Death end re;Quest 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric Ace 17.08.2020

Review for Death end re;Quest 2 on PlayStation 4

The somewhat prolific Idea Factory/Compile Heart is well known among JRPG fans. Though the quality of its releases can vary wildly, since making a name on the scene with its popular Neptunia series, the company is known for its bright-colours, largely over-the-top plots that feature constant fourth-wall breaks, lewdness that often ranges into ecchi territory, and typical JRPG fare. The newest offering is a sequel that strays from their typical comedic plots; one that puts forth a much darker and bloodier story. It is a strong departure for the developer, as it has been stated that some of these aspects in this horror tale are loosely inspired by Silent Hill.

Death end re;Quest 2 comes out of the gate, hitting like a truck with its stunning opening sequence, setting the stage for what seems like it could be a very novel JRPG experience in a utter foreign world of the horror genre. Despite said novel attempt, and the very strong opening, aspects of game simple fail to deliver what is promised, and the nature of the JRPG seems in some ways counter to what a horror game fundamentally requires. As a general fan of Idea Factory and huge JRPG fan, it was ultimately a letdown.

Taking place in a quiet creepy mountain town, the main character, a young girl named Mai, is sent to an all-girls academy in an attempt to find her lost sister. The beginning is mind-blowing for how dark, and largely good at setting the stage it is. Within minutes players are treated to scenes of a beaten Mai by her drunk dad - she has had enough and brutally kills him with an axe, and while it does not show the actual event, sufficient blood spatters and graphic descriptions require a harden stomach to endure. Sent for rehabilitation to this town, the atmosphere is set up very well as everything gives off a 'more than it seems' creepy vibe with too many fake smiles and too many secrets.

Here, the title divides somewhat to its demerit into a slice-of-life plot, and the darker overall storyline. At first it keeps the pace going, with Mai bullied remorselessly, only to watch her tormentor be killed by shadow creatures at night. Complete with a vision that Mai is the one that killed this girl, again with an axe, the plot has mystery and intrigue and is still strong. At this stage this still seemed very good; it is around this section through, the game stops being a complete visual novel, as it throws players into the town/dungeon.

Screenshot for Death end re;Quest 2 on PlayStation 4

Town exploration is where this starts to unravel. It is designed somewhat creepily, with wrecked cars, and odd red vines ripping through windows. The issue is, upon a lot of reflection, that this JRPG is just not a good format for a game in general to try to be… well, scary, or be in the horror genre. The girl runs very fast (other than some turning issues, she can outrun every enemy), and you will be pounding through the same town over and over, and none of it is very scary at all. The issue is that outside of the plot, your characters largely completely plow enemies in combat. There is a power differential that takes away the sense of vulnerability that breaks the feeling of immersion.

Consider what makes horror games scary or intense. Classics like the old Silent Hill (which this is stated to be an inspiration), or Resident Evil accomplish this in different ways, but generally it's a feeling of going against forces far stronger than the character. Even the weapons players get in those are limited, ineffectual and going to run out; death can be around any corner, and there is little feeling of never letting up. Resident Evil: Revelations played this to tremendous effect where even safe places like the gorgeous central chandelier room only serve as a contrast to the darker "other" waiting around the door.

When characters can kill these, supposedly, scary monsters in moments, and kill 50 of them on the way to the next check point, it is hard to view them as a threat, despite how essential this is to the plot. The girls will shake and quiver about the monster coming up to them, only for these creatures to be killed in a single round of combat. We are told how these are ripping townspeople limb from limb, but then in battle this young girl is killing them by the dozens with her axe. All of these examples serve to illustrate the break in immersion. Far too rapidly into the plot it stops having any tension at all.

Screenshot for Death end re;Quest 2 on PlayStation 4

One problem is, as a player, you are not sure what is part of the story, and what is part of just a game which you are supposed to hand wave away. For example, other than a quick comment about the town being scary, there is zero discussion as to why these red vines/creatures look like computer glitches, or why the characters suddenly transform into demi-goddesses in battle. Taken all together the entire town sequences and battle seem largely required to be ignored, if the player is still to take the plot for its darker elements.

A further problem is horrendous pacing, and largely dropping the larger darker (and better) plot in favor of what amounts to slice-of-life girl school. Between dungeons players will get a whole load of plot of various new girls coming and going through the academy. Players will have the opportunity to listen to their various tales, of which there are around 20 side characters. A disproportionate amount of these revolved around yuri themes, with girls loving and chasing other girls - age, position and rank know no boundaries in these soirées. Unfortunately based largely on their number, and generally meandering plots and problems, players will not really care about any of them, and serve only to distract from the larger plot. While some choices result in some of their deaths, this slice-of-life part is very hard to tolerate in a story about a girl who killed her dad and may have killed other people.

Battle leaves a lot to be desired. Completely turn-based, on a character's turn they can run around anywhere, getting into position and picking from a slew of attacks to unleash on anything in range. One interesting aspect that largely didn't deliver as well as it seemed, was that each turn a player can do three things at once, so perhaps a heal, an attack, then a guard. Almost always it is just three attacks in a row. Placed on the ground are little circles that walked over give slight stat boosts, but other than leading to transforming they can largely be ignored. Players can actually just put the battle on auto (gratefully, there is a speed-up feature as well) and let the computer slaughter monsters in a turn or two. One very odd aspect when it comes to balance is that players will still be getting one or two level-ups per battle, even late into the game, and soon enemies won't be able to even damage the character.

Screenshot for Death end re;Quest 2 on PlayStation 4

The other primary aspect in combat is that there a 'bounce' mechanic, where after finishing certain attacks, players literally hit the monster causing them to take off like a pinball as they bounce around racking up damage. It was a system used extensively in the developer's Mugen Souls. Other than being kind of annoying, it utterly, utterly destroys any sense of fear or terror, when these girls are bashing around the monsters like some child's ball. Again how are you supposed to take these things seriously, when that big strong monster gets bounced around like a toy? It was a very dumb idea in something like this.

A lot of these problems fundamentally come down to inconsistency. This is inconsistent in its plot; one moment being a dark horror, the next hearing fifteen minutes about what girl wants to marry what girl. It is inconsistent with that people are supposed to be scared about these creatures, but in battle they are pin-balling them around like some cartoon. Finally, it is inconsistent that these monsters might have been scary if, say, the player was low on ammo, or generally had to avoid them, but when any trip to town involves slaying dozens of them this factor is removed as well.

This was a game that this reviewer continued playing through chapter after chapter, hoping it would get better, because aspects of its plot were legitimately interesting. Far too often it failed to deliver for how much time, work, and sitting through pointless plot before the good parts would come. Analyzed objectively, even many of the darker, gory sections are nothing more than shock value of reading about somebody gurgling their last breaths for ten lines, while someone clubs them to death. At first it was interesting, but then it just starts to feel unnecessary, especially when mixed with the above issues of inconsistency.

Idea Factory has come a long way, and it's capable of producing good games. Dragon Star Varnir is a great example, as, despite the bad battle system, it could deliver a dark and serious plot. This simply requires too much out of the player for the middling plot rewards. It is easily ten hours in after the beginning before the larger plot is touched again, and there are only so many times girls cuddling girls and 'teehee-ing' before it starts to seriously drag down everything. Beyond inadvertently raising the question of if a JRPG can truly be a horror game, the pacing and whiplash makes it problematic for what it was going for.

Screenshot for Death end re;Quest 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

This has some merits to it that can't be denied, such as its artwork and very good English voice acting. The problems are, for a horror game, beyond some parts of its plot, the story gets lost with far too much fluff about dorm life, and walking around the same town over and over. This could easily have been cut in half to deliver a better narrative. The 'pinball' battle system is such a break from anything horror related, it serves as icing on a cake that had good intentions, but the ingredients simply were not right for what was required.

Developer

Compile Heart

Publisher

Idea Factory

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 28.08.2020   North America release date 25.08.2020   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 28.08.2020   

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