Death End re;Quest Review
From the creative talents behind Hyperdimension Neptunia comes a darker foray into the world of the JRPG with the visual novel-styled, turn-based action RPG, Death End re;Quest. A spiraling story of advanced technology, the cult, and an increasingly dangerous AI entity delivered alongside a package of promising turn-based combat, does Death End re;Quest live up to Compile Heart’s pedigree for the JRPG space?
Death End re;Quest Review
While I have many fond memories of JRPG’s of yesteryear, I often find myself avoiding the genre of late. Between the repetitive mechanics and the outdated technologies, it has been some time since a JRPG kept me enthralled from start to finish. Death End re;Quest’s heavy focus on visual novel style storytelling and all female heroine cast are often more than enough to put me off, but boy, am I glad I stuck it through with this one.
At its core Death End re;Quest offers a strong visual narrative with an immersive, dark, and often grotesque storyline that follows a group of heroines exploring a virtual reality MMO with the hopes of finding a way to return to reality. If you’re familiar with Sword Art Online or the .Hack, series, you’ll recognize many of the main staples of the story, but Death End re;Quest offers a darker depth than other games in the genre.
The story follows the journey of two main protagonists: Video-game developers Arata Mizunashi and Shina Ninomiya. Together, they were part of an elite team of developers hired to work on a cutting-edge VRMMO project that boasted AI technology that could adapt and behave in an almost human-like manner. The game, Worlds Odyssey, was mysteriously shut down and a short while after, girls from the real world were disappearing and reappearing in game as altered versions of NPCs.
This collision of virtual reality and reality is the backbone of the games arching story with high stakes, surprise twists, and a rewarding conclusion. While the visual novel style may be off-putting for some, this is one virtual book you would struggle to put down.
Between the often lengthy scenes of dialogue is a typical JRPG world that has you exploring forests, ruins, and temples, all with the linear and rigid map style that has represented the genre for a decade. While the lack of advancement in these areas continues to disappoint, Death End re;Quest isn’t afraid to raise the bar in other departments.
The turn-based combat system is akin to Legend of Legaia, a 1998 PlayStation RPG that was way ahead of its time. Each character boasts an impressive and varied list of abilities that can be used in conjunction with one another to launch more devastating attacks. What’s more, these are not one-off buffs and bonuses. Each characters ability, progression, and advancement is directly tied to the combination of attacks used in battle.
While finding a working formula and running with it is a viable option, the more adventurous among us have far more to gain. A simple run-of-the-mill battle against a trash monster could result in the discovery of a powerful new move combination that unlocks a brand new ability, an ability that can play a huge role in future battles. Sometimes this results in a couple of hours of stagnated progression, as you aimlessly toss together abilities hoping for a new one to be discovered. However, when it hits, it’s arguably one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve experienced in a videogame.
Further increasing the complexity and depth of Death End re;Quest’s turn-based combat system are a number of interesting and innovative mechanics ideas. Field Bugs litter the area of combat, which are bugs that have appeared in World Odyssey as a result of tampered code. Collecting these can provide various buffs, increase your ability casting resource (SP), and influence the corruption within battles. This system alone presents a constantly evolving choice to the player. Do you risk losing some health and buffing enemies to grab enough SP to launch a massive attack, or do you play it safe?
As you defeat enemies and perform actions, corruption within battles can increase and decrease. This can result in a character evolving for the remainder of the battle, opening entirely new and devastatingly powerful abilities, but it also lets you bring Arata Mizunashi into the fray. While typically restricted to a non-combat “admin” skin while in the game, Mizunashi is able to hack into the source code during battles to provide huge benefits.
You can summon certain enemies you’ve defeated in the past, switch up the genre and turn the game into a mini-FPS for the remainder of the fight, or lay down some large-scale debuffs on your enemies. Seldom do you see such a complex but greatly appealing and rewarding combat system in a JRPG today.
Death End re;Quest struggles to do anything to entice players from outside the JRPG space, but for fans of the genre, there’s plenty on offer here. The story is compelling, the characters are diverse, the combat is fantastic, and it is one of the freshest JRPGs I’ve played in years.