We take a look at the latest grim and gorgeous JRPG, Death end re;Quest 2 from Idea Factory!
Where JRPG meets Horror
You know, there’s something about horror themed JRPGs. There’s a unique juxtaposition between taking cute, colorful and boisterous characters and throwing them into grim, and oftentimes dire, situations. I don’t know if it’s this contrast that makes their terror, or on the flip side, their murderous intent more profound, but I eat that type of stuff right up. That and seeing a caution screen stating the game “contains graphic scenes of intense violence and gore”, just gives me nostalgia for the early days of survival horror.
Well, Compile Heart has once again teamed up with Idea Factory to bring us a sequel to their visual novel meets JRPG franchise, Death end re;Quest with Death end re;Quest 2. Only this time we get a nice dose of horror thrown into the mix. But will the text heavy approach dilute the intense themes or will the dialog be just the right thing to draw us into this world.
A Tragic Beginning
In Death end re;Quest 2 you play as Mai, a profoundly headstrong teen, who after experiencing a traumatic event involving her father, is in search of her missing sister. Following her trail to the mysterious and secluded mountain village of Le Choara, Mai enrolls at the all girls orphanage, Wadsworth, where her sister was last seen. Most notable for its prestige, humanitarianism and sudden disappearances and/or deaths of its residents.
The more Mai uncovers however, the more the secrets shrouding the town and orphanage reveal themselves and she quickly learns why there is a strict rule to never leave your room past midnight.
Starting With A Bang
Honestly, I love the set up for Death end re;Quest 2. It starts off with a bang, where you experience the trauma that defines the protagonist Mai. This makes it easy to empathize with her and celebrate her growth as the story progresses. The other protagonists Liliana and Rottie, also do a great job of offsetting the brooding nature of Mai, adding comedy and lightheartedness. The idea of unraveling the mysteries of a town that changes in some manner after the clock strikes midnight, is also fascinating!
Where the narrative unravels however, is when it strays too far from the main story. You’ll often find yourself sucked into conversation after conversation with the various NPCs. At these points it tends to focus more on the periphery instead of the task at hand, which honestly takes away from any momentum that the story may have had. In some manner that’s expected in a visual novel, and you do get to learn more about Mai’s housemates and the town she lives in, but I felt much less invested in these portions and just wanted to get to the good stuff.
Familiar But Fun
Now, when I say the good stuff, I mean the parts where you actually play the game! Which is typically triggered when the clock strikes midnight. Then, you’ll be free to roam Le Choara and complete story based objectives. Occasionally, you’ll also run into situations where you can make a choice as to how the story will progress, with some branches continuing the story, others revealing sub-narratives and the rest leading to Death Ends. You shouldn’t discount choosing the Death End branches though, since you can unlock powerful equipment or items from the event viewer when you meet certain conditions or unlock specific story events.
This is all intermingled with the game’s turn based battle system. Which is basically part and parcel with the original Death end re;Quest. The defining feature in this case being the usage of “bugs” on the field that will increase your corruption level eventually causing you to transform into your powerful “glitch” forms. That and the knockback mechanic that’ll allow you to ping pong the enemies around the battlefield, damaging each other when they collide.
Although it’s the most interactive part of the game, I found that Death end re;Quest 2’s battle system to be the least engrossing part of the game. And the fact that the developers added an “auto play” option, meant they probably felt like it could become tedious quickly as well. Not to say that it isn’t fun, but once you see all the flashy attacks a few times, it loses its luster. That and battles never felt overly challenging either. You were basically overleveled for each area without even trying. Which in turn removes any motivation to enter battles when you don’t need to. I mean, sometimes you just want to make it from point A to point B!
A Beautiful Portrait
Nonetheless, one thing that I can confidently say about Death end re;Quest 2 is that it’s a gorgeous game! Well, the art direction is gorgeous at least. The character portraits that you see throughout the game are exquisitely drawn and the subtle animations added to them really bring them to life. Which is good because that’s what you’ll see for about 70% of the game! The main characters especially. Unfortunately, if you’re not a main character, or close to it, you’ll probably be relegated to a small portrait next to the textbox, but regardless they’re still wonderfully designed and each character’s look fits their personality perfectly. With that being exemplified in the various (rarely seen) animated cutscenes.
The in-game graphics on the other hand, although still quite attractive don’t have the same polish and sheen as the portraits themselves. With animations that leave something to be desired and character models that look like they could have been pulled from any of Idea Factory’s previous titles from this generation or even the last. Truthfully, the most visually interesting aspects of the in-game graphics are the enemies and bosses! Though you’ll be seeing most of the enemies time and time again with slight alterations, they’re all quite fun especially with their horror-centric design.
A Wordy Endeavor
I will admit, that if you were to hold Death end re;Quest 2 up to some of the RPG greats, then it probably couldn’t stack up. But as a niche RPG with an intriguing horror-themed story, a unique combat system and alluring characters, something which in recent years Idea Factory has become known for, I think it checks all of the boxes. If you don’t like Visual Novels or text heavy games that are filled with non-story related tangents and light on actual gameplay, then this probably isn’t the game for you. But if that sounds like the ticket, then I think you’ll find Death end re;Quest 2 is a great way to unwind and get a little extra anime in your life.
If you’re interested in checking Death end re;Quest 2 out, it’s available on the PS4 on August 24th, 2020! You can also find it right now on Steam!
If you liked this review then consider checking out the video review! It has a ton of gameplay to ogle over!