Death End re;Quest
Death End re;Quest is a game developed and produced by the Compile Heart/Idea Factory duo, released on PS4/Switch and PC.
It’s a unique JRPG with a nice atmosphere, an unseen before combat system and a big emphasis on the story. The story is conveyed via text and pictures of characters, like a Visual Novel. The game is described as half VN and while I feel it’s far-fetched since a large part of JRPG choose to present their narration this way, Death End Request includes numerous choices similar to a VN. Those choices can lead to “Death Ends”, scenes where your character meet a bad turn of event. If you don’t save often, you might lose progression, but the game encourages you to view them all, rewarding you with an item for each one.
A compelling story full of cuteness and weirdness
The story is the main asset of this game. Without spoiling too much, the story takes place in a world very much like ours, where you control two sets of characters. The firsts are in the real world, a bunch of game developers led by a genius programmer, Arata. The seconds are in a game world, led by Shina. Arata and Shina used to be colleagues, working on the same game, when she suddenly disappears. After some events, Arata realise the game they worked on is still running and that Shina is stuck inside. Arata decides to help Shina and embark on an adventure blurring the line between what’s real, digital, or magical.
All the characters are designed by Kei Nanameda, working also on Mary Skelter. Every character is different from the other within the game, but if you play both games, you can see some similarities. Overall Death End Request is really tamer than Mary Skelter, the focus being the creepiness. I’ve enjoyed the personality and design of every character, from the real world to the digital world. The story goes for the usual “trapped in a game” trope, but pull also conspiracy theory, occultism, and magic. The numerous bad ends are enjoyable and sometimes a bit dark or graphic. Enjoying all of that, it was a sure hit for me! I nearly wanted this game to be simply a VN and I’ll explain this next.
A unique gameplay with a lot of cool ideas
Between the VN section, you will take control of Shina and her team of loveable NPCs. You meet new NPC that will join you in pretty much every zone and have to uncover their terrible background. During so, you need to clean the zone of “bugs”, monsters appearing when the game became corrupted. They’re visually very underwhelming even though the idea is great. All Monsters in this game are normal RPG monsters, infected by some weird “bug” giving them a grotesque appearance.
To beat them, you control at most 3 girls in a tight arena. You need to program 3 actions per girl during your turn and you can walk freely anywhere on the map. Hitting monsters with special skills launch them away. Bouncing into other monsters or the edge of the arena inflicts them damage. Initially very funny, monsters in later chapters have huge weights and become immovable, rendering this core mechanic useless. Another fun and a unique mechanic is the field bugs. They are a bunch of zones on the arena with different effects, from inflicting damage to boosting your attacks. Bouncing enemies into it is a good strategy, as you can unlock special skills with Arata, or you raise the corruption of the monster.
Raising corruption makes monsters hit you harder, but also takes much more damage. It’s always a risk you have to take. By taking damage or hitting fields bugs, your girl gains corruption as well. Once it’s high enough, they enter “Glitch Mode”, where they transform into a stronger version of themselves, have access to a super skill, and lose most of their clothes.
But is it only gimmicks?
Gameplay is mostly enjoyable but each battle is slow and takes several minutes. Arata’s powers are very cool and funny, but they’re just a gimmick at the end of the game. As I said earlier, bouncing enemies is also harder late game. Enemies become HP sponges. You need to guess which attack works best on them, physical or magickal, and then nuke them out of existence, with not much strategy. The game is 11 chapters long, and while chapters 1 to 9 are bliss, 10 to 11 are very annoying chapters. Random monsters have an insane amount of damages and HPs, often one-shotting all my characters, while bosses in these chapters are ridiculously easy. This makes the progression in those last chapters really tedious. To unlock the true ending, you will need to complete insipid sidequests. Most of them are “bring me two items that can be collected at random on collectible points” making it really boring to farm. You can pay money for those items, but if you don’t have enough, you need then to farm money, which is even more boring given the length of the fights. To unlock all endings, you need to redo the game in new game +. New game +, up to my knowledge, doesn’t bring anything to the table (no new routes or interactions). This is just making the game longer than it needs to be for the completionist.
A very nice experience
Overall, I loved Death End Request even though the last chapters gave me a sour taste. The story included themes I loved, the character designs were really nice and gameplay contained a lot of funny gimmicks to explore. I will probably play the second title when the taste will fade away.