Review: Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (PS4)

Review: Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (3.91 GB)
Release Date: May 22, 2017
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: AquaPlus
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception you play as a mysterious amnesiac man who gets thrust into a strange world.

Gameplay:
I hadn’t been following this game much and didn’t know quite what to expect when getting the review code. Contrary to much of the official artwork and screenshots, the game seems about roughly ninety percent visual novel and ten percent light strategy RPG.

The story portions of the game are all in a first-person perspective and most of the dialog is spent staring at a static background screen with the characters in 2D. When you play this game, you must be prepared for – and I’m not exaggerating – hours before getting a chance to play the battle portions of the game.

I saved my game right as I went into the tutorial for the battle system and I observed the playtime on my previous save file at over two hours. After the extremely brief tutorial it wasn’t until three more hours that I was able to play the first battle. In other words, I had to sit through over five hours of story dialog before I finally got a chance to play the first battle.

After the battle was over it took another two hours before the next one started. So out of seven hours of my entire playtime, probably a half hour or so was spent actually playing the battle system.

All of this would be fine if there were some sort of engrossing story that would melt the hours away, but no, the story is extremely boring and most of the time is filled in with you thinking to yourself about the most mundane stuff.

For example, very early in the game, your nameless character, later given the name Haku, is given a change of clothes. Since he wakes up in an unknown place and ventures out into the frigid cold, wearing only a green robe with no undergarments, he’s in need of a full set of clothes.

After your host gives you your clothes (which you don’t see at all, it’s just described in the dialog), you spend approximately ten or more screens of dialog about what you think of the clothes, the trouble your character has with putting on the clothes, etc. Most of the dialog is simply tedious and could probably be done in less than ten to twenty minutes.

… the story is bogged down by tedious and boring parts …
It would also be nice if you could skip a lot of the dialog, and while there is a skip dialog option it doesn’t seem to work very well. I would have preferred if the skip button would take me to the next plot point so I could read a bit and then move forward to the battle portions, but it doesn’t seem to work like this.

I think the excessive story portions would have been much more bearable if you were given greater control over what parts to watch and what parts to skip.

It’s quite a shame that the story sections are so long and tedious because the story, at a high level, is quite interesting. It seems like your character, Haku, is from our world, since he is surprised to see people riding large birds instead of horses. Also, the inhabitants of this strange land seem to be part human and part cat, as well as exceptionally strong.

All these things really captured my interest, but unfortunately, the story is bogged down by tedious and boring parts which sapped my desire to persevere through the dialog.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have some pretty diverse tastes in games, and sometimes have a high tolerance for grinding and other tedium in games. But in this case, I just couldn’t tolerate it.

I think if the game had delivered more of the story in a more visual way, it would have made it much more bearable. However, staring at a static screen with one or two characters for hours is extremely boring.

… it’s great for someone at my skill level …
The battle system, on the other hand, is very enjoyable. I will admit that I’m generally terrible at strategy RPGs, or other strategy games like StarCraft, so I generally don’t play these types of games. However, I found the battle system in Utawarerumono extremely satisfying for the amount I got to play it.

The system consists of a grid-based layout which is very typical for strategy RPGs. You control the actions of each of your party members and can move them a limited distance on the grid. Once you’re next to an enemy, you can perform a number of attacks depending on the fighter and then it cycles to your other party members and the enemy’s team.

The great thing about the battle system is that not only can you rewind the steps you’ve taken prior to attack, you can also rewind the steps after the attack and redo your attack as well. While this probably makes the battle system not as challenging for seasoned strategy RPG players, it’s great for someone at my skill level.

Visuals:
The art style is very similar for many of the JRPGs that’ve come out this year. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s well-drawn and the art style is pretty good. This game has a heavy emphasis on story, so most of the game is filled with static backgrounds with a 2D overlay for the dialog.

Audio:
I found the soundtrack to be pretty good. Since the game is mostly dialog, you’re reading almost the entire time, so the music just sort of adds atmosphere. The audio is all in Japanese with no English dub, so unfortunately you’re going to be reading for hours and hours, so be prepared.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Overall, as I’m not a fan of visual novel-type games, it’s tough for me to say for sure if Utawarerumono is a good game or not. I found it extremely boring, and stuffed full of unnecessary story filler, but that’s not to say it won’t be right up your alley.

If you’re excited for a great SRPG and don’t like a lot of pointless dialog in between, then this is definitely not a game for you. However, if you’re into visual novels, this one will provide you with every single mundane detail of what your character is thinking and will dwell for long periods of time on insignificant topics. If that’s the type of game you’re looking for, then Utawarerumono will give you that and then some.

Score:
4.5

*All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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