We were granted a chance to check out the second title in the Utawaerumono (but first to be localized) series, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. This is the first of a duology, and, as such, you can expect a bit of a cliffhanger ending. That said, how well does the title hold up?
Mask of Deception is set several years after the original game, which released on PC back in 2002 in Japan only. You take on the role of an amnesiac man who awakens in a snow-filled landscape with little on. He is attacked by a monstrous insect, and flees, eventually falling into a cave and being saved by another strange creature that looks like a gigantic slime.
Unfortunately, the slime wasn’t just acting to save him, and, indeed, appears to be preparing to eat him as well when a beautiful young woman named Kuon shows up and rescues him. As he cannot recall his name, Kuon opts to name him Haku and proceeds to take him under her wing. The two head to the country’s capital, meeting quite a few people and challenges along the way.
The majority of the game’s story consists of introducing you to the game’s world and characters, setting up the scene perfectly for the upcoming Mask of Truth. That said, there is quite a large and colorful cast of characters, featuring varying personalities, and, though this can hinder the character development a bit, there are plenty of scenes featuring all present to help really build the game’s story up.
Mask of Deception is primarily a visual novel, although it does feature strategy role-playing game-style battles. You will spend most of your time reading and listening to the actors, with the original Japanese voicework, as the battles are spread out, with a total of sixteen throughout the main game. An additional twelve do unlock once you have finished the main story, however. On the visual novel side, the story is also rather linear, as, while you do have a few choices during some scenes, the order in which they play out has no effect on the story or outcome.
The battles themselves play out as you would expect in a tactical RPG, featuring rather straightforward objectives, such as defeating all opponents, defeating a certain opponent, or even luring an opponent to a specific area. Though they are typically small in scale and, in many cases, quite easy, they are still interesting and enjoyable.
As battle begins, you can choose which characters you wish to include, as well as your starting positions and equip some items. During battle, you can attack an enemy, with your attacks prompting a timing-based mini-game. If you succeed, you move on to the next attack in the chain, with successful chains dishing out critical damage and allowing you to move on. If you do not wish to play this mini-game, you can opt to enable the Auto mode. If you make it to the final chain, you will perform a powerful finishing move.
In terms of elements, there are six within the game; Fire, water, earth, light, and dark. Each character is attuned to a specific element, barring the non-elemental Haku, and each is strong or weak to one other element, so that the damage you dish out and receive is determined by the elemental affinity of your character and foe.
During battle, you have a handy Rewind feature that allows you to step back to any of your prior turns, allowing you to easily correct any mistakes or just experiment. If you suffer a loss, you get the option of replaying the full battle or just rewinding to a previous turn.
As characters level, they learn specific skills and can equip more powerful items. You can also spend Bonus Points to increase their statistics. It should be noted that it is quite possible to finish the game without paying any attention to the character progression.
Graphics and sound
Mask of Deception utilizes both 3D and 2D art. The 3D, some may feel, can leave a bit to be desired, but this is quite understandable when you take into account that the title was also built for the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. The 2D, on the other hand, are simply beautiful. Amazuyu Tatsuki and Mitsumi Misato do an amazing job in bringing the game and characters to life, and though there is a bit of fan-service, it is of an acceptable quantity and shouldn’t detract anybody from checking out the title.
The music is decent and the voice acting in the game, even if most players may not understand it, is honestly top-notch as well.
When all’s said and done, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception has an interesting story and great cast brought to life with excellent 2D visuals. It does have a few shortcomings, such as being too linear, but those who enjoy visual novels should find plenty to love, and I, for one, cn’t wait to see how the story wraps up in Mask of Truth.
Final Score: 4/5