Utawarerumono: Masks of Truth and Deception

The other day, I finished playing the third visual novel I’ve ever managed to finish in my life, despite numerous previous attempts. (The first two were Fate / Stay Night and Tsukihime). I guess it might not count as a “pure” visual novel since it has some tactical RPG gameplay as well. But still, for a visual novel to hold my attention for 50+ hours (I’m not going to check the exact time because that’s too depressing) is quite an accomplishment.

Setting

I quite like the setting for Utawarerumono.

It is a hot mess.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Oriental world of furries. It includes advanced, lost technology, slimes, angels, shrine maidens, and mecha. Magic and technology are indistinguishable. It doesn’t make the most sense, and I tried not to think about it too hard.

But what I do like is how consistent it is in the post-apocalyptic Chinese / Japanese setting. They chose one thing to be consistent in and it paid off. Everyone’s clothing is these Asian robe things (I wish I had the vocabulary to describe this) and the mannerisms and politics also mirror what I imagine the popular imagination of ancient China and Japan to be.

The music complements the setting well too. It’s a great soundtrack, composed of music that also sounds vaguely Chinese from a hundred years ago (again, I wish I possessed the vocabulary to name what I’m talking about). Of course, the music becomes much repeated and gets old after 50+ hours. But hey, most RPG games I turn off the sound after the first hour or two and listen to some music that is actually good. In this game I never turned the sound off. Which leads me to my next point…

Voice Acting

Every line in the game is voiced. And it was excellently done. Great cast, great acting.

Gameplay

The occasional gameplay (and I mean very occasional, pretty sure there was more than one period where I didn’t fight anything for five hours) takes place on a grid, where you command the characters in a turn-based combat.

The first game was ridiculously easy and the combat system didn’t seem all that interesting. But I suspect part of the problem is I may have played it on normal difficulty. If you have ever played this sort of game before, do not play on the normal difficulty. The hard difficulty isn’t particularly tough, but it at least makes you think a little bit about what you’re doing.

For the second game, Mask of Truth, I played on hard, and it was a much more enjoyable experience. The game has a system where you can rewind when you mess up, so I wouldn’t say it was hard. But I did have to rewind and replan occasionally.

I especially liked that all of the characters were unique, and they all had their own roles. I found myself using everybody to good effect. Except Nosuri, Nosuri sucked.

Characters

Quite a likable cast of characters. They were all pretty well developed (and they’d better be considering how long the game is). The main character was great, for the first three quarters of the game. Then the authors just seem to forget his personality. Jachdwaldt (go-lucky sword guy) and Rulutieh (girl who is way too nice) were the least interesting, but I can forgive them for the daughter and giant bird they brought along with them. The sex slaves were also a bit dull. I particularly liked Atuy (the one who always want to kill things). Even the Imouto character was really good. Shocking, I know.

But part of the problem is, there are so many characters. And they want to give them all their own arc like in a visual novel. Their individual arcs are all good, but outside of this they all have a limited role, especially in the second game. The first game did a good job at having events where everyone would get a turn. A lot of the time, I was like “oh right, this person is still stalking me for some reason”.

The characters from the first anime / game also made appearances. I kind of forget what happened in that game… It was weird though, because 20+ years have passed (one of the characters is their child) and they haven’t grown older or changed at all. This was such a cool opportunity and they just totally blew it off. The only exception is Eruru. Somehow she became one hundred thousand times hotter in her old age. Whatever….

The villains were good… until the last villain, who came out of nowhere with daddy issues. A year and a half later, I still agree with my thoughts from the anime: Furry Lelouch was great.

Themes

Much of the game explores questions of identity. Which, normally I would say is trite and overused. But here they do it in a unique way, having (major spoiler but I will make it as vague as possible) one of the characters assume the identity of another character. Even all their friends are confused about who is who. Unfortunately, by the end the authors also seem to be confused about who is who. It was an interesting idea and put to good effect for two of the character arcs.

It also explores the idea of sacrifice. The characters keep sacrificing themselves for its duty. But this was very strange in that they never learned anything, even by the very end. They just kept taking turns sacrificing themselves for each other and pissing each other off.

Storytelling

It starts out as a story of two strangers traveling together and making friends. Then it becomes a story of reclaiming the kingdom from an usurper. And all that was great. But then things got weird.

The next villain was motivated to destroy the world entirely by daddy issues. Like, come on…

And then after that, I thought it was finally over. It wasn’t. The final boss is the girlfriend and her extended family.

The ending was very frustrating. It was a happy ending for the main characters from the first game, who barely showed up in this one at all. And all the characters from this game are left hanging.

Even if the latter parts had their issues, I enjoyed the vast majority. All of the character arcs were interesting. The comedic slice of life parts were entertaining as well. There were quite a few good climaxes. The translation was excellent in my opinion (especially by the standards of video games… and I just finished Fate / Extella. Yikes!).

Conclusion

It was a pretty good game. I enjoyed playing it. It was really long. Also, it wasn’t porn. That was nice. My first two visual novel experiences (Fate / Stay Night and Tsukihime) were porn. They were most definitely not improved by it.

5 thoughts on “Utawarerumono: Masks of Truth and Deception

  1. Cool, thanks for writing up this review. I loved the original anime despite its ending, was disappointed with the recent sequel, and have always been interested in trying out the game. Reading your thoughts on it helps me adjust my expectations accordingly as someone who’s never played a visual novel before.

    1. I think it’s a pretty good choice for a first visual novel. Still retains some bits of gameplay so you don’t get too bored with either part. And not at all like that Key crap… plus no porn! Although it does cut it close occasionally.

  2. thanks for the review. it was very informative.

    hey could you write a review on dash kappei
    https://nyaa.si/view/982147
    episode 1 was released today and though it was released by midori in the past the quality of the subs are much higher in shindoi’s release

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