Wednesday, 24 May 2017 10:48

REVIEW: Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (PS4)

Written by Brett Hale
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Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception isn’t just a role playing visual novel on console, t’s a part of a franchise that’s been around since 2002 and comes in many forms from comic books, video games and animated shows. Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is the newest edition to Utawarerumono, but there is also another game coming soon titled Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth that ties in with Mask of Deception.

This is a story that’s extensive, it’ll take anywhere from 40 to 50+ hours. Insane, right? My opinion on why it’s so long is due to the style of game it is. It’s a story told in a very slow manner. It’s a visual novel, basically a “book on a console” Which sounds odd right? But hey, what do I know. It’s not just a story where you sit back and read the subtitles, there is also a role-playing side. So, what’s the essence of Mask of Deception? It’s a tale that takes readers on a phenomenal journey.

You’ll play as an unknown character at first, but later you’ll be named Haku. You awaken with no prior memories. You don’t have any idea where you are or how you got there, and it’s not a safe place. Luckily you were rescued by a young woman who is called Kuon.

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You’ll eventually move on through the game together meeting other unique characters, and both Haku and Kuon will battle together and other characters will also help you in battle as you meet them. As you progress through this title, you’re able to mould the story in future events, meaning this games outcome leads to the next game Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth.

Now this game was sort of hard to review. Its gameplay isn’t what I’d class as “normal gameplay” as such. There isn’t any walking around or discovering places like games we play every day. Instead you’re reading 99% of the time. There are battles though and this is the only time you truly control characters’ movements.

There are only two difficulty settings, normal and hard. Battles don’t come right away; I was roughly a couple of hours into the game before encountering my first. Prior to starting a battle you’re shown player stats and your active skills you have equipped. Once you commence the battle, your player stats stay in the top left of the screen. Your moves are in the form of blue and red squares, there isn’t a limit on how far you can move. For example, you can move one square or you can move 4 squares forward and turn left or right and move to the final square.

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Battling is easy, attacking and defeating enemies earns your characters XP and BP. As you progress through the game, battle difficulty will increase slightly depending on the character levels. Upon a battle ending your stats are shown again as well as your level increase, the amount of XP you’ve earnt. You’ll unlock battle action chains, and other cool bonuses. Conversations, that's the key word when talking about Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. Speech bubbles are bottom of the screen, as well as controls to do things with the conversations and to pause the game. You can skip conversations but as the majority of the game is nothing but conversations it defeats the purpose of the game allowing that. You can even trigger auto conversation, meaning you just push triangle and sit back and just read until a battle pops up.

Settings are basic, nothing really to mess around with, though seeing this is based heavily on conversations the only settings I changed were the conversation speeds. There are also settings for battles, where you can change the camera and things that are displayed whilst in a battle.

One thing’s certain, I do not speak a lick of Japanese! Not to worry though, English subtitles are included. Voice acting is something I usually comment on in my reviews but I couldn’t honestly say if that aspect of the game was yay or nay... for obvious reasons. There were some awkward sound’s Haku and others made, sounding quite sexual, but at innocent times. The music heard is fitting for the manga/anime style of Utawarerumono, it plays throughout the entire game, and can come across repetitive.

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There isn’t much to see in terms of visuals as they aren't depended on, because when certain moments occur, the screen can go black, or you’ll see a backdrop of say trees. It’s the dialogue that describes what's happening just as it would in a book.

The game leaves a lot to your own imagination, but I don’t play video games for that reason, if I wanted this I’d simply read a book. You're only ever seeing still backdrops unless you’re in a battle, then the game will turn into a 3D top down sort of view. And backdrops are nice as they are animated, but are nothing special. Characters on the other hand look good. They are that typical anima with large eyes, and the perfect hairstyles. It’s just environments when in battle that look poor.

It’s no wonder it has 40+ hours to complete. The beginning is very long for any introduction for a game I’ve played before. It’s on all Sony platforms, at least in Japan, here in Australia it’s available on PS4 & Vita. The game wasn’t my cup of tea, and not understanding the random moments that came out of nowhere didn’t help. Then there were the awkward sexual innuendos. If you’re a “bookworm” you might just enjoy this style of game, or maybe you’re a long-time fan of the Utawarerumono franchise. This is a game that is directed to a specific bunch of gamers, so it’s not for everyone.

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: May 23, 2017
  • Platform: PS Vita, PS4
  • Age Rating: ESRB M17+
  • Content: Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
  • Developer: Aqua Plus
  • Publisher: Aqua Plus
  • Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure, Misc