Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $49.99 – USD – Available Here $89.95 AUD – Available Here
Sometimes a developer wants to try something a bit different from what they have come to be known for and in the case of Compile Heart and Idea Factory Death End re;Quest was a perfect example of taking RPG mechanics that a team is known for working with as well as a certain style of humor and putting a new twist on it. This twist of course was the fact that Death End re;Quest was a much darker game than anything the team has previously put out and combined the gameplay of both a turn based RPG and a visual novel into what ended up being a unique and engrossing experience. So now a little over a year later the team has returned with Death end re;Quest 2 but the question is, have they managed to capture the same unique feeling as before?
In more than a few ways Death end re;Quest 2 finds itself in a bit of a strange place. While it serves as a sequel to the first entry in the series, players will be able to enjoy most of the game’s story without having played the original release but there comes a point in time when that goes entirely out the window. Discussing why this is would spoil both the events of the previous entry as well as the major twists in Death end re;Quest 2 so players should be wary of going into this release without prior knowledge of the series even though it appears to be a completely separate story from the onset.
While Compile Heart has had some rather dark openings to a few of their games in the past, Death end re;Quest 2 sets the tone right off the bat as players find a young woman named Mai Toyama alone and abused by her alcoholic father. After suffering years of abuse, Mai slaughters her father in a fit of rage using a cleaver and finds herself becoming an orphan that legally still cannot take care of herself. As such, with the courts dismissing her murder charges as self-defense, Mai is sent to Wordsworth Women’s Dormitory, an orphanage in a strange European city called La Chaora.
The reason for this odd choice of residency? Her only surviving family member, a little sister by the name of Sanae, resided their after their mother’s passing. Only Mai has not heard from Sanae in over a year and once she arrives at the dormitory she learns that no one, not even the staff that have managed the academy for years, have ever heard of Sanae. The mystery only darkens once Mai realizes that the town of La Chaora transforms from a normal, albeit behind the times and strangely cult-like with their religious belief in El Strain, town to one filled with monstrosities and odd glitches that warp the world in strange ways.
As mentioned earlier, Death end re;Quest 2 is a game that features mysteries heaped upon mysteries and the more that we talk about them the more things there are to potentially spoil as the writing in this game manages to impeccably craft a horror story that never stops ramping up the tension during story sequences. Not only does it constantly keep players guessing as to what is actually happening, even the reveal itself may still end up leaving more questions for the player to solve later, especially since this is the type of game that the player should play more than once as a certain route requires New Game+. This style of writing is not only brilliant in an RPG but works incredibly well with the fact that Death Ends still remain a thing in this release, even though there appear to be fewer than before. These Death Ends can result from the player making various in-game choices that can result in the horrific death, truly players should expect quite graphic descriptions of what happens, of a party member or even the entire group in a manner that will end the game, but provide players a bit of a reward upon reload in the form of weapons or items to try and change their character’s fate once the correct choice is made.
Outside of the actual core storyline players will also be able to interact with numerous characters during the daytime sequences of the game that see the player taking part in conversations with various students at staff throughout the school. These conversations are not required but do provide a bit of extra context to the world as well as help make some scenes a bit more impactful as players will grow a bit more attached to characters that may not have long to live. It is worth noting that although the story is as dark as they come for a Compile Heart game, the development team’s signature style of humor and lewd jokes does crop up from time to time in the main story as well as quite often throughout the daytime events so not everything is doom and gloom.
As mentioned before, the world in Death end re;Quest 2 changes between day and night and the gameplay reflects that. During the day players will be able to take part in simple visual novel segments that help advance the story as well as travel through the dormitory and interact with any character events that may be available. This is done through a simple menu system and while it is entirely possible to skip these dialogue events by choosing to end the day early, it really isn’t recommended as there are some great interactions to be had here.
Once night rolls around the city undergoes its strange transformation and the game’s RPG mechanics step to the forefront. Players will find that rather than exploring various dungeons, Le Chaora serves as an interconnected single dungeon that is then narrowed down to certain paths depending on the player’s mission. While traveling around town players will encounter monsters in the field that can be attacked for an advantage in battle, obstacles such as hidden doors that require a party member’s skill to pass through, and even the occasional appearance of an instant kill monster that players will need to flee from or risk instant game over, making for some interesting dungeon mechanics but still a bit simplistic.
Players begin battle and they will be treated to a fairly unchanged combat system that was used in the previous entry as players will fight a turn based battle where they can move their characters around freely to aim up to three attacks/skills per turn. When an enemy is hit by three of these skills they will be sent ricocheting around the combat field and any time they bounce off the wall or another enemy they will take extra damage, and should they bump into an ally character they will deal an extra powerful attack. This leads to some extremely fun strategies and character positioning as even seemingly unwinnable fights can become quite manageable thanks to these mechanics.
During combat there will often be bugs strewn across the battlefield and whenever a character runs over a bug or sends an enemy flying over them they will almost always receive a beneficial buff that will increase various stats for that fight. Players can also trigger special transformations for their characters allowing them to enter a powerful Glitch Mode to deal plenty of damage to enemies, which is useful because even on normal difficulty the fights can drag on a bit thanks to some fairly tanky enemies that often deal very little notable damage but take way too long to go down.
Visuals & Audio
The blend of visual novel and RPG is featured graphically as well with the visual novel sections featuring nicely detailed character portraits for all of the main characters, though minor characters are relegated to small portraits which is an odd choice, along with some nicely detailed backgrounds and great looking CGs while the RPG side features some solid looking character models as players explore a twisted and dark looking dungeon filled with horrible monsters that truly seem like twisted monstrosities at times.
As for the voice work players have the option of swapping between the English and Japanese voice track at any time with the English voice cast performing their characters admirably. This is especially true during some of the key story moments where the actresses manage to put a ton of emotion into their voices. The background music features fairly standard horror themes and a solid set of battle tracks but is mostly serviceable at best.
Death end re;Quest 2 may have came a bit too quickly on the heels of its predecessor to really innovate its gameplay in any notable way, leaving combat mostly untouched, but players will find a story awaiting them that is filled with horror and mysteries that only seem to grow deeper the further the player progresses, urging them to continue to dig deep into a well-blended story that may not have seemed possible from the developer before but proves that the team knows exactly what they are doing in a series that can only go up from here.