Atlas is recognised as one of the leaders when it comes to JRPG’s. They have quite an impressive catalogue of incredible titles. There latest release to the western world is something a little different, yet something quite familiar.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, (pronounced as Ooh-tah-wah-ray-roo-mo-no) is the tale of a man, injured and alone. He awakens to find himself in a hospital type garment, and has no memory of who he is, where he is or how he came to be there. Thankfully, he is aided by a mysterious and quite adorable girl named Kuon who decides to name the man Haku. The story then follows these two characters through their travels of self-discovery, throughout a land fractured by war.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is quite different to most games that I have played. There are two elements to the game, the primary element where you spend most of your time is a digital novel. The story is deep and long and is delivered with digital stills, Japanese voice actors and subtitles for the English-speaking gamers. This is the main bulk of the game, so for those who are action driven and not into hours of reading it may be a turn off. I found the writing reasonable but a huge portion of what is here is unnecessary, reading fifteen minutes of text about having a meal isn’t exactly enthralling. As the game progresses though the story escalates and is quite enjoyable.
The secondary part of the game is made from SRPG battles in a similar ilk of what is displayed in the Fire Emblem series. Being a fan of Fire Emblem I loved this part of Utawarerumono. Unlike Fire Emblem though, there is no perma-death and you have the ability to rewind time and start from a specific move. This takes the risk element out of the game but the battles are still thoroughly enjoyable. You also have the opportunity to feel more involved in battles with attack indicators lighting up and a well-timed button release or press inflicts more damage, perfect timing can result in a critical hit which reward with attack chains. It is a great addition.
Mastering strategy and earning victory rewards players with experience points and each party member can be levelled up accordingly. Likewise found items giving various buffs can be equipped to each party member. It is standard for RPG’s and feels familiar whilst not being particularly deep, it is easy to come to grips with though.
Graphics & Sound
The digital stills are vibrant and support the usual stylings of Harem Anime. The girls are cute, with large eyes and are scantily clothed. The men all look quite similar and fans of anime will feel right at home. Obviously, it wouldn’t be too taxing to have stunning visuals on static pictures and Utawarerumono doesn’t disappoint.
During the battle sequences, the camera takes an isometric approach. The characters resemble that of Fire Emblem just larger in scale. It all works quite well and looks ok, but don’t expect to be blown away. There is nothing here that would not have been achieved on the last generation consoles.
Utawarerumono: The Mask of Deception is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The digital novel aspect would probably appeal to few, and this portion makes up a huge part of the game. Thankfully, after a slow start the story lifts to a high level. The battle sequences are excellent. That is probably the game’s biggest issue, the best part of it is visited so few times in regards to the time between that it can feel less like a game and more like a novel. There are instances where the story describes actions partaken on by the protagonists yet are not transferred into additional gameplay which is incredibly disappointing.
The version reviewed was the PlayStation 4 version.