I had a lot of fun playing through and reviewing Death end re;Quest 1, more so than usual with most Compile Heart games. So of course I am excited to try out the sequel, one we don’t even have to wait for this time. It’s arriving on PC a full week before PS4, which might actually be a first for the publisher.
Excellent combat. One thing I really liked about the first game was its combat. It took the traditional turn-based combat you see in most JRPGs and added this entire movement mechanic on top of it, making positioning a key factor in how the combat actually played out. Well, to the surprise of no one, the sequel continues this style of combat. It’s pretty much just a carbon copy, but they didn’t really need to change much here.
The combat doesn’t go overboard with complexity, the different moves are fun to use with all of their varying sizes, elements, and effects, and the knockback feature is still some of the most fun I’ve had in any Compile Heart game. For those unfamiliar, if you attack an enemy with a move that has a knockback attribute, your character will launch said enemy at the end of their attack, sending them flying in whatever direction they’re facing dependent on their weight. They then rebound off of any wall or other enemy they come into contact with and you can easily make the battlefield into a big pinball mess if you position everything correctly.
It’s some excellent combat all things considered and definitely my favorite in any of Compile Heart’s games. I won’t deny I was at least expecting some new mechanics, but it’s not bad either way.
Interesting storyline. So the combat may be good and all, but for those that played the first one, you will already know that this is a much more story-focused game. In fact, I would say that about 70% of the game is just visual novel segments. I’m not complaining though, as I mostly enjoyed the story from the first one and was happy to see that continue here with the second.
Now, I’ll try to talk about it without spoiling anything. The story basically resets from the first game, with a fresh cast and all. However, as you progress, it becomes increasingly more linked with that first game. Although I didn’t like how the first game ended, I liked how this game was able to build on that foundation while also offering something new in the process. The new characters are cool, the twists and turns are plentiful, and the story is weaved into the gameplay in such a manner that it never felt like it was overpowering. Of course it isn’t without its problems (which I’ll discuss later), but it’s a solid effort from Compile Heart and much better than what they usually put out.
Higher production values compared to first game. Compile Heart is no stranger to low production values. Although they usually make decent games, it’s usually done with reused assets, unvoiced dialogue, and repetitive level design. While Death end re;Quest 2 doesn’t completely avoid these issues, it’s a much better overall package than what we got with the first game (or really any Compile Heart game for that matter).
For one, we got a bunch of cool new enemies. Not only are they unique in their designs, but some of them are really, really creepy, like straight-up nightmare fuel. Of course, that perfectly fits the setting here, so I’ll give them credit for that. Then you got the English dub, which, as with the first game, is actually not that bad. It doesn’t feel overacted, nor does it lack emotion like a lot of other JRPG dubs.
It strikes a nice balance there and even felt expanded compared to recent Compile Heart games. Dragon Star Varnir, for example, had very little dubbed dialogue, but here in Death end re;Quest 2, a significant portion of the game is dubbed. Given that this is a story-heavy game, it’s nice to see them put some actual effort into that. The production values overall are an improvement over the first game and I can only hope that their future games continue this trend, although I may be being a bit overoptimistic there.
Decent port. This may not be the best-looking game, but they did a pretty good job with the overall port. I never ran into any frame drops, stutters, crashes, or other such issues that usually come with JRPG PC ports. Additionally, the game also performs well on both controller and keyboard and mouse. They are completely rebindable and there’s even button prompts for both. And the keyboard and mouse implementation is not lazy either, you’re able to use the mouse both for the camera and for navigating menus.
Just a couple weeks ago, I reviewed Koei Tecmo’s Fairy Tail game which completely lacked a lot of this, so it’s nice to see a smaller studio show them how it’s done. Granted, it’s not an entirely bug-free experience (again, I’ll discuss later), but I got to give the game some props for at least having some polish to it.
Inconsistent writing quality. Just as with the first game, the story in Death end re;Quest 2 suffers from a number of different writing problems. Perhaps the most major of these would be the various pacing issues. Whether that be a misplaced story development that wasn’t given the proper buildup or the sudden push to finish a scene without properly wrapping it up, the writing never quite found a consistent pace there. Then you have the drastic tone shifts that not only are cheaply written, but really take you out of the experience.
You’ll have a scene that’s progressing at a relatively steady pace and all seems fine, only for the writers to suddenly remember “Oh! Wait, this is supposed to be an edgy game!”. What better way to sell that than by describing scenes with human organs and blood everywhere and characters dying in the most brutal way possible. I get that this is supposed to be a darker game like that, but these scenes oftentimes come out of nowhere and some even had me laugh at just how absurd and misplaced they were. I’ll give the game some credit for having a more well-written ending compared to the first, but it couldn’t completely escape the same writing issues that that first had.
Boring level design. Another Compile Heart release, another game full of some of the most boring level design in modern JRPGs. They may have upped the visuals a bit, but the environments are still almost entirely composed of copy-pasted assets, repeating textures, and invisible walls everywhere. The devs have a very clear path they want you to travel and there’s no exploration beyond that, even in areas where it looks like you can move around freely.
Additionally, the actual layout of each level is really blocky. You get a bunch of smaller areas connected by long straight paths, similar to what you’d see from old level editors for games like DOOM. It just gets boring exploring these blocky levels and seeing the same copy-pasted building over and over. It’s something that Compile Heart is really bad at, so if you’ve played any of their prior games, you probably already know what to expect here.
Some UI issues. While the overall port was pretty smooth, I did run into some issues with the UI, enough so that it needs to be mentioned. Specifically, I had issues with the UI disappearing at times and not going away at others. This could be in the middle of a battle or somewhere on the field and usually required a game restart to fix. It was a limited issue (happened to me maybe five times total), but should be noted regardless. Hopefully it’s an issue we can see patched sometime close to release.
Although not quite as good as its predecessor, Death end re;Quest 2 is still a decent sequel all things considered. The combat is fun, the story is interesting (even with its problems), and it’s nice to see some higher production values this time. However, it still suffers from the same writing issues as the first and has arguably worse level design. For fans of the first game, it’s worth a look, but if you haven’t played that one then definitely give it a try before entertaining the sequel.
You can buy Death end re;Quest 2 on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.