Death end re;Quest Review — Trapped In a Dark, Edgy Virtual World
Death end re;Quest proves it can tell an engaging and darker story in an RPG/visual novel, even though it doesn't do too much to make it stand out above the rest
When it comes to the JRPG genre, I have always believed a key element in these games is that it keeps me invested from start to finish. Whether it be in the gameplay or story, JRPGs are typically a long commitment that requires dozens of hours before completion. Now enters Death end re;Quest for the PlayStation 4 from Idea Factory and Compile Heart, the same people responsible for the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Death end re;Quest doesn’t necessarily do anything unique or outstanding, but still provides something to keep you going through the adventure.
In re;Quest, you’re technically playing a mixture of a visual novel and an RPG at the same time. During half of your time playing, you play as Shina Ninomiya who is trapped in a virtual reality world. Originally believed to have gone missing for a year, Shina wakes up in the failed virtual world of World’s Odyssey (or W.O.D.). She wakes up with amnesia, of course, and thinks she belongs in the game alongside all of the other NPCs. She also wakes up with these spider legs attached to her body that seem to move on their own. Through your time playing as Shina in W.O.D., you gradually accompany teammates who also have unique skills to aid to the party.
The other half of your time playing you experience a visual novel in both the video game world as Shina and in the real world as Arata Mizunashi. Arata is a game developer who was working on W.O.D. with Shina before she “went missing.” One day, Arata gets an email about W.O.D. and decides to check and see if the game is still active. After checking, he notices that the missing Shina is in fact online in the game. Arata then discovers the only way for Shina to get out of the game is to get the true ending. And with the game mysteriously being filled with glitches and bugs, Arata has to help Shina in the real world to escape.
Combat occurs throughout the map when you approach enemies, similar to Persona 5’s encounters. The combat has you in a set zone with turn-based combat. The combat isn’t too traditional, however, as you can freely move and strategize your location to avoid danger or get an advantage. Also on the map are small bug-like specs that can damage and “corrupt” you. If your corruption level goes high enough, you can unlock a special Glitch mode that changes the character’s appearance as well as unlocking more powerful attacks and abilities.
The problem with the combat though is the random spikes in difficulty. I found myself beating many of the encounters usually with no problem. Granted, I would strategize and carefully select my moves, but I usually never had a problem defeating an encounter. However, sometimes there would be bosses or enemies that would randomly pull out attacks with instant-kill damage or an ability that countered me from healing myself safely. This happens as early as the game’s first dungeon. I had my little level 4 Shina and Lily, get absolutely obliterated early on. The only way I got past the encounter was a mixture of grinding, healing potions, and a whole lot of good RNG.
I’m all for a good challenge in a JRPG, but when I play on normal difficulty I don’t expect an influx in challenge spikes throughout the entire game. Once you get past the random difficulty, the combat is quite well put together. It doesn’t do anything all that unique, but I enjoyed stacking up attacks and building up my characters for combat.
Speaking of building up characters, you get new party members as you progress through the chapters. Each member offers up a special stat that aid your team, like Lily who has ranged attacks and healing abilities or Celica who has a giant blade for huge wave attacks and damage. Each character can level up their abilities and attacks, as well as have their gear be upgraded through the store.
As far as character designs go, all of the playable characters are girls that may have their own little quirks and look, but they don’t really seem to stand out against each other. The characters each seem to fill that anime trope you’d come to expect from an ensemble of characters, and though they have their charming moments, none of them really stuck with me. This also goes for the “real world” cast as well. Still, the art style is solid and clean enough to hold it’s own, although nothing really pops out to me with Death end re;Quest over others in the same genre.
The overall graphics for Death end re;Quest don’t stand out much, either. Fans of Hyperdimension Neptunia can probably expect something along the same lines as far as character details and location variety. Even though there were some pretty interesting looking locations mixed throughout the game, some of these areas seem to be lacking variety. I found myself walking into a lot of empty rooms and halls with nothing more than a small item to pick up or an enemy to fight. And though these graphics aren’t necessarily bad to look at, it’s hard for re;Quest to compete against other JRPGs that have more personality in their visuals.
The only aspects that make Death end re;Quest stand out a little bit more are the death scenes and the fan service moments spread throughout. The death scenes are pretty graphic at times, in fact. I wondered early on what made this game earn a mature ESRB rating, and then I was shocked with a screen full of gore later on. The fan service scenes are also prevalent as well with how oddly placed they make their way in the game. Even the glitch mode appearances have the characters in pretty risque getups.
As for the visual novel portion, Arata has a solid narrative arc that is filled with unraveling the mystery of W.O.D. and why Shina is in it. You come across other people in Arata’s life including his co-workers at Enigma Games. I didn’t really mind these visual novel breaks from the gameplay. In fact, some moments were pretty interesting. I think what bothered me was the amount of dialogue packed into these moments wasn’t always an essential point of the plot. So at times, I would be tempted to skip forward ahead from the dialogue but feel worried about missing out on some key plot.
The plot for Death end re;Quest should probably be one of the biggest deciding factors for this game, being that it is partly a visual novel. I can comfortably say while the story isn’t the most groundbreaking and unique plot I’ve ever seen, it’s still an entertaining one that will keep you moderately invested through your playthrough. Though some dialogue is a little on the boring side, there are still some serious moments that carry the narrative. With a slightly darker tone than a traditional JRPG, I welcomed the bit of edge at times but still felt some of the dialogue intertwined was dragged a little.
And like most visual novels, re;Quest offers the player choices which lead to different endings. And after completing the game and seeing a few of these conclusions, I can say some of these endings are better than others, especially after seeing the lackluster “bad endings”. While many people might be looking to store multiple save files anyway, I still feel some of these endings are a bit underwhelming. I don’t want to spoil these endings, but just trust me when I say you should be aiming to get the true ending.
Overall, Death end re;Quest does a good job telling a long story through an engaging RPG/visual novel hybrid. With satisfying combat and some strong story moments, re;Quest might give you that JRPG fix despite having its modest share of issues. And even though it doesn’t bring anything insanely new to the genre, re;Quest builds itself well as an all-around solid JRPG that gives the player something a little darker to dive into.