Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception doesn’t only have a long name, but it also has a rich history dating back to 2002. Known for being a visual novel with turn-based tactical elements, Mask of Deception builds on the series’ legacy whilst ensuring that it’s accessible to newcomers — this game is a sequel, but you don’t need to have played the first game which was never released in the West anyway.
Mask of Deception follows Haku, as he finds himself in an unfamiliar world, running around from the clutches of bloodthirsty monsters. As he’s finally accepted his death, he’s saved by the beautiful Kuon who vows to look after him. Suffering from amnesia, Haku has to learn the ways of this new world as he journeys with Kuon to regain his memories. Heavily fantasy-inspired with a sprinkle of political matters, Mask of Deception proves to weave an engaging tale which is abundant with colourful characters, well-written dialogue, a strong localisation and thrilling battles, and it’s not difficult to sit down and sink a few hours at a time with the vibrant fantasy world that’s been concocted.
Mask of Deception does what I’d like every visual novel to do, or at least to have the option, in that it has controls at the bottom of the screen. No more accidentally fast-forwarding text or skipping scenes, because you can quickly refer to the controls — I’m very appreciative of this and it happens to be minimalist, and you can hide all text if you’re looking to take screenshots. It’s easy to access the backlog in case you skipped ahead too quickly, too!
The turn-based battles are equally as easy to come to grips with, and I’ve enjoyed how straight-forward and accessible the tactical side of the game is. I’m not the best at tactical RPG’s, but I had a blast with Mask of Deception. Battles take place on a square-grid as you move your characters around, positioning them in a way that will hopefully not see them swarmed by enemies.
It’s pretty standard for a strategy-RPG which makes it great for visual novel fans who don’t want their progress hindered, and the way the battles slot in in-between the visual novel segments is seamless. You move your character and choose which action they’ll take, but what’s unique is that once an action is underway, you have a chance to press X again as a circle closes in, or hold it as it fills up — you’ll see them appear after most attacks, and in doing so your attacks do more damage, and even give you another chance to take another action.
The world springs to life with its magical beings, creative monsters and atmospheric world. The high-quality 2D portraits are gorgeous and the CG images are equally as splendid, and the character expressions range from subtle to hugely expressive which got a few, well-intended laughs out of me. When in battle, characters turn into 3D chibi versions of themselves which fit the colourful and whimsical world. There’s no English dub but the Japanese voice-acting is pleasant and emotive, and the brilliant soundtrack is the cherry on top.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is an excellent game and I wish that I’d played it on Vita rather than PS4 as it’s such a great fit for the system, but I didn’t enjoy it any less on PS4. Mask of Deception manages to avoid becoming convoluted and whilst it’s left open for its sequel, Mask of Truth, to release later this year, there’s still so much story to uncover here. Along with some funny banter and a few intense, emotional scenes, Mask of Deception will keep your attention through its lengthy adventure. I like to support visual novels on PS4 and Vita, and Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception proves that it’s well worth playing.