Death end re;Quest is a major step in a different direction by the teams that brought you the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise and tosses aside pastel colors for something far more darker and nefarious. But does it work? Let’s find out!
+Easily one of the strongest JRPG experiences to date
+Character building is by far the best Compile Heart has done
+Beautiful stage designs that never feel like they overstay their welcome
+Multiple dialogue choices that can determine life and death
–Due to the death mechanics, an auto-save feature should have been made possible
-Navigating zones shouldn’t be near as hard as it is
-An introductory story that lasts nearly four hours when said and done
Unlike franchises we’ve come to know the duo of amazingly well-designed VRMMORPG-style JRPGs, Idea Factory and Compile Heart, I always tend to grow a bit curious about what adventures await us. Whether it’s the wild and wacky adventures of Neptune and friends or the interesting, but rather different worlds of Fairy Fencer F, there’s always a bit of exploring to be had and adventures that await us.
Just like those games that came before it, Death end re;Quest plays out as an interactive visual novel turned JRPG, which begs one to wonder if the Compile Heart formula is bound to change any time soon or if they’re comfortable with slowly adding to the gameplay mechanics they’ve become known for over the years.
Life… It has become a game.
Getting to know Death end re;Quest is something more than just booting up a game, wrapping your mind around the idea that this title takes place in another VRMMORPG, but unlike the others, the plot is far more sinister and alarming than you might think. Within the opening seconds of the game, the grizzly fate of our heroine is set in stone as we get a rather descriptive opening about her death, her body slowly being ripped apart by an otherworldly creature.
As weird as it sounds, Shina Ninomiya, isn’t your average resident within World’s Odyssey along with her friends Arata Mizunashi and those that they meet along the way. The cast itself is colorful, but they all have one rather strange thing in common: They’ve all been infected by an unknown bug within World’s Odyssey. Each of them has their own unique version of this bug, which actually plays into the games core mechanics itself, but more on that in a bit.
During the course of your adventures, you’ll be presented with unique ways to interact with NPCs within the world about you as well as in the “Real World” portion itself, but these choices can come with a major cost. They can lead to death if the wrong choice is made. Hence the name “Death end re;Quest”, a unique design choice to be quite honest.
It’s a continuation of what makes Compile Heart games as unique as they are. Deep and well-designed stories that provoke genuine thought alongside a sense of curiosity as the characters become more developed over time. Unfortunately, the story itself is somewhat hard to follow due to all the in-between moments that rip us straight from the rather engrossing mystery-horror setting that Compile Hearts so carefully decided to craft.
There were moments where I would genuinely laugh as Shina fumbled about or if Mr. Enigma came out of the persona he portrays as an in-game guide. There are even moments that will have you gasp as it seems that Shina or Mizunashi seemed as if they had met their end. But there are genuine moments that left me cringing due to the amount of detail that was handed to us, ones that left grisly mental images for the rest of us to, unfortunately, be left with.
But there is quite a bit to this game rather than just its rather deep and well-designed narrative that you’ll spend around fifty or so hours getting to enjoy.
Exploration and combat won’t seem all that foreign for Compile Heart veterans
Those who have ever played a Compile Heart game will fully know what to expect from any and every game they have released. The games are pretty straight forward affairs, each requiring players to move through a labyrinth-like dungeon, each of them challenging players in various ways including puzzles, hidden items, and moving from location to location to find their needed clues to push their story forward.
Along with the all-too-familiar exploration comes a slightly changed combat system that is almost copied and pasted from their previous works. However, there are a few changes here. Unlike Hyperdimension Neptunia or Fairy Fencer F, your shapeshifting abilities don’t stem from using your SP at any given point. Rather your shapeshifting happens when enough damage has been sustained, forcing the girls to transform into their secondary forms, which is where the unfortunate fan service does come into play.
At that moment, they are covered by next to nothing, leaving them in honeycomb-like shapes that cover just enough of their body to not be deemed “revealing”, but still remains rather suggestive, which to some could be a rather large turnoff. These forms will enhance your damage, enhance your skill-based attacks, and your defensive capabilities. The only part you have to worry about is the fact you can die if your Glitch meter gets too full during any one single combat scenario.
Over the course of a combat scenario, you’ll be able to navigate each of your party members around the map. Once you do, you can line up an enemy up so that when your attacks are completed that they can be knocked away into a battle area wall, a fellow foe, or even a fellow party member so that they will sustain more damage than before.
Attacks can be executed in several manners. One includes simply lining up with a target then hitting ‘X’ to initiate a set of three basic attacks which conclude with a knockback attack. Those looking to take a less simple route can do so by hitting ‘Triangle’, which will allow players to execute more sophisticated combos which include basic melee attacks, special abilities, defensive abilities and or even an item as you please.
By using special abilities, specific ones at that in a very specific order, you’ll find that you can even earn brand new abilities to use against your foes. New abilities might include an AoE heal/attack while another may include a powerful resurrection spell that will revive a downed nearby friendly and restoring their health to nearly full. One of the characters that truly shows just how unique the ability and battle systems are is Lucil, one of the most powerful casters in the game.
But there’s more depth to combat than just what meets the eye
While your heroines do run around, smashing glitched out creatures into one another, throwing bosses into barriers, or unlocking powerful abilities one by one; you can also utilize Mizunashi’s debug abilities, allowing him to intervene to the best of his ability. He can change things such as the conditions of the battle, removing bugs from the field, weakening a boss, or even using the ability to summon a previous defeated boss into the field of play.
For those wondering, combat itself is extremely unique, utilizing multiple genres in one single go. On one hand, you have JRPG elements such as the attacks you will commit to, reviving party members, and even healing them when they’re weak. On the other hand, it’s an elaborate game of Billiards, and your enemies are the balls you’ll be knocking about, using that “useless” geometry that they taught you in school to ensure that they hit one another. Then there are the tactical elements that will have you using Mizunashi’s abilities when they become available.
The best part of it all? You do it every. Single. Freaking. Turn. It’s rather refreshing and it’s quite the elaborate system that you will get to master. Once you learn to master each of the characters, learning how to take advantage of them to the best of your ability, Death end re;Quest will finally open up as a worthwhile and noteworthy JRPG experience.
But there are a few things that do go awry at some point or another
What game doesn’t have its fair share of issues or design flaws that should have been glanced over a time or three? Unfortunately, Death end re;Quest does fall into that very lot that due to some weird and somehow annoying design choices that had some reason been made, which includes difficulty scaling, navigation, and a weird sense of giving players direction before letting them run around the very first zone that they will encounter.
Due to the fact this is a game about death, quite literally, death – you’re going to find yourself reloading, saving, and reloading some more as you progress. Unfortunately, this also means that the game is punishing and will require players to double check the last time that they saved or fear losing hours upon hours of progress. I being one of those that fell for this dirty little trap.
Luckily, any experience I earned, the choices I made; they were all remembered by the game. I was even rewarded for those choices, allowing me to move from point a to point b, not having lost much of my experience or items that I earned along the way. But there’s a fundamental flaw in all of this. I like the story, I like it a lot actually.
I just forgot to check on Mizunashi from time-to-time in the Real World by pulling up the character menu. The reason why isn’t made clear by the developers by any means. You literally need to do this, it drives the story forward, it pushes the story past the occurrences in World Odyssey and allows you to see a bigger story that you might have missed. The same rule applies here though. Save. If he dies, game over, and you will restart from the previous save state you had made.
I’ve got to debug this glitch in my system – The Conclusion
Death end re;Quest is without a doubt, one of the strongest titles ever released from Compile Heart. It’s dark, it’s riveting, and even its light-hearted moments never seem to last as the dark reality of the world around you begins to set in stone. Unfortunately, immersion can quickly be taken away by the constant repetition of having to die, restarting from the last save you made and progressing through all the dialogue you’ve experienced once before.
Death end re;Quest
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Release Date: Available Now
While it’s daring, it’s fun, and ultimately the darkest entry within the Compile Heart library, I often felt my experience marred by the need to endlessly retrace my steps while wondering around maze-like dungeons for hours on end. However, it will take quite a bit of patience to get where the game itself really stands out as one of their strongest.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.