A good conclusion to Mask of Deception’s story.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a really interesting game to look at- in part, this is because of just how closely the game is married to the original entry, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, which necessitated me first having to make some time for that game and playing it through before finally returning to this one, all to make sure that I would be doing this game proper justice. That might sound excessive to you- but in the case of this series, it is extremely important that you actually have played the original title before jumping into this one.
The Utawarerumono games are incredibly story heavy- and Mask of Truth almost literally picks up from where Mask of Deception left off, which means that if you decide to start with this one, all of a sudden you’re going to find yourself thrown into the middle of a really dense science fiction, philosophically charged story that won’t make any sense to you (although, to the game’s credit, it does have you go through the events of the first game from a different perspective for a bit at the start, but it never serves as an adequate replacement for just how much happened in Mask of Deception).
In its turn, then, the fact that this game requires you to have played the original before you can even think about getting into it basically gives it a guaranteed captive audience- essentially, if you played the original and you liked it, you will like this one too. It features a far longer, crazier and bonkers story which somehow manages to be far better paced than the original title, while also adding some more relatable heart to the proceedings thanks to the game’s more open embracing of anime style storytelling tropes.
"The fact that this game requires you to have played the original before you can even think about getting into it basically gives it a guaranteed captive audience- essentially, if you played the original and you liked it, you will like this one too."
Okay, time to back up a bit and first explain what this game is– though, again, if you don’t actually know that, you really shouldn’t even be considering this title without first having played its predecessor. But, in essence, Utawarerumono games are visual novels that blend with SRPGs (in the vein of something like Fire Emblem). The series’ story is set in a world that is ruled by the Yamato Empire, and the conflict of a brewing civil war. The stories can actually become surprisingly heavy in terms of their treatment of the subject matter of war and power, but they never get too heady, which is, in part, because of the excellent characters, including protagonist Haku and Kuon, who you will spend a not insubstantial time playing as.
In Mask of Truth, Mikado, the Emperor is dead, and Haku finds himself faced with a dilemma where he is impersonating the General Oshtor, his own superior in the first game (who died then), and that Haku himself is dead. His own limits as a person, and his sense of right and wrong are tested. Even more so, the context of Haku having to interact with others all around him who are having to cope with the loss of someone they grew to love and be very fond of, many of whom you are familiar with from the previous games, in the context of grief and how they cope with it.
This actually adds a sense of melancholy to the proceedings (that, again, is at odds with the wholesale embracing of anime style storytelling and gags in the game this time around), which, in a lesser game, would have fallen flat- but in this one, which manages to shine through, thanks to incredible localization (for my money, this might rank as one of the best localizations of all time), as well as some extremely strong voice work, which does the sharp writing full justice. Some characters can sound a bit grating (they sometimes sound too much like- yes, you guessed it- anime characters), but on the whole, the quality of voice work is exceptional here, and far beyond most major AAA games on the market, ironically enough.
Of course, the storytelling bits are only one part of Utawarerumono- the other half is those grid based strategy battles I mentioned earlier. Battles are much like they were in Mask of Deception– they’re fast paced, and mostly simple, with the mechanic of being able to see the order of turns per round being the wrinkle they throw into the mix. You get the ability to see what affect your actions might have beforehand (how much health you drain from your target, as an example), but on the whole, it’s not a very complicated system- the best thing about it is that, as mentioned before, it’s extremely fast, and so, it never gets tiresome, and never feels like it is getting in the player’s way.
"Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a lot of game to chew through- and I’m not fully convinced that it actually earns all that it demands from the player, including thorough knowledge of its predecessor, and a ridiculous amount of time invested into this one, not to mention putting up with its more tiresome anime stylings."
On the other hand, that is decidedly not something I can say for Mask of Truth itself- as much as I actually liked the game’s story and cast of characters, there came a point where I was ready to be done with it. Sadly, the game kept going on and on- as mentioned before, it’s a long game. As also mentioned before, this isn’t because the pacing in the game is lacking or anything- in fact, Mask of Truth is a brisker game than its predecessor. It’s just… there’s a lot of it. Like, a lot of it. And at some point, you can have too much of a good thing, and that definitely begins to happen by the end of Mask of Truth.
What you will never get enough of, on the other hand, is the game’s gorgeous art- the clean art may seem like a generic anime styled visual novel at first, but there’s a very distinctive look, thanks to some very well designed characters, and backdrops that wouldn’t look out of place in the highest quality anime production. The great art is also accompanied by some strong music, though sadly, that does not tend to stand out as much as the art, story, characters, or voice work do.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a lot of game to chew through- and I’m not fully convinced that it actually earns all that it demands from the player, including thorough knowledge of its predecessor, and a ridiculous amount of time invested into this one. But if you were among the many who fell in love with Mask of Deception, and want to know how that story ends, then Mask of Truth is going to be worth your time- it’s just, said time is going to end up being a lot in the end.
This game was reviewed on PS Vita.
Extremely strong localization and sharp writing; great voice acting, great art, quick battle system, and some very strong characters.
The game is VERY long, and practically demands that you have played through the original before you get into it.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth will test your patience at times, but it serves as a good conclusion to Mask of Deception's story.