Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is the third game of the Utawarerumono series published by Aquaplus in Japan and published by Atlus worldwide. [Note: the first game never made it out of Japan, but there is a fan translation if you ever want to go back and try out the first game first. It also had an anime adaptation.] Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth immediately takes place after Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. While it is an immediate sequel, prior knowledge of the previous game is not required, but I would HIGHLY recommend playing Mask of Deception first. [Note: Author never played through Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and the review will be from that perspective.]
[…I would HIGHLY recommend playing Mask of Deception first.]
There are two parts to the game, there’s the Visual Novel (VN) part and the Strategy Role Playing Game (SRPG) part. If you never “played” a VN game, it’s pretty much a novel, but with character arts, background arts, and music. Some VN contain no gameplay at all, while some have some form of gameplay (SRPG, room escape, point and click) such as Danganronpa, Zero Escape and Ace Attorney. Utawarerumono is in the latter category.
The Visual Novel
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth takes place immediately after Mask of Deception. If you didn’t play Mask of Deception, don’t worry the game does a quick summary of everything that happened within the first two hours. Quick overview of the plot without spoiler, there’s a civil war happening and you’re there to take back the throne. It’s an anime plot and it takes an anime approach to it. If you’re disinterested by fan service, you might want to look a different way. You have a cast of colorful characters, with the majority of your cast being “chestful” female characters. While the fan service is sprinkled through the story, it is never a major focus. A slice of life gag at most.
Having not played Mask of Deception, there are moments spread throughout I felt that should have hit harder. Character defining moments are not as strong as they should be because I missed a lot of the build up from the previous game. Even in the climax moments, there’s an extra layer I’m missing for not having built the connection as the player from events that happened in the previous game. I must state again; I HIGHLY suggest playing Mask of Deception first.
If you’re a Utawarerumono follower, then there are probably answers to questions you been having.
There is an in depth Glossary that you can access at any time for just about everything in the game: characters, locations, culture and lifestyle. The tutorial is also there too. I absolutely recommend reading through it!
The Strategy RPG
Even though Utawarerumono is VN heavy, the SRPG in itself is satisfying and mechanically sound. If you’re familiar with turn based strategy games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, then the SRPG shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. One of the core mechanic in the fight are timed button presses. Pressing X accordingly to the prompt on screen will result in Critical Hits while on the offensive and Critical Defenses on the defensive (ability per character will it).
As you level up your characters, your attacks will chain with additional attacks dealing more damage and additional effects such as buffs and debuffs. Mastering the critical prompts is the key to dealing more damage and is sometime the difference between defeating an enemy unit and leaving them with a few HP left. If you’re bad at the prompts or just don’t like doing them, there is an option call Auto-Chain that will chain your attacks but you lose out on the crit bonus.
Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, Utawarerumono is a VN first and a SRPG second. The game is much friendlier and less punishing. Say you’re unable to defeat an enemy on your turn and on the following turn they defeat your unit, there’s a Rewind functionality in the game that let you redo that turn or go back as far as 50 turns. Missed a crit prompt and left the enemy with 4 HP? Rewind to the beginning of that turn and give it another go. 15 turns later and the boss wipes half your party because they were all stacked too close together? Rewind and spread them out so that doesn’t happen. It’s there is you want to use it, but you’re never required to use it. If you don’t Rewind and lose the battle because your characters are a tad underleveled or just bad decision making, you get the option to restart the fight with all of the EXP you’ve obtained in the battle so far so you’ll get to do the battle again with a level or two higher than you were before. Again, you don’t have to take the option but it is there if you’re playing for the story more than the gameplay.
If you’re ever not comfortable with you’re sitting at with your characters or just like to grind, you can do a mock battle with your characters called “Red vs. White.” Your characters get randomly split into two team and do battle. Both side will gain EXP, but you win you get Battle Points to invest into your characters. You can also go back and revisit any battle you’ve done prior to receive any rewards you didn’t get the first time through.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is fully voiced… in Japanese. Sorry, no English dub. You can turn off voices all together in the setting if you find that more of a distraction. All the usual VN options are there, text speed, auto text speed, text skipping for read text or all text. Gameplay options are simple but the essential are there.
Character art and design ranges from “the girls are cute” to “he looks cool” and “oh that’s not a girl.” The 3D models used for gameplay are adequate and motion are fluid.
The music, composed by Junya Matsuoka, Naoya Shimokawa, and Michio Kinugasa, is great. While it’s not something you’d be writing home about, but every piece fit right in with each scene it is accompanying enhancing the experience presented evoking all the right emotion.
You can find all of the full screen art, music, and events under Bonus on the main menu.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth as a game by itself is an enjoyable experience even without prior knowledge or attachment. Even so, there was some issues with pacing. Being a VN first and a SRPG game second, there is long period of story progression without any battles. Some of these story block would be on average from 1.5 to 2 hours long. The longest story block was ~3.5 hours long from the end of one battle to the beginning of the next.
If it hasn’t been made clear, I absolutely recommend playing Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception first. Not doing so, I felt as if I robbed myself of a proper farewell to an incredible journey.
Final play time: 46:50:22
PS4 copy was provided by ATLUS