Utawarerumono Mask of Truth Is A Bingeable Treat

8
  • Playstation 4
  • Playstation Vita
  • RPG
2017-09-26
Mask of Truth Review Cover Image
Mask of Truth blends an epic fantasy visual novel with SRPG combat. Aquaplus / Atlus

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth brings heaps of strategy RPG action to the satisfying second half of this epic fantasy visual novel, ramping up the stakes and excitement of combat and delivering loads of meaty plot twists and character development.

Mask of Truth is the direct follow-up to Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, which we reviewed positively back in May. Mask of Truth picks up mere days after Mask of Deception left off, and features the same sprawling ensemble of heroes and villains (and even adds a few more to the mix). Though Truth recaps the 50-60 hour story of its predecessor in relatively short order, you’ll need to have played Deception to really get the most out of this game.

Thankfully, Truth doesn’t meander through its first several hours like its predecessor. Where the first game was more of a visual novel with a sprinkling of SRPG combat, battles are much more of a focus this time around. It’s a welcome change, particularly since the combat scenarios are way more interesting -- and challenging -- than in Mask of Deception. The second battle of the game throws you into a three-part assault on enemy forces; other encounters find your party scattered all over the map, hamstrung by nasty status ailments, or with victory conditions changing partway through.

Combat Uta Truth
Mask of Truth's turn-based combat is more strategic, challenging and exciting than its predecessor. Photo: Aquaplus / Atlus

The mechanics of combat will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played any game of the Final Fantasy Tactics / Shining Force / Disgaea ilk: turn-based combat with a grid layout. You’ve got your rangy archers, potent yet vulnerable mages, and melee fighters of varying degrees of tankiness. Mask of Truth adds Co-Op Chain attacks into the mix, which allow two fighters within range to team up for massive damage. (Bad news: enemies can do them, too.) After you clear each battle, your active and reserve party members earn a set amount of experience. Active combatants also earn Battle Points (BP), used to boost a character’s HP, strength, defense or speed.

If you have a previous save from Mask of Deception, your party’s levels won’t carry over, but your Scrolls and Codexes -- equipped for stat buffs and passive skills like healing and dodging -- will transfer to Mask of Truth. You’ll gain more of these through story battles and training matches. They don’t allow a huge degree of character customization, but it’s nice to be able to cover a character’s glaring weak points.

That said, while Mask of Truth aims to keep every member of the squad battle-worthy through EXP gains and equippables, it doesn’t totally work in practice. Those who benefit from frequent BP upgrades will noticeably outpace those who don’t. If the story forces you to include a teammate who hasn’t seen much action in a while, they won’t be a huge liability, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to bring them back into the regular rotation.

Red White Train Uta Truth
Red and White matches pit two randomly assigned squads of your companions against each other. Photo: Aquaplus / Atlus

Red vs. White training battles are a standout new addition to the SRPG side of Mask of Truth, pitting two randomly assigned squads of your teammates against each other. These matches are a great way to earn extra experience and Battle Points (which can be allocated at your discretion to boost a character’s HP, strength, defense or speed). They also allow you to get acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your group. As you get a bit further into the game, unlocking more abilities and raising the stats of your party members, these training battles can get pretty damn tough.

While you’ll spend more of your time in battle this time around, all the combat system tweaks in the world don’t matter much if the story stinks, especially when a game takes 70 hours to complete. Thankfully, Mask of Truth’s sprawling epic of civil war in a fantasy setting -- with a dash of apocalyptic sci-fi thrown in for good measure -- is compulsively fun and bingeworthy. Be prepared to miss your bedtime for a night or two, because you will be constantly itching to know what happens next.  

characters uta truth
A couple of your companions in Mask of Truth. Photo: Aquaplus / Atlus

There’s dozens of characters to keep straight (thank goodness for that very comprehensive in-game glossary), but they all manage to be endearing and multifaceted. Mask of Deception ended on a huge, dramatic plot twist I won’t spoil here, and for much of Mask of Truth, the heroes are still reeling from those events. Each of them deals with it in a different way: some grow sentimental, others hard and cold, while still others just ignore the issue completely. Yes, many of the characters have cat ears and ridiculous, spine-splintering mammaries. But they also have real emotional depth and complexity. You will care if one of your companions makes amends with her father, and if another follows through on a longstanding betrothal.

While the conclusion to Utawarerumono’s sprawling story is hugely satisfying overall, I did find the endgame a little frustrating, in that you fight the same villains multiple times, and certain battles feel restrictively scripted. This is a pretty common RPG thing though, so it wasn’t a huge demerit. The game’s epilogue (surprise! it’s lengthy) helped ease my grumbles in this regard.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth isn’t something you can pick up for an hour at a time, or leave aside for a couple weeks. But if you’re a fan of fantasy anime and / or SRPGs with some time to binge, this duology is loads of fun. It improves on Mask of Deception in numerous respects, so if you enjoyed that game, this is a no-brainer.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is available now for PS4 and Vita. You can check out the game’s launch trailer below.

REVIEW SUMMARY
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
8
A Bingeworthy Successor
Mask of Truth ramps up the stakes and excitement of combat and delivera loads of meaty plot twists and character development.
  • Gripping, twisty-turny storyline
  • Considerably improved turn-based combat
  • Red vs. White friendly battles are fun and challenging
  • Endgame bosses have 7000 lives
  • No incentive not to play faves with party members
  • Need to have played the first game, not a standalone
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