Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception Review
By Cataclysmic Knight On 7 Jul, 2017 At 03:57 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Playstation Vita, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarUtawarerumono: Mask of Deception was my introduction to visual novels, and I have a minimal amount of experience with anime, but I dove in to the game with some excitement due to the SRPG battle elements. However, as the hours ticked by I learned that I had been deceived myself.


Title:
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
Developed/Published By: ATLUS, AQUAPLUS
Available For: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is a stylish 2D game that had a lot of promise and fell terribly short. As a huge fan of Telltale Games and other titles like Life is Strange I really had high hopes for an epic story and an intriguing strategy-RPG battle system. The game began with a protagonist who doesn’t remember who he is or how he ended up where he is. Kuon, a young girl, had helped him out and he soon finds himself in grave danger and saved by her once again. From there the two of them end up working to find out what Haku (the name Kuon has given him since he can’t remember it himself) can do to earn a living, fight wild battles and get wrapped up in all sorts of intrigue.

The first major challenge I came across with Utawarerumono was the fact that the game isn’t dubbed. Every word of dialogue required reading subtitles, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t a 40-50 hour game. The game is also primarily an illustrated book, with static or minimally-animated scenes that change every so often as different characters come in and out of conversations or as scenes change. I was also surprised that, in my time with the game, I only made a handful of decisions. Unfortunately, every single one of those decisions was presented in a hub (within a hotel or camp) and merely let me choose which scene I wanted to see next. These decisions made no difference whatsoever and sometimes even made things worse. At one point Haku told a man named Ukon that he was too tired to do any work and Ukon told him that was fine, they were just going to relax; when I chose the next scene Ukon came to ask Haku to do work! This all occurred in the same night and the flow of these scenes knocked me entirely out of the moment.

The story is also horribly drawn out. I’m okay with a story that doesn’t move at a quick pace, and as someone who has binge watched dozens of entire shows on Netflix it’s something I’m used to. However, Utawarerumono frequently had scenes that should’ve lasted 2-3 minutes and ended up being 20-30 instead. That’s the equivalence of an entire television episode given to Kuon and Haku eating breakfast, with Haku wondering how Kuon can eat so much food and Kuon explaining what the food was and how to eat it! This is done with only a few different static screens showing Kuon sitting there, so it’s not like I was even presented with what the food looked like or shown what Kuon was showing Haku. It also isn’t an occasional thing, it’s the norm; when I stopped playing the game 25 hours in (theoretically half way or more through the 40-50 hour game) I could have summed up the main plot in a few paragraphs, and it certainly hadn’t gotten interesting enough yet to hook my interest. There were teases at a really interesting story, but it was akin to sifting for flakes of gold in mountains of dirt.

Perhaps worst of all, some of the men in the story (Haku especially) are quick to comment on things sexually. While some humorous innuendo or funny situations can really liven moments up, even if they’re sexual in nature, I sometimes felt dirty playing Utawarerumono. This includes commenting sexually to girls who appear very underage, rape comments and blatant crudeness. It went there so often that it became a game for my gal and I to guess when it would happen next, and it almost always went even further than I’d have expected.

The game does have some strategy-RPG battles, but in the 25 hours I played I came across less than a dozen of them. The first didn’t occur until an hour and fifteen minutes passed, and by five and a half hours in I’d only fought three battles. To make matters worse, the tutorial was nearly nonexistent and despite some game history with SRPGs I still didn’t really grasp the deeper elements of the system. Luckily this really didn’t matter as the battles were all so easy that it would’ve been a challenge to lose, and I only had one character knocked out over the course of my time with the game. The game does offer two difficulties, and I went with the standard (easier) one, so it’s worth noting that if you want any kind of challenge and you’re at all familiar with SRPGs you should absolutely go with the harder difficulty mode.

On the upside, I was incredibly surprised by just how polished the game was. The dialogue system is brilliant and allows for automatic or manual progression, rewinding and pausing (including optionally replaying audio). The voice acting sounded excellent although, as I don’t speak the language, it’s hard to be certain. The art, while typically static, is very stylish and detailed. The music is rather fantastic, even to someone who isn’t typically a fan of anime music, and you can listen to music as you unlock it in the game from the title screen. As you progress you can also customize the title screen’s art and look at different art from the game. In the battle system, you can easily go back and replay old battles as well. For a game that’s mostly a book, it’s clear a lot of work went into polishing and perfecting the systems.

I have no doubt Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception will have plenty of fans. The series already has a solid fan base and I’ve heard from numerous people how excited they are to play both games. However, it absolutely wasn’t for me – it dragged on, it required reading subtitles and it barely had any actual gameplay to it. My primary job for years now has been as a book reviewer, so I have absolutely nothing against reading for hours at a time, but a story has to be interesting to be worth experiencing.

Finally, as I previously mentioned I didn’t complete the game. After putting in approximately 25 hours and learning that the game is basically just one-half of the overall story (with the upcoming Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth finishing it) I decided I didn’t need or want to complete it. Some of the information presented in this review – the lack of any genuine choices throughout the rest of the game and the fact that the game is 40-50 hours long, for example – was gathered from other reviews from reputable sources or from information from ATLUS/AQUAPLUS.

Note: I was given a free code for the game (and DLC) in exchange for my honest opinion.

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