped to your character and provide passive abilities. For example, the swordsman style will halve the weight of equipped swords, while the witch style increases magic power. Each style comes equipped with a unique stylish strike that unleashes a powerful attack on a cooldown. This attack can be performed by pressing up and holding the attack button. Though it is quite easy to accidentally trigger it when trying to do upwards attacks.

Being ASTLIBRA, of course styles come with their own separate progression! Each style comes with its own mastery. As mastery increases, you will get 3 different permanent stat buffs that apply to your character regardless of style. This gives you a good reason to level up every style instead of just sticking to your favorite. But that’s not all! Styles are found in treasure chests, but if you happen to find a duplicate, then it will permanently increase the level up bonus of a random stat, with the cap being +5 for each of the 5 main attributes.

All Aboard the Style Train

Leveling up works different in The Cave of Phantom Mist. You level up as normal during your sorties, but upon returning to town your level is reset to 1. Longer sorties means more chances of getting stronger, but with a greater risk. The stats you gain from leveling up depend on your currently equipped style. Each has stronger multipliers for different stats, like the swordsman gaining more attack and the guardian gaining more defense. The bonuses are increased when collecting duplicate styles, though it is a little hard to pinpoint a single style drop.

Eventually, boards will become available too. Unlike the main game, boards aren’t available for your equipment but rather for your styles. They carry the same randomized assortment of bonuses, with only the alternate summons being unavailable. Sadly, they carry a little bit of the inconvenience of the GROW system in that it can’t be accessed anywhere. You can only style change at your room or at Mokyun’s shop, so getting a good board isn’t immediately exciting.

The Throwbacks

Thematically, The Cave of Phantom Mist functions as a sort of recap of ASTLIBRA Revision, with each stratum echoing a chapter of the main game (sometimes even multiple of them). As such, you will encounter familiar enemies and weapons throughout your adventure. The bosses are all brand new, but you can encounter mini-bosses from the main game on the challenge rooms.

Luckily, the arena has been revamped! Instead of having an assorted set of challenge rooms and powerful enemies, it nows feature the chapter bosses from the main game. Even the god super bosses have been included! The rewards aren’t nearly as exciting until the last couple of bosses, but the fight themselves definitely are!

Closing Thoughts

After playing The Cave of Phantom Mist, I can understand why it evolved from being a mini-story to being a fully fledged 20 hour DLC. A concept as simple as a randomized dungeon has been stuffed with new features and mechanics that make it feel similar to “arranges” in shmups. Though, I think in the end it differs from the traditional roguelike experience because even though the power curve is a bit more punishing, you do end up being able to steamroll lower stratums, thus losing its appeal as an endless game.

The weakest portion of the game is definitely the first 2 stratums. The game takes a while to pick up the pac. Both magic and important technique scrolls such as the backdash take a while to be introduced. I feel that this slower pace might deter players from discovering the game, but I imagine most players will have beaten the base game and will be patient enough to let the game peel away its layers.

The Cave of Phantom Mist feels a little underwhelming compared to the main game, but at the same time it is a testament to just how enjoyable the progression systems and the combat have always been! If you enjoyed ASTLIBRA Revision, then you definitely need to play The Cave of Phantom Mist!

Author: Alex

Editor and owner of AzorMX Gaming. I would say that writing is my passion, but it would be a lie because my actual passion is gaming, but writing about gaming is a close second.

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