There will be no spoilers in this review apart from the very beginning of Mask of Deception.
Starting nearly straight after its predecessor, Utawarerumono: Mask Of Deception, in Utawarerumono: Mask Of Truth you play as Haku. In this game, Haku has assumed the role of Oshtor, the Imperial Guard of the Right, shedding his identity in the process. Why, you may ask. Well because the REAL Oshtor managed to get himself killed in an epic kaiju fight with a general known as Vurai. Knowing he would be needed in the future, Oshtor left his duties to Haku and then proceeded to die. Right in front of his sister.
What became clear to me through playing for the first hour is this: even with the extremely length prologue that Atlus have so helpfully supplied for new players, I just couldn’t understand what the actual hell was going on and why. I had to resort to going through the glossary to understand the bits and pieces I didn’t quite get and even then it felt like everything was going at a snail’s pace in my effort to understand what was going on. Granted that isn’t exactly the game’s fault, but it did teach me a lesson: play the goddamn first game before you play this one. Not only will it be easier for you to get stuff, but you’ll also find it more enjoyable than I did.
That’s not to say I didn’t like Mask of Truth. I just didn’t know what to expect going into it.
One thing I most certainly did expect but disliked, all the same, were the incredibly long story scenes. I understand that this SRPG also incorporates visual novel aspects, which I can understand and genuinely quite like, but the length of narrative scenes was atrocious. For the first two hours of the game, I sat there wondering when I’d actually have to pick up my controller to do something, heck to let me do anything but just simply watch as the story slugged on by.
I’ll be frank, I wasn’t enjoying this game at all and my dread, at thinking I’d have to play this to completion, was overwhelming.
By the time I got to the second big battle I’d had a change of heart about Mask of Truth.
Sure, I still felt the as though the length between narrative and actual gameplay was too long but I’d come to the conclusion that in spite of this, I was enjoying the story now that I understood it more. A story about war, deception (ironic, considering the title), grief and friendship was compelling, and Mask of Truth had all that and more.
What surprised me the most was how funny the game could be. I’m not going to lie to you, there were some scenes that made me uncomfortable with how fan-service-y they were but the humour and fun involved in the narrative helped balance that out. I started to actually have favourite characters (Atuy is MY GIRL) that I cared about, where before I couldn’t have cared less! That may not mean much to you readers out there, but to me it did.
Thankfully by the time I’d got to this mindset there were features introduced that made the narrative scenes a bit more bearable in length. One word: Training.
Training really helps show off the tactical gameplay that was so easy to forget during a huge chunk of the beginning of Mask of Truth. In Training your party is split in half, one red team and one white team. From there you’re faced with trying your hardest to beat the other team, which is surprisingly difficult even with the difficulty on the lowest setting, but hey that’s what makes it fun!
Throughout training I finally allowed myself to understand the mechanics of what made this an SRPG in the first place. As you can see above, tactics are kind of a big deal in this game. Blue squares signal where you can go, and the red signal what you can hit – simple, right? Trust me: it isn’t. You’ll mess up, a lot, in terms of positioning and attacking your enemies. But, thankfully, Mask of Truth has your back.
There is a rewind system that helps you make these difficult decisions, allowing you to make your play and then rewind it back if you feel like you could do better. It’s pretty handy, especially for beginners like myself who didn’t make great efforts to understand the weakness/strength system when it came to certain element effects. Though if you’re wondering if that means the game isn’t challenging: don’t fret. It bloody well is.
As well as rewind, you also have different criteria that you’ll need to meet in order to land a critical hit on your enemies and can be very frustrating at times. The first is mashing the X button at JUST the right time in order to land a critical hit or to dodge an attack, which sure, it raises the difficulty quite a bit, but it also raises my blood pressure too at how many times I miss it. Thankfully the other criteria is holding down the X button and releasing at the right time to land that all-important critical. Much easier and leaves a happier Aimee.
But despite my grumbles, I assure you that the combat is incredibly rewarding and that if you’re interested in strategy RPGs it would be silly of you to miss this one.
Overall I enjoyed Utawarerumono: Mask Of Truth far more than I expected to when first setting out to play this game. Its characters grew on me and the deeper the story went the urge to follow it continued too, making my earlier complaints about the length of the narrative scenes almost forgotten. Yes, almost. Though I perked up after a while of playing there were still some scenes that very little happened, irritating at worst and bothersome at best. It’s also important to ask yourself, as I did, should a game truly throw so much boring, dull content at you first, before getting into the thick of things and enjoying yourself? I don’t have the answer for you, that’s entirely your opinion. And, as I mentioned earlier in my review, playing the previous game, Mask of Deception, would simply have made my experience and understanding of the events that much more enjoyable. So please keep that in mind.
That said if you enjoy the fine line of a visual novel, RPG, a whole handful of strategic gameplay and a cast of characters that are both memorable and fun, then Mask of Truth is for you. Just do yourself a favour, alright? Play Mask of Deception first.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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