How do you survive a buggy game that’s trying to kill you?
Death end re;Quest was the real focus of Idea Factory International’s press event on Thursday. If you read our prediction article, then you know I suspected that we’d get a release date for this game. And indeed, we did, and a lot more actually. While I was unable to head to San Francisco to attend the event, IFI arranged an online presentation for us so that I could see the game in action. Something I mentioned in the prediction article that needed to be done. So, what are my thoughts and am I sold on the concept of debugging the buggy world of W.O.D? Let’s take a look starting with a refresher on the premise.
Death end re;Quest features two separate but important settings and protagonists. The bulk of the game takes place in W.O.D. which stands for World’s Odyssey. W.O.D. was an online game in development that suffers a major set back when Shina Ninomiya goes missing. With its lead developer gone, the project falls dormant for a year. However, the reason no one could find Shina is that somehow, she was inside the game.
Yes, almost a year later Arata Mizunashi discovers activity coming from inside W.O.D. and investigates to find an amnesic Shina inside. Despite his best efforts to get her out of the game, something or someone keeps interfering and Shina cannot escape. That is unless she can reach the true end of W.O.D. A feat that 99% of players will fail at. On top of this, the world of W.O.D. is infested with bugs, both of the coding variety and the literal killer kind. It’s going to take some hacking, a few cheat codes, and a miracle to achieve the impossible. But, Shina and Arata have little choice in the matter. They’ll either succeed or die trying. Which brings us to something IFI stressed to me. How it’s not just W.O.D. that matters, but the real world too.
Yes, while Shina is literally hacking her way through her foes, Arata resides in the real-world providing support. This is done through hacking the game to assist Shina, and in doing some investigating. However, the real interesting thing is the interaction between the worlds. While it makes sense that events in the real world can affect W.O.D. what’s stranger is that W.O.D. starts affecting the real world.
While IFI didn’t want to give too many details, it seems that certain odd happenings in the real world are tied to W.O.D. Add into this the fact that someone or something is keeping Shina locked away and you have a setup that is just begging for some shadowy organization to be pulling the strings. But what that organization or person is remains to be seen. It’ll be up to you solve those mysteries. However, if you even want to stand a chance at that you need to master the rather intricate and layered combat system of Death end re;Quest.
Combat in Death end re;Quest functions like most Compile Heart RPGs on the surface. You have a party of three; you can move around the battlefield; there’s a transformation mechanic; and you also have a combo system for attacks. However, like all Compile Heart games its how these mechanics are used that give each game its unique identity. Let’s start with the combo system itself, which is called the Triact system here.
The Triact system as is indicative of the name, allows you to perform three actions. Whether that’s three attacks, three items, or a mix of them doesn’t matter. You have three actions at your disposal. However, what does matter what kind of action you do. Three healing items, for example, may strengthen the items as you use them. Likewise, three physical attacks may increase the damage dealt. This is crucial since a core mechanic of the battle system is knocking enemies around.
Yes, you can indeed send your enemy sailing across the field and you really should. For one, if you knock them into a wall, they’ll take extra damage. Likewise, if you knock them into an ally, that ally will automatically get an attack in for extra damage. This means positioning your characters in just the right places in crucially important. However, what’s equally important is managing the battlefield itself, because it’s littered with bugs.
In the top right corner of the screen in a gauge which measures the number of program bugs that are on the field or Field Bugs. These bugs are represented on the field as small patches of light. Each of these patches contains an effect that will be instilled to the person who touches it. These can either be buffs or debuffs, so it’s important to gather the ones you want and knock your enemy into the ones that will harm it. However, there’s another wrinkle: Glitch mode.
As a character activates bugs on the battlefield, an accompanying meter will rise. Once this hits around 80% the character will enter Glitch mode. You can consider this a similar form to Neptunia’s HDD or Fairy Fencer F’s Fairize. In this mode, you’ll gain a stat boost and can perform powerful finishers using the third slot of the Triact system. However, there is a cost. If a character is KO’d in Glitch mode and revives, they will also gain several debuffs. Think of it as something similar to Mary Skelter: Nightmares’ corruption and Blood Skelter mechanics. There’s a big risk, but the payoff can turn the battle in your favor. It’s all in how you utilize the tools at your disposal. Of course, if things are getting rough you can always have Arata lend a helping hand.
Arata’s role in combat is to literally hack the game. Once you’ve reduced the Field Bugs down to 50% Arata can support you in combat from the real world. One of the things he can do is to install a new genre into the battle system. This can turn the game, briefly, into an FPS or even a puzzle game. In addition, he can also summon certain bosses that you’ve defeated to wreak havoc on the enemy. This will buy you some time, so you can recover and regroup, though once Arata’s action has been used the Field Bug gauge will return to 100%. This means combat essentially works in a tactical cycle.
At the start of a fight, you want to analyze the bugs on the field and collect the ones that are beneficial to you while positioning your character’s around the field. Next, you’ll want to attack to send enemies into walls and other characters. You’ll continue this until you can activate Glitch mode and reduce the Field Bugs to under 50%. Then let Arata give you and hand and repeat if the enemy is alive. As you can see, it’s an interesting and layered system. That said, I do have a few things I wonder about. Especially since this is a Compile Heart game.
Compile Heart RPGs tend to have a lot of great ideas, but at the same time not all those ideas are balanced well. For example, Omega Quintet had a fantastic battle system that made use of amazing combination attacks and relied on lining up your turns to execute Harmonic Chains to wreck your foes. However, what was a fun and exciting idea was completely unbalanced by another system: Order Breaking.
This basically let the enemy interrupt the turn order and go immediately. Usually, resulting in a powerful attack that could cripple your party. Thankfully lessons were learned and Megadimension Neptunia VII’s combat system utilized the amazing cinematic style of Omega Quintet while balancing the combat better. In short, some Compile Heart experiments are better than others. And it’s too early to tell if this is Omega Quintet or Neptunia VII. Still, I find myself intrigued.
Having played and platinumed most of IFI’s library, I’m still eagerly looking forward to this. The premise alone grabbed me but then add in the connection between both worlds, and the layered combat system. Both elements point to a deep and complex game that could be the next step for Compile Heart as a developer. However, at the same time, I am cautiously optimistic.
Game balance for one is a major concern for me since with such a layered system its easy for something to not quite to play-tested enough. In addition, Compile Heart tutorials never have been all that informative. So, if mastery of these systems is a must, then there may be some struggles along the way. Overall though, I’m looking forward to February 19th when I’ll be able to get my hands on Death end re;Quest and delve into the mysteries of W.O.D. for myself.