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Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth - GoingSony Review


Thank you to Atlus for providing the review code.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a visual novel/ strategy role-playing game developed by Aquaplus for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. It stars an expansive cast of characters who must fight an imperial army to take back control of their home. It boasts an epic story, enhanced battle mechanics, and a fantastical atmosphere. Let’s see if this title matches its talk!

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a game that doesn't know what it wants to be. And, despite moments of quality, fails to mesh together two different genres in a way that feels cohesive and enjoyable. 

When I first booted up Mask of Truth, I just wanted to hop in for a moment to see what kind of game it was so that I knew what to expect. I didn't pay too much attention to the beginning dialogue, as I planned on coming back later to experience it in full. I just wanted to see what the actual gameplay was like. But even by quickly skipping each line of text, the first cutscene took an extraordinary amount of time to get through. I even began to think that there was no gameplay, and that the whole game was going to be me reading text on a screen. Unfortunately, the truth is not too far off from that. 

When I came back to the game, and reset my progress so that I could give the opening my full attention, I decided to set a timer to see exactly how long it took to reach the first actual gameplay.

45 minutes. It took almost an entire hour for me to actually do something other than press X. And that was just with me reading the text of the first cutscene. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken if I had listened to the voice acting as well. Furthermore, things didn't improve after that. It seemed as if the second cutscene was just as long as the first, if not longer. So while they call it a visual novel/ SRPG, the game itself is actually drowning in the visual novel portions where reading is the primary form of “gameplay”.

Having said that, the Strategy RPG sections of Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth are actually not half bad. They work like a standard SRPG where the player can move characters around on a grid to try and out play the opponent. At first glance, I found these sections of the game to be shallow and felt that they were tacked on, but as I progressed and was able to control more characters, I enjoyed it more. While still lacking, the depth of the SRPG portions started to come out more than I thought it would. 

The visual style of the SRPG segments might also be my favorite thing about this game. The character models are the perfect balance of detail and “chibi” cuteness. It is so refreshing to look at after starting at the static images that make up most of the game for so long. I would even go so far to say that the game would be a lot better if they used these visuals for the majority of the game instead of still character art. 

Moving back to the visual novel sections of the title, this is where Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth really holds itself back. I don’t believe the idea of a visual novel game, or even the visual novel portion of Mask of Truth is a bad concept. I kind of like the idea of sitting back and reading through an interesting story via a video game. But while Mask of Truth certainly has the potential for an interesting story, if fails to present itself in a captivating way.

The characters themselves are all reasonably interesting, and the same can be said for the story. But the way it is presented kills the whole experience. Reading text on nearly completely static images of characters on top of static backgrounds is incredibly dull and makes it hard to stay focused when playing, let alone getting pulled into the story. 

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is not a bad game by any stretch, but it does have its fair share of problems. The greatest of which is an identity crisis. It feels as if the game is trying to be two separate things at once, and each of these parts holds the other back and prevents either style of game from being great.

Aquaplus should have picked a visual novel style for their game, or an SRPG, not both. Again, the visual novel idea isn't a bad one, but it needs something more. If they had dropped the SRPG entirely, that could have allowed for more dynamic character animations, and visuals that made the game interesting to read and watch. On the other hand, dropping the visual novel in favor of the SRPG elements would have made it easier to focus on gameplay that is deep and more strategic. Another option that could have made for a great game. 

And that is the saddest thing about Mask of Truth. It is a game that has little bits of greatness in each of its play styles. But because the developers tried to do too much, we end up with a product that is less than the sum of its two parts. It becomes really hard to recommend this title on that basis, even though there are certainly aspects of the game that, when looked at in a vacuum, are more than enjoyable. 

Categories: Top Stories, Reviews

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