For many, being fully immersed in a game world would be a dream but once you find out that you are actually trapped inside with no way to escape and an imminent death on the horizon, it quickly can become a nightmare. Being trapped within a game is something that has become rather familiar over the years after appearing in .hack and then gaining popularity as time went on and now Compile Heart and Idea Factory are trying a little something different in the form of Death end re;Quest, a game that tackles that subject by combining to genre together, but is this unique twist a worthwhile risk?
A young girl named Shina wakes up from a strange nightmare and finds out that she has no memory of the rest of the world. With little to go on besides a vague feeling that she is an adventurer, she begins to search for help and finds that even the king is acting strangely and the world has been flooded with disappearances and monsters since a cataclysmic event one year prior. It doesn’t take long before everything becomes clear as Shina is not an adventurer, she is in fact a game programmer who has found herself mysteriously trapped in a game she was developing.
One year prior to the events the virtual reality MMORPG World’s Odyssey was going to take the world by storm with Shina Minoniya and Arata Mizunashi heading the development. Unfortunately when bugs began appearing and Shina vanished, the project was cancelled and the servers were shut down. Shina, still remembering nothing that happened over the course of time since she has been missing, finds herself unable to log out of World’s Odyssey and Arata informs her that the only possible way to force herself out of the game would be to achieve the game’s perfect ending, which even as an MMO is achievable albeit at a one percent success rate. The problem is, not only can death possibly be the end of Shina in this world but the game is still in an unfinished state and bugs have ran rampant for over a year, leaving the world fraught with danger and all Arata can do is help from the sidelines with his coding expertise and find out the mysteries in the real world.
As mentioned before, Death End Re;Quest takes a unique style to telling its story as Compile Heart has blended together an RPG and a visual novel to create this game. While players are controlling Shina and traveling through World’s Odyssey with various NPCs who now act differently than they were programmed to thanks to various bugs the game will play like an RPG and feature story sections similar to other games from the developer but whenever players swap to Arata in the real world the game will instead be told entirely as a visual novel with choices to be made and even an option to save during dialogue sequences.
This option is one that players should use rather frequently as Death End Re;Quest isn’t afraid to throw players into a bad ending should they make a poor choice. By telling a darker tale players will need to keep an eye out for choices that may end in a gruesome death and since there is no auto-save in the game it is wise to always try and save as frequently as possible or at least before making a decision while keeping a save rotation going.
This type of instant death isn’t a bad thing however as seeing this darker take on a story that can feature some rather gruesome descriptions of death and horrific situations that are occurring both in the game and in the real world creates a compelling narrative that sets Death end re;Quest apart from other RPGs of its kind. Sure, the blend of visual novel and RPG can be a bit heavier on the visual novel side of things at times but this is rarely an issue as the mysterious events and horrors that appear in the real world deliver just as much impact as the bugs and mysterious objects that Shina encounters in the game. As such those looking for a compelling narrative that satisfyingly blends a game world together with mysteries, horror, and science fiction with plenty of twists involved will be pleased with what Death End re;Quest has to offer.
On Shina’s side of things players will still find a fairly standard JRPG experience as her and her NPC allies that join her must continue through various dungeons in order to advance through the game. Enemies will appear on the field and when you touch them battle will begin with a bit of a unique twist that we haven’t seen from Compile Heart since Mugen Souls in the form of knockbacks. The turn based combat allows players to move their units on the battlefield and then commence a string of up to three attacks that will send enemies flying across the battlefield. Players can aim these attacks to send their enemies flying into other opponents to deal extra damage to both foes or simply slam them into the arena’s walls for extra damage. Lining up foes to pinball them into one another or aiming for the best area of effect for various skills is easy to do since players can make slight adjustments to best align their strikes.
Since World’s Odyssey is an unfinished game there are various bugs that can appear in battle as well and these happen in the form of various tiles on the floor. Players can walk on them and receive damage while increasing their corruption level while various skills and knocking enemies into them can remove bugs entirely. As for the aforementioned corruption levels players will find that after it reaches eighty percent the characters can enter a powerful glitched form that can deal high amounts of damage and access unique skills but be wary, hitting one hundred percent equals a death in combat. Interestingly enough Arata can even help in battle as when enough bugs are removed he can increase character abilities and adjust the genre of the game slightly to give Shina and her allies a cutting edge over their foes.
While this makes combat in Death End re;Quest something that is rather fun to get the hang of it is unfortunately dragged down a bit later into the game as rather than introducing new mechanics or other features that may increase the level of difficulty, most foes simply receive a massive health boost. This means that even though you may be properly leveled and aiming your attacks well, Shina and her allies will be stuck in a lengthy battle that doesn’t feel challenging but simply a time killer.
The visual novel side of things with Arata works as well as one could expect with players being able to save at will and make various decisions when needed. It is worth noting that even if you happen to miss out on a save and need to play through a section again, or are replaying the game a second time, it is possible to fast-forward through text boxes to expedite the process which is common enough in visual novels as a whole but is a nice touch to have included in this instance, especially since there are some bonuses to seeing through some of the aforementioned bad endings before loading up a proper save and continuing the story.
Visuals & Audio
Thanks to Death End re:Quest featuring a game world that is filled with bugs the character designs in the game are nicely detailed and varied enough to work well enough on their own but the real touches come in the form of the glitches that have applied themselves to some characters. Not only are they noticeable in the field and in battle, where the glitched forms of the fighters are stripped down to the bare minimum for fan-service, but also during the visual novel segments where these details act glitchy in nature and do well to add to the theme of the game. Outside of the RPG world the visual novel elements feature well drawn character portraits and a solid number of background shots to keep things varied enough and it is worth noting that while the descriptions of the game’s deaths can be gory, there is very little depiction of gore in this game.
The soundtrack features a number of solid pieces of background music while the opening theme is catchy enough to listen to each time the game starts up. As for the voice acting players will have the option to play with either the English voice track or the original Japanese voice work. Both options work fine with the English voice actors handling their characters well considering how lengthy some scenes can be.
It was a fairly sizable risk blending an RPG with a visual novel such as Idea Factory and Compile Heart have done with Death end re;Quest but for the most part it has paid off well. The visual novel segments can run a bit longer than the RPG side of things where the battles can eventually feel a bit tiresome but thanks to an incredibly compelling storyline with a darker tone than what the company is known for, players will be hooked into wanting to see just what could possibly happen next.