The Utawarerumono series is about as niche as it gets when it comes to games developed by Aquaplus to get a western release. However, the series has gained overseas popularity due to the manga and anime adaptations of the series. Earlier this this year, Atlus published the second of the three part Utawarerumono visual novel SRPG series, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. DualShockers reviewed the game and thought it was a solid visual novel tactical RPG hybrid, but also felt that the story lacked many memorable scenes.
Now publisher Atlus has released the last part of the Utawarerumono trilogy, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, to conclude the story. Sadly, the west never received the first entry in the series, but there is a decent anime adaptation of it for those who wish to be completely caught up in the story. Anyways, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth aims to conclude the events surrounding Haku and his companions as war approaches and friendships are put to the test.
It should be noted that there are huge spoilers in this review for those who have yet to finish Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. I urge you to beat the game or watch the anime to catch yourself up without putting a damper on your overall experience.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth begins the day following the conclusion of Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. Much of Haku’s team are broken up over the loss of their beloved friend Haku, but not as much as Haku is for lying to them about his passing. Haku is stuck playing the part of the mask wearing General of the Right, Oshutoru. Its a great start to the story as Haku struggles to keep a straight face as his friends morn his death, but he understands the importance of keeping Oshutoru alive.
As for Kuon, she has found herself back home in Tuskuru and torn between her duties to her Kingdom and to her friends. I enjoyed the emotional tug-of-war between these two characters that fits the themes of the visual novel perfectly. They both hold information from those that they love and must force themselves to be strong for everyone else’s sake. This theme runs through the entire game’s story as Haku tries to keep his facade as Oshutoru believable and Kuon tries to not display her ulterior motive for assisting the Tuskuru army in battle.
For the entirety of Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth‘s story, players will discover more information about the surrounding nations as they prepare for civil war. Each character’s honor and loyalty will be put to the test in order to gain the upper hand of the kingdom they fight for. That being said, the story’s pacing is well managed and also includes breaks in the story where characters will speak casually and express their personalities outside of the battlefield.
Throughout the game there will also be events that can take place where players will be able to chose who Haku goes and speaks with. These can be done in any order, but it mostly provided some one-on-one time with other characters characters, which is something that I didn’t mind because each main character holds something interesting about them that I enjoyed learning about.
Being as long as this game is, there are times where the story scenes can feel drawn out and lengthy without resolving anything. At other times, the characters would repeat themselves or give a statement that was already said a few scenes ago. However, this doesn’t happen often and for the most part the story sets a nice pace over the entirety of the visual novel.
There are many more battles to be fought while progressing through Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, being that every region is on the brink of war and all. These sections feature a tactical SRPG battle system on a grid field. If you’re looking for an SRPG that changes the genre completely, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is not that game. It does however present some pretty interesting systems that keep the player invested in each battle without them getting too repetitive.
One of the best features of the battle system are the critical attempts during attacks. When a party member executes an attack, a circle will appear that requires an precise button press. I will add that this system is extremely forgiving and doesn’t require you to be too quick to these presses.
Furthermore, magic attacks use a similar system, except the player will need to hold down the X button for a charge. By doing this during attacks I felt more invested in the battle sections, which made me pay more attention to the fight and not mindlessly mash the action button until the fight was over.
As each character gains experience they’ll acquire new skills and abilities. These actions all look pretty cool and unique when used in battle which is much appreciated in a game that has very little actual gameplay outside of these battles. However, these fights aren’t going to handed to you. I ended up losing more than a few of the battles due to rushing in ill-prepared.
One thing that I felt was missing from Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth’s SRPG gameplay is how damage doesn’t increase if you’re attacking an enemy from behind or from the sides. Additionally, after your character’s turn is over you don’t have the option of facing your character a certain direction.
I just feel this is a staple for the genre and adds to the strategy element of the battles. On the other hand, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth does feature a pretty awesome guard/counter element that uses the precise button press mechanic to deflect an enemy attack. So in the end I enjoyed a lot more about the battle system then I disliked about it which made me eager to jump into every fight throughout the game.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the graphics department. The 3D character models are similar to what you would see from a game releasing in the PlayStation 3 generation. However, the static character illustrations during the visual novel sections are all nicely detailed and express the characters emotions accurately.
Surprisingly, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is not completely serious throughout the entire visual novel. Regardless of the pretty heavy themes in the game’s story, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth takes a break every once in awhile for the characters to interact outside of talk about war and death. Usually these scenes put Haku in a more intimate situation with the female characters or the game will just feature an all out bath scene. Personally, I felt the story needed these breaks because there are many scenes that include high drama and emotional conversations and I enjoyed seeing the characters have fun.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a story about doing what you feel is the right thing for the people that you care about even though it may get you into trouble or injured. This theme of the visual novel is present throughout its hours of gameplay and broken up with a solid SRPG battle system that I enjoyed.
The game’s lengthy scenes and repeated statements can feel more like padding on the game’s runtime which makes Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth feel redundant at times, but the conclusion of the story will not disappoint the ones who have stuck with it this far. If you are a fan of visual novels that have elements of the SRPG genre, then very few games do it better than the Utawarerumono series, you won’t be disappointing.