Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception – Review
Follow Genre: Visual Novel, Strategy
Developer: Aqua Plus
Publisher: ATLUS
Platform: PS4, PS Vita
Tested on: PS4

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Combat, Story, Atmosphere
Bad: Not enough battle sequences to make it a real strategy title
User Score
8.3
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Utawarerumono might not be all that known in the West, but it’s actually a franchise that has been around for several years, with two different anime series, a manga and a rather adult themed game. This time however, the developers made the game a lot more accessible for players in the West, by creating a visual novel, with some strategy elements embedded into it. If you’ve been on the fence about the series, or the overall story, this game might help you cross the bridge on digging deeper into the franchise. We were quite thrilled to see ATLUS take care of this title, as it almost immediately guaranteed we were in for a treat.

Utawarerumono Mask of Deception Banner

Story

You’ll play as a nameless protagonist, who gets named Haku, by Kuon, a young girl that finds you in the middle of nowhere. You are an amnesiac, who is clearly not familiar with the world he is in. People have fluffy animal-like ears and tails now, and even without spoiling anything, the beginning of the game already makes clear you’re either from the past, or from another world/dimension and you have stumbled into this ‘new world’. You notice things like your constitution not being the same, people eating a lot more, being a lot stronger, but in many cases a lot more dense when it comes to intelligence and things we learn at a young age in school. Nonetheless, Kuon vows to take care of you until you can fend for yourself, but in the meantime you’re getting dragged in one unfortunate event after another, like having to get rid of giant insect-like creatures, fending off bandits, to even being enrolled by one of the two generals of the Mikado (basically the king of most of this world) to keep the city clean. It’s clear that your character is also of a certain importance, but the pieces of the puzzle won’t fall in place until the game progresses for several hours.

As the game is pretty much a complete visual novel, story value is rather high in this title. You’ll be going through hours and hours of conversations, packed with humor, as well as a rather serious theme. The visual novel sequences are brought rather beautifully and add to the overall atmosphere of the story, while gradually dispensing information about the bigger plot, while having to go through more than enough banter to keep things very enjoyable.

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Graphics

Graphically Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is a very pleasant game to look at. For the most part you’ll be wading through visual novel sequences, which are all beautifully finished, with lovely characters and great backgrounds. For the most part, this is a rather static visual novel, which means the characters aren’t truly animated, but their expressions can change throughout the course of the conversations, to properly set the mood. You’ll have sufficient different backdrops and settings to behold during your playthrough.

The combat sequences are done in a totally different style, as you’ll be looking at a gridded battlefield from a top-down view, with the characters being animated in a somewhat cuter and smaller shape than their visual novel counterparts. The animations are neatly done, and the environments also look appealing, albeit a bit empty, as you’ll be fighting in small secluded areas.

Sound

Not uncommon for a game that’s published by Atlus, is that the game has proper voice acting from start to finish. Everything in the game is fully voice acted, safe for Haku’s internal feelings. The voice acting is only available in Japanese, but even then, the voices perfectly suit the characters, they are done in a very convincing fashion and somewhat hilarious from time to time, to keep things fairly lighthearted, even in somewhat dire situations. The music in the game is a lot more subtle, and more than often is hardly noticeable, as you’re probably enjoying the great voice acting. This doesn’t mean that the music is too quiet, it simply complements the game very fittingly.

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Gameplay

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is for the most part a visual novel, that has a few turn based battles thrown into the mix. Don’t be mistaken though, the visual novel part will be the meat of the game, as the battles only come around approximately once per chapter, and each chapter can take up more than an hour of your time. If you’re looking for a meaty tactical experience, the Free Battle mode might suit your needs, but it’s best to look at this game as a visual novel, that follows the last anime series, albeit in a rather expansive sense.

For the most part you’ll be wading through text, in a linear story that doesn’t really offer you any options. From time to time, you can choose what you’d like to do first out of a handful of story segments, but you’ll have to click through them all to progress anyway, thus the order of how you do so will have absolutely no influence on the story.

The battles in this game are rather simplified versions of similar more tactical games. You’ll be able to pick a handful of characters for each battle, depending on who is currently in your party. From here on out, things will go in a turn based fashion, where either you or the enemy has the next turn. You’ll be able to move your characters within a specific range, and attack in another range as well. Attacks are also depending on the class of the characters, if they’re a spell slinger, or a melee type. You can add some critical effects to your attacks by timing a button press in correspondence with what is happening onscreen. The battle system may be simple, it’s a very enjoyable one to work with, and the game never really forces you to grind, making sure you can keep on playing, while some battles may require a bit more thought than others.

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Other RPG elements, such as the leveling and gear system are fairly simplified. When leveling up you’ll get BP, which are points you can invest in your health, defense, attack and so on, to give you some freedom concerning your characters. As far as gear goes, you’ll get some items after each battle, which add some passive bonuses to your characters, be it extra HP, more defense or resistance against certain elements. While the overall system may be simple, it’s still fun to work with and it creates some depth in the otherwise very simplified tactical aspect of the game.

Conclusion

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception may not hit any homeruns in the strategy department, which is sad, as the combat portions of the game are very enjoyable, and decently executed. Nonetheless, you’ll be treated to a great visual novel, with fun characters, a lot of lighthearted banter but still a serious story to work with. If you’re into the series as well visual novels and have an affinity for strategy games, Mask of Deception is certainly a title worth considering adding to your collection.

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Rating: 8.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception - Review, 8.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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