Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth (PlayStation 4) Review

By André Eriksson 20.11.2017

Review for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth  on PlayStation 4

A mixture of SRPG and visual novels, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth has a lot of boxes to tick off to deliver a splendid experience to fans. Both of these genres have quite high requirements and can be unforgiving if pulled off in a mediocre way. Visual novels demands great writing skills from the creators, and SRPGs puts a heavy focus upon a balanced combat system that requires thinking and analyzing the field. It is a lot to live up to, so can Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth pull it off? Read on as Cubed3 embarks on the hundred-hour plus journey Aquaplus has developed.

Huge and ambitious are the two words that first comes to mind when looking back at the experience that is Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth. It easily offers close to 100 hours of gameplay, including reading the visual novel parts, and the fact that it mixes two unforgiving franchises together makes it a remarkable feat. To create a great game, both heart in the form of strong engaging writing during the visual novel parts, and mind in the strategic gameplay of the SRPG genre is required. Because of how the game is designed with countless hour-long visual novel segments which easily makes up most of the experience in the game, and mandatory strategy parts, it can't afford to fail at either section. It would be unfair towards Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth to say that it does, but there is a however at the end of the day.

The world-building and the character designs are really strong, but they are a little bit too reliant on predictable tropes and goes just slightly across the line sometimes to the side of being somewhat obnoxious. It can be small things such as the childish princess being a bit too immature at times, to the protagonist being a little bit too much of a dark knight. It is minor things that make themselves apparent at times that this game is, at the very core of the story, a harem game with eroge roots.

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth  on PlayStation 4

The fact that these flaws only make glimpse appearances is a very good grade, as many games of this genre plays on this way harder than Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth does, to greater fault. Here, most of the female characters maintain a sort of agency over themselves and has a life and dreams on their own that does not necessarily involve the main protagonist, despite them of course being in love with him because magic (not really, there is an in-world explanation for it that does strangely enough not involve magic). It makes the harem elements forgivable, and often actually manages to be as endearing and sweet as the writers want them to be.

The main problem with it is that it clashes very badly with what else Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth wants to be. It wants to be a heavy visual novel focusing on war, deeper philosophical questions such as whenever or not people should strive towards divinity, and deep emotions and bonds. These two parts of what the story in Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth wants to be clashes badly with one another, and while it is understandable that Aquaplus wants to please the fans of the old eroge days, it makes very little sense that during the preparation for war the protagonist and one of the more well-endowed girls in the party spend the entire night playing strip games, even though, to keep the protagonist likeable and not seem like an obnoxious pervert, is there "involuntarily."

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth  on PlayStation 4

This also touches a bit onto one of the biggest problems with Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth: bloating. While a lot of content is good, large sections of the visual novel of Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth are outdrawn, nonsensical slice-of-life parts that often focus heavily on the harem elements. It is not a problem that they exist, but they are sometimes really long and not optional can. As such, it can quickly take a toll on those looking for the main plot or just simply want to get to the next battle. It feels like Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth had a goal of being X-hours long and tried to make every section as long as humanly possible to fill that quota, somewhat like a fresh author trying to reach the magical 80,000 words for their novel. The ending comes off as abrupt, as if they knew they were closing in to that quota.

While the story is bloated with almost as much filler material as a generic Saturday morning shounen anime, it still works well to deliver what it wants to. There are really strong emotional scenes that can easily leave a mark; feeling and crying for the characters. The cast is surprisingly lovable and they manage to not make the love for the protagonist the main character trait in the way that games with harem elements sadly often do. The SRPG parts fall into a similar feeling of design philosophy as the story aspects. Make it huge, epic, and fill it with fun engaging systems. There are quick-time event triggers to get critical hits and procs, a feature few games beside Mario-related RPGs has gotten well. There's a zeal bar that fills and when full gives the character an extra round, plus unlimited with zeal, which, works like AP for attacks. There are character combos also; there is almost everything fans of SRPGs and JRPGs in general can imagine.

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth  on PlayStation 4

It does, however, make the combat feel bloated, but it could have left it challenging as well, if it wasn't for one little feature that kind of ruins what people love with SRPGs: a rewind button. At any time during combat it is possible to rewind time to redo moves, removing any kind of risk with doing anything at all. That risk and consequences of the moves has been one thing that fans of the SRPG genre have enjoyed about it. While it is easy to argue that the feature doesn't have to be used, some encounters are obviously designed with this feature in mind in the way that they are set up and can throw random curveballs. It does also make the critical hit commands into a joke as they can be redone until they get crits every time.

The battle segments are still very strong. In any SRPG-focused game it would have worked great, in the same way the visual novel segments would have been wonderful in an exclusive visual novel-based game as well. The problem is that they share a stage, and fans of both genres are going to leave very pleased, but those who only like one of them will often feel like either the combat or the overdrawn slice-of-life aspects of the game overstays their welcome thanks to how bloated they are.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a great visual novel that has some flaws. It is also a great SRPG with some flaws, a lot of which bottoms down to a fear of killing its darlings. A visual novel does not need to be 80 hours to be good, even though there are a lot of good visual novels that are that length, and even longer than that. The same goes for SRPGs; they do not need to have plenty of systems in place to create interesting combat. While Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a fun and great game, it shows that sometimes less could be more.

Screenshot for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It is difficult to pull off, but Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth has managed to both make a solid SRPG and visual novel in the same game. The world is interesting, and the characters are enjoyable to play as and to see the world with, even though sometimes it is too reliant on common tropes. The combat system also has depth to it with a lot of systems in place to reward those who think several turns in advance. The problem is that both aspects of the game are somewhat bloated. For fans of both genres this will not be obvious or even an issue at all, but for those who only likes the former or the latter, this might quickly make either feel like it's overstaying its welcome, in a good 80+ hours long game.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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