Hey gang, Valkor here. The next title up on the GameView chopping block is a quite a mouthful to pronounce, but very easy to dive into; and if you don’t mind a deep narrative with your gaming then you’re all set to handle Atlus’s latest – Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception.
"Mask of Deception" puts you into the role of an amnesiac that is given the name Haku, who was found by a young, but a curiously strong girl named Kuon. The two venture off towards the Yamato Empire, where they’ll run across an eclectic group of characters, get into all sorts of shenanigans, face off against a host of beast and bandits, and even have a romantic interlude or two. The story plays out in a visual novel style, where most of the game is voiced in its original Japanese dialogue. So be prepared for plenty of reading. There is an “Auto Mode” option, allowing the text and dialogue to play out on its own. And that’s certainly not a bad way to go, as it does get tedious simply pressing the button to go forward. There are also breaks in the story such as making decisions or choosing a particular scene, opening up new parts of the story and further character development. It doesn't have any effect on the overall story, but it does help to break things up a bit.
However, the game’s biggest break is in the turn-based tactical RPG battles, which usually happens at the end of most chapters. You’re placed on a grid system where you can drop your characters around the grid and perform a set amount of moves to attack or defend until your foe(s) is defeated. If you’re victorious, you can earn experience points towards higher levels (you can also level up during battle) as well as learn new skills, weapons, etc. And before moving on to the next chapter, you can adjust your party in terms of Bonus Points (to raise defense, strength, etc), or equip new items, costumes, and weapons. If things don’t go well in battle, you have the option to REWIND, especially if a character is fallen. In that way, you can go back and try something different.
"Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception" is actually the sequel to “Utawarerumono”. But as I learned more about the titles, it would seem you can go about Mask of Deception without knowing much about the first game. There’s also a sequel that’s already out in Japan called “Mask of Truth”, which will get a release later this year. And while visual novels aren’t always my cup of tea, I’m actually excited for the sequel. And I’ll tell you why in the TOV Breakdown.
“Mask of Deception” definitely takes me out of my gaming comfort zone, but I’m never one to turn down a title, especially if it offers up something new for me to experience. And if you’re looking for a rich storyline, with an amazing bunch of characters and you don’t mind the visual novel aspect of the title, then this is definitely one for you. You’ll find that there’s more than enough drama and comedy to keep you interested until the very end. And to mix things up you get battles in between. The 2D art is quite beautiful to look at and the voices fit each character to perfection. The 3D models during scenes leading up to and including the battles are pretty decent and help to keep things moving. Ultimately, if you have some time and want to settle down with an epic tale with limited interaction, then definitely consider “Mask of Deception”.
The pacing can get a little slow at times and I wish there were more battle scenes to break things up. Things pick up as you get closer towards the end but before that, it can drag just a bit.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is available now. And once it’s done, you’ll be more than ready for the second half – Mask of Truth. Until then Mask of Deception offers up a rich and epic story with an amazing cast, which should hold your attention until the very end. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving “Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception a 4.