Courageous. Brave. Tragic. Heartbreaking.
These are just some of the words I would use to describe most role-playing games on the market. But, Utawarerumono from Atlus Games, becomes something rather different. Words I would use to describe the game would be engrossing, immersive, and extremely rich in its world, but also, a game that is meant to be delved into and not just played. Part visual novel and part strategy game, Utawaremono: Mask of Deception is an engrossing experience that is not to be played, but to be experienced.
Utawarerumono: Mask Of Truth is part of the Utawarermono franchise and the last installment of the video game trilogy. Originally released in 2002 as a visual novel, Utawarerumono became a solid sensation, growing into manga, anime, and various other games throughout the years. Mask Of Truth is seen as the conclusion of the games as well as the story, bringing forth all of the elements and lore established throughout the entirety of the previous two games into one, massive final chapter. Mask Of Truth is the sequel to the previous game, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, which was released this past June on Steam, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. It is not required to play Mask Of Deception before Mask Of Truth as the game does a good job recapping and introducing the events of the first game. However, if possible it is highly recommended, as Mask Of Deception directly Precedes Mask Of Truth.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth takes place in Earth’s Distant future, in a serene yet dystopic world where humanity as we know it no longer exists. In this land, the inhabitants have special abilities, and can even wield magic. The country is threatened with all-out war when an evil king usurps the throne and threatens to send the country into ruin. The game revolves around two protagonists, Haku, and Kuon. Kuon, both a warrior and a princess, is designed to lead the nation of Ennakamuy. Haku wears the Mask of Deception to blend in with the kingdom fo the Yamatan Empire, posing as Oshtor, who sacrificed his life in the previous adventure. The two, along with their respective parties fought to extinguish the flames of war, but we separated at the conclusion of the final battle. With their nations at war, they yearn to meet again, but fight for their kingdoms and extinguish the great evil within the country to save the world from eternal destruction.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth has two primary parts to the overall game. The first is the story told in a visual-novel style. Featuring the Japanese language with English subtitles, these cutscenes give the player the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Utawarerumono. Featuring beautifully-illustrated characters and environments, the story segments are rich with interest. Additionally, the story segments are not mere distractions between the battles but poignant, profound moments that carry the adventure forward.
Players will encounter a story of loyalty, war, the struggle for peace, turmoil, and the nobility of loyalty to comrades. Players will encounter many characters, who not only have distinctive traits but also have extremely varied capabilities on the battlefield. The voicework is heartfelt, passionate, and emotional, giving the sense that the actors and actresses enthusiastically embraced their roles and characters. Each character feels integral to the overall adventure, conveying empathy to the player. Players could feel their plight, but also, their courage for battle and resolve to rise to the challenge. There are even moments of levity to break up the strong tension present throughout most of the game, whether it is humor or a steam-bath scene. For those familiar with the term “fan-service”, Utawarerumono does not feature much, primarily focusing on the maturity of the story and gameplay.
The second half of Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is that of an SRPG or a Strategy Role-Playing Game. At various moments throughout the adventure, players enter battles, which take place in a turn-based fashion on a square-grid. Players can select their units and initiate combat. Players can move around and initiate attacks in traditional turn-based combat, but Utawarerumo distinguishes itself using the chain attack system. During each attack, players can score critical hits by tapping the X button. if successfully, players will build their meter and active “Fury mode.” This allows for one extra move during a turn, as well as a devastating attack power. Using your tactics wisely and carefully placing your units will mean the difference between victory and defeat.
When these two mechanics combine, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth becomes a truly unique experience that differentiates itself from the other RPGs, while being highly engaging and quite immersive. With the story, I was always engaged into what would happen next. There wasn’t a moment that grew stale or unnecessary as the scenes, while slow, stayed at the right pace. The combat levels were satisfying and rewarding, as a strategy game should be, while also including unique elements to the overall combat experience. They were quite challenging, and I did lose units and battles. However, it kept me engaged to try new strategies, as well as to nail the critical hits. This became essential during the Coupled with the intriguing world and story, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth was an experience that kept me wanting more, even though the game clocks in at 80+ hours with of content.
The only drawback I can make for Utawarerumono is the long grind time between battles and the visual-novel cutscenes. Players may not see their first strategy battle for over an hour, and with each subsequent battle, there will be some kind of a gap. Those looking for instant action or fast-paced combat may be put off here. Fortunately, players can save their progress at any time, and for those with a PSVITA carry the experience with you anywhere with the cross-save capabilities. However, the slow grind to combat can be off-putting.
In the end Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is can be compared to a tale from literature. Featuring a wide cast of characters, a wonderful story, and an intriguing world, players will find themselves lost in the experience, especially if they played Mask Of Deception. However, once again, Mask Of Truth becomes distinctive by including a rewarding combat system that lends itself to the story and provides a strong hook to the overall tale. Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is an incredible tale, one that I was glad to have embarked on, and one that those fond of story-focused games will keep playing until the very end. Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a tale for the ages.