Nearly three years after it was first released in the west on PS4 and Vita, us PC players finally get the chance to play Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth, the second and third games in the Utawarerumono series. It’s about time honestly, as these are some games I have been wanting to play since I first watched the anime adaptation years ago.
So for those unfamiliar with it, Utawarerumono is a series of visual novels with tactical RPG elements. The gameplay consists of the player going from reading various story events and dialogue to tactical, turn-based battles on a grid. As with most VNs that have gameplay elements, the focus is not on the gameplay, but rather on the story. However, with Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth, the gameplay is actually pretty good and doesn’t feel like it was just tacked onto the experience. It may be no Disgaea, but it has a decent amount of depth to it at least, much more so than I often see with such VN hybrids. The game also provides a couple difficulty options to accommodate for both those that just want to experience the story and those that want more challenging gameplay. On normal difficulty, the battles are pretty much a breeze, but on hard difficulty, not so much.
As for the actual story, well, that’s something that Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth do really well. Although Mask of Deception is technically the second game in the series, it is set up in such a way as to make it easy for newcomers to enjoy. I personally have never played the first game (which is simply titled “Utawarerumono” and does not have an official English release yet) and had no problems getting into Mask of Deception. The same cannot be said for Mask of Truth though, which absolutely requires that you play Mask of Deception first, lest you be really confused as to what’s going on. For those that still want to experience the first game in some form, the 2006 anime is generally considered a good adaptation. I watched it years ago and, while I may not remember much of it, I liked it enough to want to get into the games.
Once you actually get into the story, you’ll be met with some well-written characters, a vibrant fantasy setting that’s big on world-building, and some pretty good overall pacing. The games provide a good mix of serious storytelling and more character-oriented slice of life scenes as well. In fact, I like to think of the two games as brothers. Mask of Deception is the younger brother, who is rather innocent and just wants to have fun in this fantasy world with all of its neat characters. Mask of Truth, on the other hand, is the older brother who has lost his innocence and has experienced the hardships of life. While Mask of Deception does have its serious moments, Mask of Truth is when the real story story kicks in, when everything starts coming together. It’s quite the ride and there’s a good reason why Mask of Truth is sitting at the #12 spot on VNDB’s list of highest-rated visual novels.
The art and music, as with the story, are also pretty good in both games. I ran the game at 1440p and, while that is likely an upscale from
1080p (EDIT: Games are upscaled from 720p), the art looked fine and I didn’t notice any blatantly blurry assets or backgrounds. It was definitely some good news, as I’m a big fan of the fantasy aesthetic that the games go for. The music also perfectly matches this aesthetic, with a great blend of energetic battle themes and more laid-back, traditional tracks for the game’s dialogue scenes. As someone that has already been listening to these soundtracks for years, it was cool to finally hear this music in-game.
And of course, seeing as how these two games have never been released on PC, I should mention the quality of their port. To sum it up, it’s pretty good as far as VN ports go. There’s all the standard settings one would expect in a VN release, including text speed, auto-mode speed, skip options, and a voice cutoff toggle. However, both games go one step further with fullscreen, borderless, and window options, multiple resolution support, completely rebindable keyboard controls, protagonist voice toggling, and even customizable button prompts dependent on what type of controller you’re using. Some of these may sound pretty standard, but with visual novels, sometimes they are hard to come by, so it’s nice to see them included here.
And before I wrap up this review, I should bring up the censorship question. Both games were released as 15+ titles in Japan, so there’s no H-scenes like in the original 2002 PC game. This version of Mask of Truth is the exact same as the Japanese version, but this version of Mask of Deception has one CG that has been changed from the Japanese release. It’s a very minor change, but I know that a lot of VN fans are passionate about the subject, so it needs to be noted regardless.
Overall though, both Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth are solid games all things considered. Great art, great music, gameplay that actually doesn’t feel like a distraction from the main story, and a story that’s both unique and well-written. The two games have a lot going for them and the fact that they’re actually decent PC ports is also a nice bonus. It’s about time we got them on PC and now it’s just a wait to complete the trilogy with the release of Prelude to the Fallen, a remaster of the first game that is also slated to release on PC.
You can buy Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception on Steam here.
You can buy Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game(s) in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.