This sequel to Death end re;Quest builds on what made the original game great and wraps it into its own fairly unique package. In other words, you are in for quite an interesting and haunting experience.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG,
Visual Novel Hybrid
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
FRANCHISE: Death end re;Quest
Release date: 18 Aug, 2020
Having played the first Death end re;Quest I knew what I was getting myself into. For those familiar with other Idea Factory titles, think the polar opposite of a Neptunia game in terms of story and with a bit more complicated gameplay. The story of a Neptunia game is usually pretty upbeat with the worst thing imaginable being that Neptune’s puddings are getting replaced by eggplants. Death end re;Quest series, on the other hand, is dark and gory. Characters dying gruesomely based on the choice the player makes is the reality of this world. Now I am not one who usually spoils anything, but I will give you a small taste of what’s to come with something that occurs in the opening minutes of the game.
Mai Toyama (protagonist) has a father that is rather abusive and Mai has had quite enough of him. Fearing for her life, she turns the tables on him and brutally murders him with the visual gore shown of a blood-soaked screen. This leads to the game’s primary setting, the all-girls orphanage. The basic drive of the story is Mai is looking for her sister who was lost to her when her parents divorced. She found out her sister had been eventually sent to that school, however, that is where the first of the game’s mysteries come into play, no one has heard of her sister. With the mysterious curfew, the potentially haunted halls, and the unusual monster-infested corruption of the town at night, Mai is left with possibly more that she can handle on her own. I won’t spoil anything more of the story as I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience, but that all occurs in the opening minutes of the game and there is plenty left to discover on your own.
While the game is broken into chapters, it isn’t entirely clearly cut when a chapter change is going to occur. The story flows seamlessly between the chapters and is broken into two types of delivery. Visual Novel style with a mixture of spoken and text on screen and through little pop-up messages while in the field. I can tell you that the hybrid of spoken and text is a little strange at first but it actually works decently well. Some scenes are delivered purely with text on screen for you to read while others have spoken dialogue injected between the pure text screens. If there is spoken dialogue typically it is used when the character is actually speaking and anything the character is thinking is usually just text on screen. It isn’t consistently done though with quite a bit of spoken word being just delivered in a pure text format. While you are inside the orphanage there are usually a number of scenes to witness before you sneak out at night to enjoy the actual gameplay.
The game itself takes about 12 hours to complete, or at least it did for me as I worked my way through exploring everything I could in order to find all the chests and complete all the optional questions. If you spend the time to grind levels and unlock every possible ability, it will probably take much longer. Besides the main story, there is a camp option that allows you to spend time with your party members and visit a shop. The shop sells things as one would expect, but it also will eventually start offering quests for you to complete. These quests typically are things you will be able to complete as you work through the story so they are definitely something you should ensure to keep on top of. I have to say I really enjoyed the camp this time, not because it was really all that different from the first game, but because the characters felt more realistic there. There is a girl with an unfortunate name, Rotten “Rottie” Dollhart, who I assume was likely a translation error of something like Lotten/Lottie or Charlotte, but by any name, she feels particularly lifelike there. She is devoted to Mai and will be quite talkative and clingy. If you walk away from the conversation before it is over, she will complain in a sad way that Mai is being cold to her and sound sad (or as sad as a text box can sound). It really does help make the characters feel more alive which makes their deaths hit even harder.
The gameplay has a few questionable choices made but they do make sense as to why they were made. Every night you start out as you leave the dormitory. You then have to walk through the creepy streets to get to where you are going that night. This means effectively walking through the same area repeatedly as you progress through the game and that does get very repetitive and dull. It would be nice to have it automatically teleport you to the next starting area, but it does help give it the feel that you are leaving the dorms each night to go on an adventure so of course, you will be passing through the same areas each time. Usually once you get to wherever you are going the game quickly wraps up after a boss battle and you are back to the orphanage again. If the town at night was more interesting to look at, it would make a difference but every area you pass through looks very similar to the last. Kind of generic town with a lot of glowing corruption intertwined. Since the town itself isn’t really a prime focus of the game and is more of just a setting for it, it can be forgiven that a lot of time wasn’t spent making all the buildings stand out at night, but it does make for a bit of a dull trek each night. This format changes a bit after while once you progress outside of town. Here everything is much more vibrant and even corruption has a different colour to it! I won’t spoil anything though so I won’t say too much more on that.
The other kind of questionable choice is the whole monster in the dark theme of it. Every now and then you encounter a special monster that chases you but it doesn’t really move all that fast, you get plenty of warning it is coming and you mostly just have to run a little way away from it before it de-spawns again. The game does make it clear that letting it catch you would be a mistake, but unless I was away from the computer when it showed up, I didn’t really feel like it was much of a threat, especially not early on. If it was a major threat it likely would have been very annoying, but as it is, it is a bit of nuisance but not that big of a deal. I do like the idea of it though and I think it does add something to the otherwise potentially repetitive stroll you are on.
Let’s stop with the negative though because this game has far more positives in its gameplay than negatives to talk about. The combat is very similar to how it was in the first game. You can chain attacks together and depending on various factors you might unlock new abilities that way. Discovering new abilities helps keep the fights interesting as it forces you to try new things each time rather than just relying on the same tried and true abilities every time. You are mostly free to wander about the field to try to find the optimal position to start unleashing your attacks from; however, the bugs in the field are back again too. Touching the bugs (little glowing circles) will cause you to gain corruption and possibly some other effects too. Gaining enough corruption will unlock your powerful corrupted form. Gaining even more of them will kill you so all things in moderation I suppose! As you blast your enemies with your various moves, knockbacks and super knockbacks can occur as well as collisions too. Enemies’ colliding with other enemies hurts them both and potentially will send the other enemy flying too. An enemy colliding with an ally will cause that ally to swing their weapon at the enemy and ricochet it away doing heavy damage in the process. Overkilling an enemy is rewarded so it’s best to try to figure out the best way to inflict maximum damage each time you obliterate your enemies. The somewhat complex battle system for a Visual Novel style game is something that made me want to play Death end re;Quest 2 after having previously enjoyed the original.
Another thing that brought me back to the Death end re;Quest series is the fact that your choices do matter more here than they do in some other games I have played. A wrong choice can get you killed! It actually feels like it takes longer for Death end re;Quest 2 to start giving you these choices in comparison to the original but they are still there. If you are a sucker for punishment, it can be fun to try to figure out which option is the wrong one and going for that instead of trying to choose the best option. I mean sure you will likely end the game with a gruesome game over, but that is what your saved games are for.
As you adventure through the various areas you will encounter specific obstacles that require one of your characters to use their special ability to get past. For example, Rottie has a mosquito that can carry her over some barriers and up to some ledges. If you didn’t have Rottie with you, these areas would not be accessible to you. You are probably wondering how a mosquito could possibly lift a human up to a ledge and that is an excellent question. It’s not actually a mosquito, it is a “Buggy” or a friendly corruption monster that has latched on to her. All of the heroes in Death end re;Quest have one, each one having a different aspect. Mai’s is a snail for example. Is it a good thing, is it a bad thing? What does the snail do for her? Play the game and find out!
One thing that is needed in a Visual Novel style game is a healthy smattering of character tropes and this game has pretty much all of them covered. All of the characters are quite well detailed although primary characters definitely look even fancier than their NPC counterparts. It was quite easy to tell who my third party member was going to be once I met her and sure enough she eventually joined me. With so much focus given to dialogue while inside the orphanage it’s good that there is a variety there to work with. Each one has enough character building to make them feel like they matter and each one of them tends to have a bit of an interesting and checkered past that lead them to be at this mysterious orphanage. The school itself, following a religion unique to the town, possibly being haunted and frequently having strange disappearances that are classed as adoptions is also a bit fascinating to learn about. Since it is hard to talk about a story heavy game, I will refrain from talking more about it and talk more about the technical side of things.
Graphically, where it counts, the game looks good. The visuals of the characters and interiors of buildings and the city during the day all have enough detail to keep it interesting. The characters, particularly the primary characters all were highly detailed and the playable characters even had a highly detailed alternate form when their corruption was high enough. The fact there was so much detail put into a form you don’t actually see that much (unless you are deliberately getting corrupted just to use it) shows the amount of care went in to their design. The town at night is a bit lacking but out of fairness that is more likely that I just grew tired of seeing it having passed through it so much and it likely is fine too. The environment itself though was interesting to walk through with the various bits of glowing corruption and twisted looking monsters roaming around. The enemies were varied enough to be interesting to battle which is a good thing because you will likely be fighting with them a lot as you progress through the game. The fact large heavy looking monsters didn’t get knocked back as easily as small lighter looking characters really helped with the visual appeal of them. Watching a small enemy pinball around the field taking out bugs and its friends as it went never really got old.
The audio works very well and despite the spoken dialogue being peppered in rather than consistent, it is enough to be enjoyable. The fact they were talking in English for a change was very welcome, it’s been quite a while since I played one of these styles of games with an English Language option. I don’t mind non-English audio but usually I prefer it just because I find reading subtitles often makes you miss some of the action. The sound effects are a bit generic but they work well within the game. The atmospheric music and sounds did help set the tone and mood of the game very well. The only thing that got a little tiresome, and honestly, I would never suggest to remove it or omit it from future titles is the repetition of the same dialogue lines before and after combat. Sure, there are a number of different lines said and that really helps, but eventually, it plays through them all and it just starts getting tiresome. It does let you skip it though so it isn’t that big of deal.
Controls and User Interface
The controls for the game, at least when using a gamepad, work very well. I found some of the keyboard key layouts a little awkward but it isn’t anything that would be too difficult to figure out plus it can all be rebound anyway. You have all the typical controls you would in a visual novel that allow you to automatically progress text, skip read text and reread the log including replaying any voices there may have been. The menus are easy to navigate although having it be accessed by pressing on the left thumbstick was a bit questionable at first it worked out quite well. When in the field, the controls are equally straight forward. You are able to auto-battle, auto-attack with the chain of commands you previously set outside of battle or manually control everything. This allows you to vary up the gameplay allowing it to resolve simple repetitive battles with minimal effort and letting you take proper control of the more intense boss battles. The menu system in the field is more involved and allows you to change your characters various gear slots as well as build predefined attack combinations easily. There is plenty to see and do in the menus as well and it is all laid out quite well.
Usually I don’t touch DLC too much when doing a review, but I figured I would talk a bit about them. The DLC are a double-edged sword. They do enhance the gameplay but they also cheapen it a bit too. The costumes are fun and allow you to have a bit of variety from the default clothes options. If you play the game purely without any DLC, you will have to grind a bit to gain levels and money if you want to buy everything available. With some of the DLC you get large amounts of money and an extra experience item which pretty much eliminates any need for that. I can tell you that for review purposes that definitely was handy because it let me work through the game way faster, but it did feel a little bit like cheating. Some of the natural padding for a game comes from the monotonous grinding. If it is a game you feel good playing, the grinding isn’t a chore while in other games it may feel incessant. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, I didn’t have to figure out which of those scenarios it would be for this game!
Overall, if you enjoyed the previous entry in the series, you should enjoy this one. While the previous one felt like it got moving faster, this one does eventually take off too. There are callbacks to the previous game but nothing that actually requires you to have played it. If you are looking for a horror story Visual Novel with some decent gameplay mixed in, then you will also enjoy this. If you are looking for a fun Neptunia style game from Idea Factory and noticed this one as a recommendation on Steam then you might want to be sure you know what you are getting yourself in to. It is not for the faint of heart and is quite twisted and a bit horrific at times. Overall, it’s one that I am willing to Save.