Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception PlayStation 4 Review

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is a SJRPG published by “Atlus” (Atlas), the story is based around an amnesiac who awakens in a hostile world woken by a young school-like girl named Kuon. The start of the story is heavily text based before throwing you into vast battles, storyline choices and even the odd political machinations. The protagonist Haku awakes from what feels like a dream and finds himself in a blizzard, flowing in and out of horrors and dreamlike states with me as a gamer wondering “what is going on, please someone tell me”. In one such scene Kuon is helping Haku get dressed and I’m sitting here going “do you two need a room?” realising only that the game is more designed for the adult audience than the usual All Age Gaming crowd. As you continue through this world you come across more anime characters which help build deep relationships with Haku and Kuon within the nation of Yamato.

Gameplay

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception has the feel of the usual Japanese anime with a mix of choose your own adventure, the first few hours felt like I had left a movie on while I did the dishes as it seemed to drag on without any direction and with me asking a lot of questions but getting few answers (much like Destiny without the shooting). Throw in a fair amount of subtitles and busy Japanese voice overs I spent most of my time reading and trying to work out what any of it has to do with a visual anime masterpiece that was suggested and I hoped the next 48 hours of “gameplay” wouldn’t be a letdown if I would do this review justice for our loyal fans.

Finally, Haku and Kuon had a battle with some wolves and I can try out this JRPG battle-system. Like a mix of Final Fantasy and Grand Kingdom battles flow smoothly with a lot of customization and static portraits popping up with battle dialog or chatter. Let’s just say the battle-mode was worth the wait as the initial gameplay so far had put me to sleep. Utawarerumono: MoD has many unique battle features which I came across including elemental affinities such as Earth mode which lead to Kuon having a second turn in battle, unique character skills, building up zeal for special moves, a rewind function and many more which lead to a strategic feel forcing players to work out each units Speed (SPD), elemental affinity and suite of actions rather than simply button mashing.

U:MoD flows between adventure and battle modes which can be enjoyable yet not as fast paced as I would like feeling that the good work of any battle is lost between the 20-30 minutes of story between. This limits the feel that the gamer is in control leaving it like you are being told a story or simply watching an anime rather than being the hero within the adventure.

Graphics

One of the highpoints of U:MoD is the visual effects, much like any well-polished anime it brings to it the colourful characters, well decorated landscapes and well organised game design. These points help paint over much of the lost in translation feelings I have with much of the dialogue. With the winter backdrop of the initial beginning to the towns and characters you come across I feel this mastery allows the gamer to zone out and enjoy the quality story telling U:MoD aims to portray.

Sound

I hope when the English reboot arrives it’s as well constructed as the visuals of U:MoD. Without this the player will simply be lost in translation between chatty Japanese vocals and a wealth of written subtitles very much not for those who hate text built JRPGS. The soundtrack was remastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios and EastWest Studios balancing out what the dialogue lets down.

Value

An interactive Anime movie with battle elements is how I would sell this to AAG fans. Might be slightly on the expensive side at $69 on the PSN store yet cheaper when you factor in 50-60 hours gameplay with story elements.

Conclusion

As Haku approaches the first town I feel a sense of excitement, I feel now I will actually be given choices and direct this roleplaying vessel in a direction which has been non-existent so far in my playthrough, this is a feeling that continues to arise during this game as I play through each hour of story. The relationship tones between Haku and Kuon refresh much of the banter between the two to keep my interest through long gaps between battles.

If you are someone who is after a fast paced game with everything explained without the requirement of your imagination then U:MoD is not for you, why not try the next CoD instalment or pre-order Destiny 2? If you are someone who enjoys JRPG, loves new characters, losing yourself in the mastery of Japanese gaming then definitely give this a shot. Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception aims itself at a niche market much left unfilled giving anime fans an opportunity to explore a RJPG universe with adult themed elements within among a polished and well-constructed game which I hope with a few tweaks could be on any AAG follower’s collection.

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Pros:

  • Smooth battles
  • Well designed
  • Beautiful visuals

Cons

  • Can get lost in translation
  • Confusing story
  • Text heavy

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