About the Game:
- Developer: Compile Heart
- Publisher: Idea Factory International
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
- Release Date: Out now (PS4), May 17th (PC)
- Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
- Review Code Provided: No
Holiday breaks are a great thing. You’re able to catch up on lost sleep, hang out with friends and most importantly, play video games.
A personal custom of mine with each long weekend is that I pick out a game, usually an RPG, and will dedicate all of my gaming time that weekend to this one game.
Come this Easter weekend and I was preparing to do the exact same thing, my eyes skimming over my library of games before coming to rest on a little title by the name of Death End re;Quest.
“Sure, why not” I thought as I booted up my Playstation 4 and started the game, completely oblivious to how much of a roller coaster I was about to be put through.
With that being said, I’ve got quite a bit to say about this title so lets not waste any time and jump in, starting with the Story.
Death End re;Quest kicks off with a cutscene where we witness one of the main protagonists getting her head bitten off.
If that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of this review then I seriously don’t know what will but needless to say, Death End re;Quest is not a game for the faint of heart. This should come as no surprise though what with the main scenario writer being Makoto Kedôin, better known as one of the main writers of the Corpse Party series.
Soon after this opening cutscene, said protagonist wakes up in a little cottage retaining none of her memories. We soon learn the identity of this character, Shina Ninomiya.
Shina, being amnesiac, doesn’t remember anything except her goal, to reach the fabled sky capital of Odyssia. So, off she goes in order to begin her journey.
From here however it doesn’t take long for her to realize that everything is not as it seems as the very environment around her glitches up in a variety of ways.
It’s here where we encounter our second protagonist, Arata Mizunashi.
Arata is an employee at a small video game company “Enigma”. It turns out that Shina was one of his co workers who went missing one year prior and has now suddenly appeared inside something called “Worlds Odyssey” a scrapped Virtual Reality MMORPG project created by Enigma which had its servers shut down a year ago but have mysteriously restarted in a heavily glitched state with Shina now stuck inside unable to logout.
So begins the adventure of Shina and Arata as they work to find their way to Odyssia in order to trigger the end game and force a logout for Shina to rescue her from the game world.
Yes, on the surface Death End re;Quest is very much another Isekai plot (Isekai for those not in the know being a recently popular genre in Anime and Video games where a character or characters get trapped inside a video game) but one of the big things that makes Death End re;Quest stand out from the pack of relatively sub par Isekai is how different the plot evolves compared to other Isekai out there.
Very quickly Death End re;Quest establishes a few things that separate it from the Isekai pack, most notably the fact that you’ll be regularly jumping back and forward between Shina in the game and Arata in the real world in order to progress the story and solve the mystery, something I will cover in more detail in the gameplay section of this review.
Throughout your journey you meet a wide cast of character each with unique designs and personalities. These personalities in particular become quite relevant at around the halfway point of the game where the story shifts gears and starts to put more focus on the character development and backstories which in turn work to create a very interesting and well executed metaphor for how human beings deal with emotions. I won’t spoil what this involves but I personally found it to be one of the highlights of the story.
Really it’s quite hard for me to discuss what makes the story in Death End re;Quest so good without accidentally spoiling you on it. The main takeaway however is that the story goes places which you would never expect your average Isekai to go, exploring the concept of human emotions in a very interesting way. It’s certainly what I’d consider the main highlight of the whole package.
Death End re;Quest is an interesting title when it comes to the gameplay. Part JRPG, part Visual Novel, it will have you jumping between the two modes on the regular as the plot progresses.
Sections in the real world take place in a visual novel style with Arata conversing with various people, going to various places and collecting clues and other information to help Shina progress inside of Worlds Odyssey. If you’ve ever played a visual novel then you’ll know exactly what to expect here.
Now sections inside of Worlds Odyssey are where the bulk of the actual gameplay take place. The Worlds Odyssey sections are your relatively standard JRPG romp with semi open ended dungeons to explore, monsters to battle, items to collect, the works.
Where things get interesting however is with the battle system. In typical Compile Heart fashion, the battle system is a very unique spin on the whole turn based RPG battle affair.
Characters and enemies are placed in a large ring and everyone is given freedom of movement around this ring. Each character is able to chain together up to 3 actions per turn whether they be physical attacks, skills or items.
One of the main mechanics in this battle system is the Knockback mechanic. Basically, with physical attacks and some special attacks a fully executed chain will cause the character to perform a knock back, something which physically sends the targeted enemy flying backwards. If done right they can be send flying into the walls of the area to deal extra damage or even sent flying at other team mates who can deliver another blow to the chain sending the enemy flying even further and extending the knockback.
This is probably the mechanic you will be using the most in battle. Knocking enemies back into the arena walls, your team mates or even other enemies can be key to dispatching of these monsters quickly and effectively. Plus it’s also incredibly satisfying to send an enemy flying across the arena, something helped by the incredibly meaty sound that plays when an enemy smashes into the walls of the arena.
Enemy Knockback can also be used to deal with objects on the field called “Field Bugs”.
These Field Bugs each have different properties but the common factor is that standing on them will usually deplete HP but might also restore SP or increase your corruption gauge (we will get to that in a second)
One of the best ways to clear the field of these bugs is by knocking an enemy back into them which destroys any field bugs in their path. It’s a simple but clever idea.
By removing enough field bugs from play you’re able to perform what is called “Battle Jacking”, a process whereby you can apply buffs to yourself (or debuffs to your enemies), change the playfield etc. You also have the ability to summon previously beaten boss monsters as well as change the games entire genre for extra damage.
Yes you read that right, as you progress through the game you will get more and more options for ways you can shift the game genre in order to deal high amounts of damage to the enemy. It’s an interesting concept but I also think that this and the whole battle jacking concept in general is where things start to fall over slightly.
The first and most noteworthy thing is that with battle jacking you’ll generally only find yourself using maybe one of the three total options.
Generally when I battle jacked I would use one of the genre change abilities due to them being able to deal high amounts of damage in a short period of time. On top of that, some of the genre change abilities are more powerful than others with the Shooter genre (which you get at the start of the game) and the fighter genre arguably being the most useful of the lot. As a result this means that the other genre change abilities tend to fall by the wayside due to being too fiddly or just not practical.
The summoning ability I think I used maybe once throughout the entire game. It’s a cool idea but is let down by the fact that you don’t get the ability to actually level up your summons until just over halfway through the game which sort of dampens the usefulness of these summons, especially early on in the game.
As for the buffs and debuffs, I don’t think I ever used them during my entire playthrough. Your characters have skills which tend to automatically apply buffs/debuffs or status effects and that kind of makes the battle jacking version moot especially because after using a battle jack ability a number of field bugs get restored so you have to remove them before you can use it again.
It’s a shame as the idea behind battle jacking is a good one, however it’s one of the small list of mechanics in the game that feel a bit half baked.
Speaking of mechanics that feel a bit half baked, Glitch Mode. Glitch Mode is basically a powered up mode which HEAVILY buffs your characters stats and allows for them to perform a super attack to deal a ton of damage. It sounds great on paper but the main problem I had was that I very rarely actually got into glitch mode to begin with.
You see, in order to enter glitch mode your characters have to get their corruption gauge up to 80%. This gauge increases when you’re attacked or you run over field bugs. The problem is that the gauge increases so darn slowly that you will very rarely enter glitch mode unless you’re in a boss fight that’s taking a bit too long.
The whole think feels a lot like the Massacre Mode system present in another Compile Heart title I reviewed, Mary Skelter Nightmares, except not implemented as well as it could have been which is a shame.
One of the more positive things about the system is the way you learn skills. Skills are obtained through combining up to 3 different skills in your turn which may or may not have a chance of triggering a new skill which your character then learns, the chance of which happening is indicated by a little lightbulb with a percentage next to it. It’s a neat little system and if used well can really turn the tide of battle in your favor.
However, by the time you get the halfway point you’ll probably be starting to avoid battle entirely for one simple reason, they take too darn long.
At around the halfway point of the game is where the HP on most enemies gets dialed up to a rather ridiculous degree with many normal, non boss enemies exceeding 20K HP. The end result of this is during the latter half of the game enemies tend to become absolute damage sponges which take ages to kill and due to the fact that most encounters late game usually have 5+ enemies per encounter it can turn battles in the latter half of the game into an absolute DRAG. I found myself running past enemies the vast majority of the time in the latter half of the game and if I did get into an encounter I was usually escape instead of bothering to fight.
Due to all of this, Death End re;Quest really is a bit of a mixed bag in the gameplay department. There are a lot of good ideas here but some of them feel a bit half baked or just not quite fully realized which is a damn shame.
Maybe Compile Heart will do an updated rerelease sometime in future like what they did with Fairy Fencer F but at the moment what is here mostly consists of good ideas marred by a somewhat wonky execution.
Outside of battle there’s little to mention in the way of gameplay mechanics. It’s a pretty standard affair with the exception of the numerous bad endings you can get during the game either by making some silly choices or just kicking the bucket against a boss.
These bad endings tend to be a mixed bag. Some of them are very well done and are accompanied with CG art and/or voice acting but the vast majority of them tend to be text scrolls on a black screen which sorta just… putter out after a few sentences.
It’s a shame really since some of these bad endings are really well done, it’s just those bad endings tend to be more the minority than the majority.
Overall the gameplay is very much one of the more polarizing sections of the whole package. When it works it’s very enjoyable and had me grinning from ear to ear with some of the goofy chains you can set off in the battle system. However the wonky enemy balancing and mechanics of questionable usefulness really start to emerge at the halfway point and leave me feeling that Death End re;Quest could have done with a bit more time to cook so these ideas could have been refined more.
Compile Heart and Idea Factory have always done a pretty good job when it comes to presentation and Death End re;Quest is no exception.
Character models are very well made and detailed, environments are what I’d consider above average for this type of game with some dungeons having some really impressive attention to detail and overall character art is as high quality as you would expect from Compile Heart.
Graphically the game looks nice and runs at a rock solid 30FPS on PlayStation 4 at 720p and 1080p.
Cutscenes are well presented with character models being fully rigged using Live2D, something that has become sort of a given with Compile Heart games but is still very nice to see.
Character Designs are also very well done with some surprisingly intricate designs for various characters.
Over in the Audio department, the soundtrack, while nothing out of this world, is what I’d call above average. The games OP, “Caligula Syndrome” deserves a special mention though for being really flipping good.
Over in the Voice acting department, Death End re;Quest supports dual audio with both English and Japanese voice tracks being included.
I played through a good 5 hours of the game with the English dub before swapping to the Japanese dub for the remaining 15 hours.
Both voice tracks are very well done, special mention goes to the English dub for being VERY high quality with characters delivering their lines in a natural manner while putting emotion behind their words when they needed to.
However, the one thing that made me swap to the Japanese dub for the last 15 hours of the game was a problem that has been present in a number of Idea Factory English dubs for quite a while, only around a third of the games lines are voiced.
The Japanese dub by comparison contains voice lines for the vast majority of scenes in the game while the English dub tends to voice major scenes but not much else.
It’s a damn shame since the English dub is very good quality and I’d have loved to have used it through the whole game but I ended up hearing silence during character chatter more times than I’d generally expect.
Death End re;Quest is a very interesting game. The story is most certainly the main attraction here and in my personal opinion the game is worth the price of admission just for the story alone. It’s an excellent thrill ride filled with mystery, well written characters and cool ideas. The ending does feel a little bit rushed but the vast majority of the story experience is very well done and well worth experiencing if you like the concept of it.
The gameplay is where things kinda stumble a little although it isn’t enough to pull the entire game down in my opinion. When the gameplay works, it works really well but I feel it could have been so much better had it been given a bit more time in the metaphorical oven.
Despite my gameplay gripes however, I still thoroughly enjoyed my experience playing Death End re;Quest. It has a lot of good things going for it and I would almost certainly say that the Pros of the game outweigh the Cons making this one game you should certainly at least check out. This is one quest I won’t be forgetting about for quite a while.
Death End re;Quest gets a Highly Recommended (8/10)