A character becoming trapped in a VR MMORPG isn’t new ground. It’s been done plenty of times before in anime, manga, and video games. You name it. We’ve seen it. For a new title to come into this genre, it has to really give something special to stand out – can Death End re;Quest deliver on that front?
Death End re;Quest is the story of Shina, a girl who wakes up in a fantastical world where a curse ravages, causing her to have mechanical spider legs. Waking up with no memories, Shina decides to go on an adventure to figure things out. As her journey progresses, Shina encounters a strange voice that appears to guide her through a dungeon – a voice that turns out to be her former colleague Arata Mizunashi. As it transpires, Shina is trapped in the VR world of World’s Odyssey, a game that she and Arata were creating in the real world.
Stuck in the virtual world of World’s Odyssey, Shina finds clues throughout her exploration that relate directly to the real world, and then it’s up to Arata to fully investigate these and get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Shina’s current predicament. As the plot progresses, things get darker and darker, with more conspiracies and mysteries unlocked. It quickly becomes a really intriguing detective game of sorts.
Death End re;Quest flips between Shina in game, and Arata in the real world. Shina is tasked with exploring dungeons and defeating enemies in order to clear the curse from the game. In doing so, she exterminates the bugs that are trapping her in a turn-based JRPG manner. Switching play from Shina to Arata also switches gameplay to a visual novel with the dual genre adding an interesting dimension to the game.
Switching between Shina and Arata is not an automatic process, it’s something the player has to manually activate. The UI menu will set an exclamation mark if there is something to do in the corresponding world that might be handy. After all, you don’t want to waste time in one world when you’re meant to be in another.
The plot of Death End re;Quest is one of many twists and turns, and definitely keeps you on your toes. Whilst the general premise of the game is certainly a familiar one, this particular story has so much going on that there’s plenty to keep you guessing at every turn.
Progressing through the game, Shina adds party members she meets along the way, and it’s a really interesting dynamic. These are characters from World’s Odyssey and Shina helped create them. Each party member has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s fun to play around to find the right party combo. However, once I settled on party members I liked and found a rhythm with them, I had little reason to switch them out for others.
Shina and the party explore a variety of dungeons, all of which have different themes and their own enemies in them. These dungeons have mini puzzles in them to allow Shina and co. to access the rest of the dungeon, and these can be really infuriating. You may have to find a certain key, or unlock a corridor, whatever it is. There often feels like you have a real lack of direction or guidance. Many times, I found myself walking in circles with no real idea of where I had to go or what to do, and it was only by pure chance that I stumbled across what I was looking for or figured out the route.
Sometimes it can be that you have to flip over to Arata in the real world to progress, but there is an indication of this in the UI where it will notify you that there is something available to do with Arata.
Of course, you’ll only experience combat in Death End re;Quest when playing as Shina in the dungeons. As previously mentioned, combat is turn-based with each party member being able to chain up to three moves against an enemy. These can lead to really cool combos and can be used to your tactical advantage as the final blow will result in a pushback of the enemies it hits. If the enemy hits the area boundary it will rebound, and can often hit other enemies causing further damage.
The battle area has field bugs all across it. Stepping over will add to the characters corruption glitch count. Maxing out the corruption count causes the character to transform into Glitch Mode which gives the character a power boost and access to some special moves.
General grunt fights do tend to feel extremely repetitive with only boss fights posing a real challenge, and for this reason, combat does feel like it’s lacking. Entering a new dungeon gives you new enemies, but after the umpteenth time of battling them, it feels like avoidance might be the key answer just to get to something a bit more different.
Arata does provide some back up support from his computer in the real world, and you can call on him to do a variety of things once you clear a certain percentage of the field bugs. The most interesting of these is that you can change the genre of the game to anything from slot game to FPS, and plenty more to be unlocked throughout the course of the game. Whilst this is an interesting addition to the game, it’s not particularly fun or useful. The change of genre impacts the tide of a battle, and not necessarily in a good way. It feels the rules of the battle run completely differently once the change takes effect.
Some of the locations are a bit visually lacking, really just providing a background and nothing more. It’s not possible to interact with any of the surroundings past opening doors or picking things up, so it doesn’t feel very dynamic and as the locations haven’t really got a bearing on the gameplay it does feel like they can all meld into one after a while.
A lot more effort has been put into making the characters visually appealing and with it’s primarily female cast, it’s unsurprising that Death End re;Quest has a lot of fan service. The party members battle outfits are skimpy and leave little to the imagination, and there are a lot of questionable grunting noises when running through the dungeon. The visuals are par for the course for a JRPG but the added sound effects do really grate after a while, and as a person living in a house with others, I would have loved the option to turn these particular sound effects off.
The story and gameplay of Death End re;Quest disappoint due to performance issues. Frame rate drops and long loading screens really break the immersion throughout the game, which is frustrating. The game also suffers during handheld mode, with graphics being fuzzy and less crisp on the smaller screen.
Death End re;Quest has a great soundtrack that really adds to the ambience of each dungeon. It’s not too overbearing to the point it would overshadow the scenes, but the music adds to the overall mood and feeling throughout the game.
The voice acting throughout the game is also top tier, with Shina in particular being a favorite. It’s just as well since she’s the main character.
There will be several times throughout Death End re;Quest where the player has a choice. Depending on the answer you give, you can either proceed through the game or you can get a Death End, a game over. Seeing the Death Ends will bring you back to the title screen and you’ll have to reload from your last save, kind of annoying if you haven’t saved for a while, but it does force you into the habit of saving frequently and repeatedly at the save points littered throughout the dungeons. The Death Ends won’t open up another path for you, but can give you bonus items when you get back on the right route, so depending on how much you want to net throughout the game, the option is certainly there to obtain all of the Death Endings.
Death End re;Quest throws a lot of really interesting premises out there with a really fun, dual genre concept. Flipping between JRPG and visual novel mode to solve the mystery running through the game is definitely the lure of Death End re;Quest, and the story itself is pretty enjoyable and compelling. Let down by repetitive gameplay and lackluster visuals plagued with performance issues, Death End re;Quest won’t stick in the memory as the best game ever played but there’s enough going for it that it’ll keep you thinking about it long after you’ve finished.