If you’re here because you’re a fan of FromSoftware’s other excellent series, Dark Souls, and you’re curious whether or not they’re able to transfer that top-tier development juice into a VR game, let me save you some time: Déraciné isn’t a good game. Rather, it’s one of the most underwhelming VR titles I’ve had the displeasure of sitting through. Everything that makes FromSoftware’s previous hit games so revered is sorely lacking here. Instead, we’re left with what could very well be the most boring game made by a major development studio this year.
Déraciné can be summarized as a walking simulator meets a point-and-click adventure. But because it doesn’t do justice to either genre, it becomes nothing more than an agonizing exercise in frustration unlike almost any other game I’ve played recently. Whereas a walking simulator offers you minor amounts of movement control to lead you through a story, Déraciné prefers to encumber you with tacked-on interactivity with its environments. Utterly tedious exploration and trial-and-error “find and apply to the correct person or item” gameplay is neither fun nor rewarding in this case. Unlike the best of its peers, the game simply isn’t interested in entertaining you with its mechanics, choosing instead to simply keep you invested through sheer confusion.
"Its later chapters are so long, so tedious, and so repetitive that I nearly assumed I had overlooked some type of item or interaction that had led me into an unwinnable loop."
Almost worse than its nebulous adventure elements is Déraciné’s unwieldy, disorienting movement. It’s achieved through use of the two required PlayStation Move controllers, but the lack of full locomotion does nothing but greatly hinder the game. Getting from place to place around the game’s environments requires a constant clicking of the Move controller’s center button to warp from spot to spot. When you add in the awkward turning actions mapped to face buttons, the game simply becomes a disorienting, clunky mess. More often than not, attempting to interact with items or characters requires adjusting angles multiple times and fighting with the controllers to ensure you can actually do what’s needed to proceed. I often clipped into characters while trying to engage with them, and after fumbling about and realizing I just couldn’t acclimate myself to my surroundings, I sometimes had to warp away and then warp back to try the angles again.
In typical FromSoftware fashion, Déraciné wants to tell you an ambiguous story that assumes you’ll care enough to dig deeper and unravel its mundane secrets. Sadly, though the pieces exist within the game to tell a great tale of a faerie watching over a group of young children in a boarding school, there’s nothing executed here with even a modicum of intrigue. As it desperately begged me to think it was epic and emotional, it only showcased how it’s really just an undeservedly pretentious bore. I was initially curious to see how things would play out, but the game’s pacing rapidly ruined any interest I might’ve had. Its first few chapters task you with busywork as the children slowly seek you out in an attempt to confirm your presence and ask for your assistance and protection. It begins to feel like it might at least culminate in a relatively stirring finale, but when the time comes for the game to ramp up to what should’ve been its climax it decides you need more hours of completely unnecessary and monotonous plot expansion. Its later chapters are so long, so tedious, and so repetitive that I nearly assumed I had overlooked some type of item or interaction that had led me into an unwinnable loop.
"I ultimately didn’t really care what happened in the long run thanks to otherwise lousy storytelling, but it was nice to have a fleeting connection to something among the rubble of the game’s failures."
But the most depressing part about Déraciné is how it wastes its potential. As you click around its environments and explore its various rooms, it’s obvious there was time and effort invested in the game’s overall sense of place and dedication to its believability. The boarding school wherein most of the game takes place feels lived-in and realistic within its world. The children leave you notes to find, speak to you when they sense you’re around, and show genuine interest in learning about their world and what’s happening to them within it. And because of this, the game does at least excel at making you feel needed and desired by its inhabitants, even if it unfortunately manages to drag you through the motions rather than present you with any engaging interactions to accompany that feeling of value.
Its visuals, the setting, mood, music, and cast are all serviceable but can also be slightly charming at times. Its somber orchestral melodies and melancholy ambiance create the same sense of loneliness and despair that a game like Dark Souls achieves so brilliantly. Its characters aren’t voice-acted with any level of enthusiasm but check off all the necessary qualities for being likable enough. I admittedly even found myself slightly attached to one of them as he fell under the weight of self-inflicted guilt and selfless sacrifice as the game unraveled its seemingly never-ending tale. I ultimately didn’t really care what happened in the long run thanks to otherwise lousy storytelling, but it was nice to have a fleeting connection to something among the rubble of the game’s failures. Had any of these positive aspects of the game been followed up with significantly better pacing and less perplexing interactivity, Déraciné could have been decent rather than disappointing.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Acceptable music and ambiance, voice acting is fine.
Appalling control scheme, Exhausting trial-and-error tedium, Story is padded with unrelenting repetition.