Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is among the best visual novels I’ve played, and one of my favourite games of 2017. Mask of Truth picks up directly after the shocking conclusion of the first game, and it’s every little bit as good as its predecessor.
Without delving too deep into the end of the first game, which you should really play for yourself, Haku and his friends find themselves in the middle of a brewing and unavoidable war. Kuon has forgotten the events of her journey, and finds herself back in her homeland of Tuskur. Realising that her father is hiding the truth from her, she runs away from home in the hopes that she will meet up with those she’s forgotten once again.
However, due to the loss of Ennakamuy’s ruler and the queen to be, Anju, having gone missing, there’s a power struggle that’ll engulf itself and its neighbouring cities. Ennakamuy and Tuskur find themselves at odds with each other, and Haku and his friends find themselves at the center of it all. It’s an engrossing tale that’ll enrapture you with its masterfully-crafted narrative and colourful characters, and you’ll find yourself struggling to tear yourself away from its 40~ hour journey. Along with Mask of Deception, these games come together to create a wonderfully engaging story rife with fantasy and politics, and it’s one you won’t soon forget.
Gameplay has largely remained unchanged from Mask of Deception, although some combat elements have been made clearer. It’s more obvious as to how to string a combo now, and what you need to do to make it happen — if you take a break and return with little idea as to what you’re supposed to do, then that’s no longer an issue!
Battles never grow tiring and they provide a nice break from the abundance of text (which I also love, mind you), and it doesn’t feel like an afterthought — the battles make up for a relatively small chunk of the campaign, but it’s fully-fleshed out and feels great to play. There’s a new challenge mode where you have to battle with a strict set of rules too, and you can pit your characters against each other in mock battles where you all earn experience, so there’s plenty to do if you fancy more of the combat. Two characters can team up for a super strong attack too, which will likely lay waste to any opponent.
You might’ve gathered this from the various screenshots, but Mask of Truth is a gorgeous game. A distinct art style, clean, crisp portraits and chibi-styled 3D models for combat all look delightful. The CG images in particular are awe-inspiring, and every moment of Mask of Truth is something worth gazing at. A fully-realised world may not be there to explore at your leisure, but the world-building and atmosphere is made clear in the story and environments. The detail is jaw-dropping, and you’ll sorely miss it once it’s over.
There’s no English voice-acting here, but the Japanese voice-over is nothing short of excellent. Emotion rings clearly and the voices are easy on the ears, and it never sounds as if something is being over-acted. The voice talent breathes life into these characters and aid in making the story as captivating as it is. The soundtrack is top-notch too, lending itself to its world and atmosphere incredibly well. The text is clear and well-spaced, so you shouldn’t feel any strain on your eyes — sadly, not all visual novels get this right.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, and its predecessor Mask of Deception, are both utterly wonderful games that enthrall and provide a meaty, outstanding experience. Beautiful art, a gripping narrative and a quirky, unique cast of characters come together to create something I miss now that it’s over, especially as this was the final game in the trilogy — it wraps everything up well though, so at least it ends on a satisfying, complete note.
The very first game isn’t available in English, but it isn’t required playing by any means — that said, it is releasing in Japan for PS4, so maybe one day I’ll be able to play that too! Until then, I may check out the anime based on the first game because, despite having such a wealth of content, Utawarerumono has left me wanting more.