Game Info:

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
Developed by: Aquaplus
Published by: Atlus
Release date: May 23, 2017
Available on: PS4, Vita
Genre: Visual Novel, SRPG
Number of Players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Mature for blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, violence
Price: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

The Utawarerumono (I have no idea how to pronounce that) series has been around since 2002 and Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is the latest entry and the first I’ve played so far. Later this year the final chapter, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, will be coming to the West and I’m looking forward to it. This series is known for its hybrid combination of visual novel and strategy RPG (SRPG) gameplay. The turn based battles are few and far between the hour-long (or more) segments of text and story arcs. If you’re looking for a lot of action, then you may want to consider another game.

When you start your adventure your first choice will be selecting the difficulty. The options are Normal and Hard; if you’re unhappy with your selection, you can change it at any time. I found the normal difficulty to be well balanced and I never felt under-leveled during the battles. However, you do have the option of doing free battles if you want to level up some of your neglected party members. Though all of the party members will level up, only actively used characters can earn points to increase their various stats like health, attack, defense, and speed. As you improve their attributes, the cost to do so again increases. The neglected characters will only increase their level number.

The game begins with the main character waking up in the future from a cryogenic sleep but there is an error in the process. As a result, he suffers from amnesia. When he finally comes to, he’s in a tent with a humanoid female tending to him. Her name is Kuon and she has animal like ears and a long tail that’s often used to choke the protagonist when he gets out of line. Kuon assigns him the name Haku and agrees to help him until he’s self-sufficient.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception

Strong Points: Engaging and often funny story with excellent character development; balanced battle system
Weak Points: Slow performance during some of the final battle sequences
Moral Warnings: Strong language and blaspheming; violence and bloodshed; sexual situations and nudity with the bare minimum covered; strange powers and the emperor is considered a god; excessive drinking and drunkenness

Haku quickly discovers that physical strength is not one of his strong suits as chores that children do are much too strenuous for him. Thankfully, he does have a sharp mind and is good at strategizing and solving problems that his party gets into. He’s also quick to come up with various excuses to justify his slacking off.

There are many light-hearted moments and it’s been a while since I’ve played a game that made me laugh out loud on several occasions. There are also several emotional moments where you feel for the characters while they are struggling with various problems. Each character has a backstory, and like many popular mangas and animes, Haku accumulates a disproportionate amount of female companions. They all happen to be good looking and a couple of them try to seduce him on numerous occasions. {spoiler}Despite the numerous opportunities do to so, Haku does not get intimate with anyone in this title. {/spoiler}

There are many instances of sexual humor with nudity being described in detail. Kuon is very fond of baths and there is a scene where she strips down and hops into a hot bath despite male party members still being present. While usually a gentleman, Haku is the last to leave the bathing house and enjoys the view. Several female characters are shown naked or close to it. They either have very little clothing to cover up the bare necessities, or some obstacle like steam, bubbles, or a fire ember is obstructing the view ever so slightly.

Pretty much every character in this game drinks regardless of how young they look. The various liquors are described in detail and if there was a drinking game based off of the consumption rate in this title, the participants would surely get wasted along with them.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 33%
Violence - 3.5/10
Language - 0/10
Sexual Content - 0/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Language is another issue to address. Every curse word is used and they are all used frequently, including the F bomb. Blaspheming also occurs. Christianity is not present in this game and a majority of the people in this world regard their leader, the Mikado, as a god since he has lived for several centuries. The Japanese themed country of Yamato is very prosperous and has a powerful military thanks to the eight pillars and their hidden powers within them. In battle, these guardians can gain superpowers in exchange for their soul.

With battles come violence and there is plenty of bloodshed in this game. The actual 3D battles themselves aren’t so bad since you just see the physical or magic attack being done without much detail. However, in some of the story sequences you’ll see some bright red blood splatter onto the Vita screen to get the point across that a character is fatally hurt.

The only game changing choices you can make are on the battlefield. I was able to win most of the battles on the first try and felt that the game was well balanced in that regard. Though you usually have multiple story arcs, they all have to be completed in order to progress the main story. All you get to do is select the order of the side stories.

From start to finish, I completed this game on normal difficulty in twenty-six and a half hours. While I enjoyed it, I see little reason to play it again on a harder difficulty. If you’re a fan of the previous entries, then you’ll most certainly enjoy this one. If you’re looking for a visual novel with a great story and some action and don’t mind the many moral issues, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is worth looking into.

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