The latest RPG to come out of the Idea Factory International/Compile Heart stables is Death end re;Quest is coming out on Playstation 4 next week. We played it a little early – here are our thoughts.
Videogames that are directly or indirectly about videogames are a bit of an IFI thing it seems. The last game of theirs that I played, Cyberdimension Neptunia 4, is part of an entire series that follow that formula. Death end re;Quest takes a different approach, but wastes no time in establishing itself as a meta-kind of experience.
As Arata, a video game programmer working on an MMO-type of game, you find that your co-worker Shina goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Fast forward one whole year, and you figure out that Shina was actually somehow sucked into “World’s Odyssey”, the project you were working on together. Getting her out is tricky, as you’re confronted with a series of bugs and a presence that seems to be working against you. Underneath the video game theme, Death end re;Quest quickly develops as an interesting tale of mystery in the shape of a rather typical JRPG.
There’s a lot of real world vs game world drama that unfolds in the game, with events in the two seemingly being related and a sense of danger that’s very real despite the virtual world that Shina finds herself (or her virtual self) locked in. This interplay between worlds is brought to life by frequent switches in perspective between Arata and Shina, whose stories intersect for obvious reasons. When Shina gets stuck, Arata’s coding abilities can help out.
There’s a vast difference between how the game plays out for each character though – most of “proper” gameplay takes place in Shina’s side of things, whereas Arata’s side of the tale is told through a visual novel approach. While the visual novel genre is a bit of a polarizing one for gamers, it works well here to complement the narrative side of the story – which to me is the star attraction here.
The main portion of Shina’s gameplay feels a tad generic (as do many of the visuals), but the combat scenes are pretty interesting with an intricate set of gameplay dynamics all playing out at once. It’s turn based and factors in good positioning right from the start of every encounter. Do this right, and you have a chance of chaining together moves by bouncing your attacks right off one enemy and into the next one.
The video game theme also tied into the turn based combat. Bugs are prevalent, and this means that unexpected things will happen when you hit “bugged” tiles during combat. It’s a risk/reward mechanic and one you’re most likely to trigger if you feel like you’re losing the battle, but one that can turn things around for you in such a scenario as well. Take out enough of the on-screen bugs, and you allow Arata to jump in and hack the way that combat works in your favor as well – or change the setting completely, even to a different game genre.
It makes for a rather unique experience, even though the central theme initially feels like something IFI’s done before. A lot of that is thanks to the strong storytelling, but the combat dynamics also certainly managed to hold my interest. It’s a shame that some of the other parts of the game are a tad generic, or this could’ve really been a standout title.