Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a Japanese RPG game set in the now well-established Utawarerumono universe, created originally by the Japanese developer Leaf and now with Aquaplus. It follows on from the previous game – Mask of Deception – and picks up the action pretty quickly from where it left off. I hadn’t actually played the first game prior to picking this title up, so it would be interesting to see how the game came across to a complete newcomer to the series.
Playing through the game is just like playing through an anime. The artwork is clean and stunning, with some brilliantly designed areas and a wide variety of characters to speak with. Even when it moves away from cutscenes, the artwork remains gorgeous. Everything looks just so perfect, even in 3D, which is often a real struggle for TV shows to get right. There are a number of cut scenes in the game, especially at the start when it goes through a catch up on the events of the previous game, and each cut scene was actually pretty interesting to watch. Instead of having it be a distraction that had far too much effort put into it, it feels like it slots in perfectly with the way the game plays, and as they interchange between actual play and cutscene, it is relatively seamless.
One thing that I didn’t expect from Utawarerumono was the battle system. I was expecting it to stick to the age old JRPG methods – turn based battles a la Pokémon – but the tactical aspect was very strong. Similar to XCom, Final Fantasy Tactics or Chroma Squad, you’re able to take a finite amount of actions before you’re forced to let the opponent move. I always think of this as the best way to do combat. It’s very similar to chess, you have to think a couple of moves ahead to ensure your opponent doesn’t wrestle the upper hand from you, and it’s easily my favourite feature in this game. It’s exceptionally well executed, and with a few nifty added features into the battles, it manages to stay fresh in every single encounter.
If, like me, you decided against playing the Mask of Deception before picking up the Mask of Truth, you might want to reconsider. The game does have a bit of a prologue which helps to set the scene, but it is nowhere near enough to fill you in on what you’ve missed out on. I went through a lot of the game not really knowing what was going on, or failing to understand the gravitas of certain situations. Things were going on in the background and I was either not really paying enough attention to it or didn’t really care about what was going on. Admittedly, people that buy this game probably will have played the previous game first, so they won’t come into this issue, but it does mean new players to the series will be left on their own to try to figure out what is going on. Or, alternatively, they could spend the extra £30 or £40 to buy and play through the prequel. This kind of business practice really irks me, as it forces players to fork out twice as much to see a finish to their story. Episodic games get away with it because at the end of their series you will have paid around the same amount as you would for a full game. This, however, isn’t an episodic game, it is a two-part game, similar to a movie. You almost have to buy the first to enjoy the second, and you need the second to finish the story. It’s clever on the developer’s part because they will be able to gouge money out, but it’s just so rubbish.
Personally, the trope of anime women always wearing clothes that make their tits explode out is a bit creepy. I know the developers wanted to try to hit as many anime tropes as they could, but I just felt really weird as I played through the game. However, as the majority of people reading this review and considering buying the game will likely be able to see the humour in all the tropes that I inevitably missed, it’s not so much of a negative.
The Final Word
I’ll keep my final word on Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth short. It’s a decent game for the visual novel genre and offers an exceptionally long game, but it definitely is only worth it if you’ve got the first one. Without the first one you’ll be stuck in a confusing world that you won’t fully appreciate. Having said that, if you have played the first game, and you’re a fan of anime games – this is definitely worth picking up.