After waking up in a foreign land with no memories from his past, we join Haku and Kuon as they travel across Yamato meeting new friends and battling foes both foreign and domestic. Utawarerumono is a multimedia project with multiple entries into the series. To date, there have been 3 games, 2 anime and 2 manga. Developed by Aquaplus and brought to the West courtesy of Atlus USA and Deep Silver, Mask of Deception is the 2nd game in the series, with the third, Mask of Truth, coming later in the year. Both the first game and Mask of Deception were adapted into an anime in 2006 and 2015 respectively.
Mask of Deception follows Haku who wakes up in the middle of the forest without any recollection of who he is, he doesn’t know his own name or where he came from. There, he is saved by Kuon, a traveller from a foreign land, when she then gives Haku his name. From here, Haku and Kuon travel to the capital, meeting many new friends; Oshutoru, one of the eight generals of Yamato, Nekone, Oshutoru’s younger sister, and Atui, daughter of one of the eight generals. While in the capital, Haku and the others spend their time exploring the city, doing jobs or subjugating bandits. During this time Haku starts to regain his memories.
Mask of Deception plays like your typical visual novel, requiring very little interaction throughout the course of the game, however unlike other VN’s you’re not given any options for dialogue, so there aren’t any route options as it features a linear story. Mask of Deception also has a separate gameplay mode for the battle sections, a ‘tactical role-playing’ system which uses turn-based mechanics on a grid-based map. Before the start of each battle, you need to pick your party which will be from characters you’ve met up to that point. Each character has a different fighting style, some will be melee-based with a range of 1 or 2 squares, others make use of powerful magic, they have medium range, but can be the most powerful, while others will make use of Bows and Arrows. They have more range than magic users but aren’t as powerful.
One of the biggest sealing points to visual novels are the character designs and background artwork both of which are exceptional. I also loved the detail of the character expressions when they change in the scene. The voice cast is also another point where Mask of Deception stands out, with some famous names from anime. Haku is voiced by Keiji Fujiwara (Attack on Titan, Log Horizon), Kuon is voiced by the brilliant Risa Taneda (Highschool DxD, Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri). Other big names are Inori Minase (Re:Creators, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) and Saori Hayami (Snow White with the Red Hair, Shumatsu no Izetta) and Yumi Hara (Overlord, Brave Witches).
Overall, I found Mask of Deception to be a slow affair with big chunks of the game being text-based and the battle sections few and far between. I’ve played a few other VN’s in the past so I knew what to expect but I wasn’t expecting it to be that text-heavy. There were moments where I’ve set the text to autoplay, and I’ve not touched the controller for a few hours. The battle sections are very enjoyable to play, although at first, they can be quite confusing to understand. Mask of Deception isn’t a bad game, the story is very enjoyable, blending in humour and seriousness very well, and the artwork along with the background music are some of the best I’ve seen in a Japanese game.