Review: Death end re;Quest

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Com­pi­le Heart is a deve­lo­per that real­ly like to try and break away from the typi­cal game­play of other RPGs, usual­ly for the wor­se. Their best game in recent times, Mary Skel­ter, esche­wed the usu­al pro­blems most of their JRPGs con­tain so you’d think that this would have been a tur­ning point for them. Howe­ver, with Death end re;Quest it seems like they’ve fal­len back into their bad habits and crea­ted some­thing that encom­pas­ses near­ly ever­ything that is wrong with their worst games.

Death end re;Quest’s sto­ry is split into two parts that, while con­nec­ted, end up fee­ling most­ly sepa­ra­te for most of the game. In the real world, pro­grammer Ara­ta Mizu­na­shi recei­ves a mys­te­rious email from a col­league who went mis­sing a year ago while working on a ground­brea­king vir­tu­al rea­li­ty MMO World’s Odys­sey. Shi­na, the one who sent the email, finds herself trap­ped insi­de World’s Odys­sey with no memo­ry of how she ended up the­re. The two work tog­e­ther to try and clear the game so Shi­na can escape, while also try­ing to dis­co­ver how she ended up insi­de a game that should have been shut down after her disap­pearan­ce.

Seg­ments in the real world are told ent­i­re­ly like a visu­al novel, using expres­si­ve cha­rac­ter por­traits along­si­de some sur­pri­sin­gly com­pe­tent wri­ting. From Arata’s com­pu­ter you can check what clues have been dis­co­ve­r­ed in World’s Odys­sey and move to dif­fe­rent are­as, but the pla­ces you can go to are always dic­ta­ted by whe­re you are in the sto­ry. The­re are choices that can be made during cer­tain parts of the sto­ry but only one choice will actual­ly pro­gress the sto­ry, while the other always leads to a bad ending. The­se bad endings are com­ple­te­ly unne­cessa­ry, usual­ly only being a few lines of text befo­re kicking you to the game over screen.

As for the sto­ry sec­tions in World’s Odys­sey, the­se are clo­se to other Com­pi­le Heart games like Hyper­di­men­si­on Nep­tu­nia. The­re is still a lot of dia­lo­gue, but it’s bro­ken up by explo­ra­ti­on and batt­les. Insi­de the MMO, Shi­na works her way through the world in an attempt to reach the final area and escape. It is pos­si­ble to switch bet­ween Shi­na and Arata’s per­spec­tives at any time, but the­re is usual­ly litt­le rea­son to switch until the game forces you to do so with an invi­si­ble wall.

The real world sto­ry is by far the best part of the game, due to how inte­res­ting the ope­ning sce­nes are com­pa­red to what actual­ly hap­pens insi­de World’s Odys­sey. Ara­ta is the most rea­listic male cha­rac­ter that Com­pi­le Heart has writ­ten, not fal­ling into the usu­al tro­pes seen in their other games. The sup­por­ting cast doesn’t get as much time to deve­lop as he does, but they’re still a like­ab­le bunch for the most part. As for Shina’s side of the sto­ry, this is were things get a litt­le less enjoy­a­ble. World’s Odys­sey its­elf is most­ly boring and lacking the lore of an actu­al MMO, and the­re are few sce­nes that try to impro­ve this. Your par­ty mem­bers are also not that exci­ting, espe­ci­al­ly sin­ce many of them are intro­du­ced to late to see much deve­lop­ment.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, even with the strong ope­ning and some gre­at cha­rac­te­ri­sa­ti­on in the real world sec­tions, ever­ything starts to fall apart by the half­way point of Death end re;Quest. Events start to beco­me fewer and far bet­ween, and many plot points are rus­hed or just com­ple­te­ly igno­red. Ever­ything that the game’s sto­ry builds up over the first few hours is made red­un­dant by the end, whe­re the sto­ry just beco­mes com­ple­te­ly non­sen­si­cal. This is a rather short JRPG, only clo­cking in at around 20 hours, and you get the impres­si­on that a lot of the sto­ry had to be cut part­way through deve­lop­ment.

One rather lar­ge pro­blem uni­que to the Wes­tern ver­si­on of Death end re;Quest is the noti­ce­ab­ly spar­se Eng­lish voice acting. While the majo­ri­ty of the game is ful­ly voi­ced in Japa­ne­se, the Eng­lish dub covers less than half of that. Cuts­ce­nes will often not be voi­ced at all, regard­less of their impor­t­an­ce to the sto­ry, and many times sce­nes with voi­ced dia­lo­gue would sud­den­ly beco­me silent. This is some­thing that has affec­ted many of Idea Fac­to­ry International’s released, but the amount of Eng­lish dia­lo­gue is at a new low here. For a game that reli­es vast­ly on dia­lo­gue-hea­vy events, this refu­sal to ful­ly voice the game in Eng­lish is made all the more baff­ling.

At the very least, even with how bad­ly the sto­ry was hand­led later in the game, it was still some­what enter­tai­ning. The same can­not be said for the batt­le sys­tem, which is an amal­ga­ma­ti­on of many poor­ly thought out mecha­nics and fea­tures. Batt­les are turn-based but, like many other Com­pi­le Heart games, fea­ture an unne­cessa­ry com­bo sys­tem. During a cha­rac­ters turn they can queue up to three dif­fe­rent actions inclu­ding attacks and item usa­ge. Cer­tain com­bi­na­ti­ons of attacks will unlock new moves, but usual­ly it’s not­hing more com­pli­ca­ted than using the same attack mul­ti­ple times to unlock a hig­her ran­ked ver­si­on. Having to select mul­ti­ple attacks every turn doesn’t real­ly add anything to batt­les and just ends up slo­wing ever­ything down, but if this was the only devia­ti­on from regu­lar turn-based batt­le sys­tems then it wouldn’t be so bad.

For some rea­son, when crea­ting Death end re;Quest the deve­lop­ment team deci­ded to go all out in adding “uni­que” game­play fea­tures, even more so than what you’d expect from a Com­pi­le Heart game. The com­bo sys­tem may have been taken from the most recent Nep­tu­nia game (XTga­mer review), but the most nota­ble part of batt­les is a knock back sys­tem simi­lar to the one found in the Mugen Souls games. After exe­cu­ting a com­bo enemies you hit will be laun­ched back­wards, allo­wing you to smash enemies into each other and the sides of the battle­field… in theo­ry. The pro­blem with this is that it’s often hard to judge how far dif­fe­rent enemies will be laun­ched, and the unclear hit­bo­xes makes try­ing to boun­ce enemies in cer­tain ways impos­si­ble. Rather than add a lay­er of com­ple­xi­ty to batt­les, it’s just ano­t­her ani­ma­ti­on that you have to sit through after every sin­gle com­bo and after a coup­le of batt­les it just gets tedious.

The­se aren’t even half of the issu­es that pla­gue the batt­les sys­tem, but to talk about all of them in depth would take far too long. There’s the bug sys­tem that tri­es to tie the nar­ra­ti­ve of Death end re;Quest into the batt­le sys­tem but fails spec­ta­cu­lar­ly. The idea clear­ly was to have bugs on the battle­field pre­sent a thre­at to the play­er, by dama­ging them or causing enemies that are kno­cked into them to beco­me cor­rupt. But for some rea­son they res­to­re MP, so bugs end up beco­m­ing more of a bene­fit to the play­er than a hin­dran­ce. Tou­ch­ing bugs or being atta­cked also increa­ses each cha­rac­ters’ cor­rup­ti­on, and at 80% they turn into their glit­ched forms. This form is way more power­ful, and comes with only minor draw­backs, making batt­les even less balan­ced.

As a final nail in the cof­fin for the batt­le sys­tem, there’s a mecha­nic that would always be men­tio­ned when this game was being tal­ked about. The aptly named Install Gen­re sys­tem allows the play­er to chan­ge the batt­le sys­tem from turn-based to a num­ber of dif­fe­rent gen­res, from puz­zle to figh­t­ing game. The thing is… this sys­tem is com­ple­te­ly worth­less at best and is not fun to use at all. The afo­re­men­tio­ned puz­zle mode gives zero explana­ti­on as to what you need to do and doesn’t actual­ly do more dama­ge than just attacking nor­mal­ly. This was clear­ly just some­thing they crea­ted to add on the back of the game’s box, rather than an a worthwhile addi­ti­on to batt­les.

Dun­ge­on explo­ra­ti­on fares litt­le bet­ter, thanks to repe­ti­ti­ve lay­outs and con­stant back­tracking. The very first main area is the worst for this, a maze of iden­ti­cal hall­ways that often lead to dead ends or empty rooms. None of the are­as feel ali­ve, though this is due to the bland visu­als rather than a deli­be­ra­te attempt to make the world feel deso­la­te. Death end re;Quest 3D work looks lifeless over­all, some­thing that is espe­ci­al­ly appa­rent during the few cuts­ce­nes that don’t use a visu­al novel style. Cha­rac­ters are ani­ma­ted stiff­ly and have next to no faci­al ani­ma­ti­ons, lacking any of the per­so­na­li­ty shown in the 2D art­work.


Death end re;Quest has uni­que ide­as, but fails to deli­ver in near­ly every way. The pro­mi­sing sto­ry is rus­hed to an unsa­tis­fy­ing con­clu­si­on, and the batt­le sys­tem is bog­ged down by point­less gim­micks. The­re was a clear lack of focus when desi­gning Death end re;Quest, and this leads to a game that we real­ly can­not recom­mend in any way.

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