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 Truth is the latest entry and continues from Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. 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 and training sessions to further power up characters and their special abilities. 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. As characters gain levels they will unlock new abilities and special moves.
This game quickly picks up where Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception left off. Though there is a bit of a recap, I highly recommend playing that title before enjoying this one. Spoilers will follow in case you haven’t played that one yet. Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception left off with Haku wearing Oshter’s mask and taking over his role as the Mikado’s pillar general. This game focuses on his new life and having to lie to friends and their families about his true identity.
The Mikado, Anju, is still healing from the attempt on her life. Besides recovering her health, she must reclaim her throne and win back the support of her people. It’s an uphill battle for Oshter and his group of friends, but they are hard to beat when they set their minds to something.
There are many enemies and they have former allies become foes and vice versa. Despite the long story sequences, there are a fair amount of battles and several gigantic bosses to defeat towards the end. Several times, I thought I was at the end only to find more story sequences and battles ahead. The final boss battle lets you use all but two of your party members.
As the characters fight together, they will form bonds, which allow chain attacks. Enemies can perform the same combo attacks as well so make sure you always have a healer in your party. Some melee fighters can do counter attacks which are helpful. As you win battles, you’ll unlock equipment that can raise defenses against physical, mental, elemental, and magical attacks.
Characters also bond outside of the battlefield throughout the many story sequences. There are 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 manga and anime, many of the females have a crush on Oshter/Haku. They all happen to be good looking and a couple of them try to seduce him on numerous occasions. Despite the many opportunities do to so, Haku does not get intimate with anyone in this title.
There are many instances of sexual humor with nudity being described in detail. There is a scene where Oshter teaches Nosuri a new gambling card game and she winds up losing all of her clothes and leaves his room in her birthday suit. While the bare minimum is not shown, many of the characters wear revealing outfits.
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.
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 and there are several deities shown and some of them grant wishes in a sadistic manner. Many of the Mikado’s pillar generals, like Oshter, have hidden powers within their masks. 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 forty-one 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 Truth is worth looking into.