Review: Death end re;Quest 2

by

Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Platform: PS4, PC(Steam)
Price: $49,99 USD
Release Date: August 18th, 2020

This game is a sequel. Let’s get down to the most important question first: Do I need to have played the first game in order to understand this one? Well, the plot, story and events in DERQ2 are not a continuation, but rather a consequence of the events in DERQ1. You do not need knowledge of the first game to play Death end re;Quest 2, but it will spoil you about the events from the first game. You can read our review of Death end re;Quest 1 here.

Unto the review, then. As is usual, I will judge the game based on its own merits, as well as compare it to its predecessor. All pictures and captures were taken from a PS4 Slim console using the built-in screenshot and capture features.

What a charming lady.

The first DERQ game was my favorite Idea Factory up until now but has been replaced by its sequel. The narrative and story are quite different from the first one while the gameplay has been improved and polished. The feature from the first game where you could “change the genre of the game” has been dropped entirely, probably because it never really felt good or interesting to do. Instead, DERQ2 severely improved how corruption tiles and knockback works, which ended up becoming the finer points of gameplay instead.

Story

I’ve thought long and hard about how and why the narrative from DERQ2 felt so fundamentally different from the original. The best way that I can describe it is that DERQ1 was a survival horror story translated as a JRPG, whereas DERQ2 is a psychological horror story told as a JRPG.

Much worse is happening, actually.

So the first scene in DERQ2 is our female protagonist, a cool beauty type named Mai, suffering horrible domestic abuse by her drunk father. At one point she is about to be killed but kills him instead, gets shipped off to an orphanage. We’re introduced to Mai’s ultimate goal: to find her missing little sister which supposedly was shipped to this same orphanage. Nobody has ever seen or heard of her.

The cast of characters in DERQ2 has less playable characters but a lot more supporting roles. Besides Mai and her party companions, there are over a dozen girls of varying ages living in the orphanage, each with their own portraits, voice acting, personalities, backstories and circumstances. These students are not merely side-stories, the events that happen to them take front and center in the story and become the driving force of the plot.

The general gist of what happens in DERQ2 is that Mai wants to find out what happened to her sister but, as she investigates and carries on with her daily life, creepy and increasingly disturbing events keep unfolding. People go missing, the city changes shape at night, adults seem less and less trustworthy, weird cult people control the city, strange shadows loom, and more. If this sounds familiar to you it is probably because many of those events and themes are also present on another very popular Japanese horror game, Higurashi. The general idea that children are being corralled into a small village, completely cut off from the world by adults with twisted motivations is basically the same.

The whole game is unsettling like this.

Eventually, the cast from the previous game starts making their appearance. They basically outright tell you the ultimate plot twist of the first game but ultimately, they’re stuck in here with you all the same. The game has two endings, a good and a bad one. In order to achieve the true end, you must replay the entire game. When you do so, you get little pieces of plot(that do not show up on the first playthrough) that were happening behind the scenes, explaining what is actually happening. It is then that the story from both DERQ1 and 2 tie up perfectly while setting up the stage for another sequel.

The 4th wall breaking segments are back, too.

The writing and narrative themselves are excellent, I’ve got no complaints about them. Each new event adds up to the pile of disturbances happening around the trio of main girls, keeping the tensions high and the plot engaging. The characters are given quite a bit of screen time, including the supporting cast. There aren’t huge strides in character development but DERQ2 doesn’t present itself as a character driven story anyway. The bottom line is that the plot and writing by themselves are good enough to keep the player invested.

Gameplay

Your progress in the story is tracked as a calendar. Each day has two periods. During the day you may talk to other girls in the orphanage and see the events that took place in that date, whereas in the evening you explore the city at night and fight monsters. The day period are just menus and Visual Novel style cutscenes while the night is free roaming mode, exactly like any and every Idea Factory game ever. Yes, including symbol attacks for initiating fights.

This interface made it easy to keep track of everything, specially during NG+.

The battle system is exactly the same as DERQ1. You may move freely and without distance restrictions during your turn, select up to 3 moves and end an attack sequence with knockback. The three elements Sun, Moon and Star work the same. You still unlock new skills by using the existing ones except the order no longer matters. There are more accessory slots but stats should work the same too.

So, what isn’t the same? Everything else.

DERQ1 had a Trophy for “transforming into Glitch Mode 100 times”. I played through that game twice, did the entire Pain Area(challenge mode) and I still had to grind a bit at the end to achieve those 100 transformations. It was the very last trophy I unlocked before the Platinum.
DERQ2 has the exact same trophy and I unlocked it before halfway through my first playthough. How did this happen? In DERQ1 I basically almost never transformed, while in DERQ2 my girls lose their clothes on almost every single battle. The reason for this was in the corruption tiles.

Sometimes the game will put you into a stupidly difficult fight but compensate with tons of tiles.

Those little circles in the floor are passive effects. Stepping on them increases your corruption rate and, going beyond 80% causes the character to lose their clothes and sanity(a little bit). They also grant bonuses such as increasing Atk, Magic or recovery SP. In DERQ1, most of these tiles would cause damage to the player, making it extremely risky to use them. In DERQ2, only a few types of tiles hurt the player. Using corruption tiles became the main source of Corruption buildup on characters, whereas in the previous game most of your Corruption rating was due to being hit by enemies.

Different colors indicate different buffs.

The other large change to the game involved the knockback mechanic. It was already present in DERQ1 and it was indeed a very large part of the game’s mechanics. Certain enemies would take far more damage from knockback hits than by being attacked by a playable character. However, DERQ2 took this fun mechanic and turned it up to 11.

This is not exactly cherry picking, I was able to pull this off quite a few times during the game.

While it isn’t exactly every fight that lets you play bowling with the enemies, it does show how much more focus the feature has gained. There was never a moment in DERQ1 where an attack resulted in nearly as much kinetic energy as you can achieve in the sequel.

Another major breakaway is how the world is connected. The map in DERQ1 were a bunch of dungeon-like places loosely connected through a few short straight desert areas, it never felt truly whole. The map in DERQ2 is a single town divided in many areas. The city feels a lot more connected than the usual JRPG structure. They’ve also introduced a handful of new “puzzles” in the free roaming areas, such as padlocks and security cameras capable of seeing secret passages. It’s a cool feature but still too shallow to be excited about.

There was never a time when the solution wasn’t exactly obvious, except on the very last area where all you have to do is backtrack. Still, it was a nice change of pace.

There was also an attempt to double down on the fear factor by adding a shadow figure that gives you an instant game over if it catches you, but because it only ever showed on the exact same places and was so easy to run around, it became highly predictable and more of a nuisance than anything.

Spooky. The only time I was caught was on purpose, I wanted to see what the bad ending was like.

Graphics

DERQ1 was a huge leap in graphics compared to IF’s previous works. Dragon Star Varnir was a step down in effort from DERQ1 but it it seems they’ve picked up again now for DERQ2. Now, everyone knows Idea Factory is a low budget game dispenser and anime styled games rarely ever look good in the first place but nonetheless, the scenery looks really fine.

The central hub just outside the orphanage. The glitch looking scenery thingies make a come back.
Different areas have different textures and models.
It’s the same engine they used to remake Neptunia VIIR and have been using for every game since. The lighting looks okay.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Idea Factory if there wasn’t asset reusing. This bad guy was an enemy in Dragon Star Varnir too.

The 3D character models are fine, no better or worse compared to other IF games. More about this subject further down when I get into censorship. I just wish someone would teach them facial expressions exist and how important they are. Enemy designs are the same grotesque monstrosities from the first game, I honestly couldn’t really tell which enemies were reused and which were new. Maybe none of them were new, but it doesn’t matter really. In both games, enemies are supposed to be nightmarish abominations and they certainly look the part.

Pretty sure the guy on the right was in the first game.
The Pain Area is basically the same except it has puzzles in it too. Made it extra annoying. Personally I never found these challenges fun or amusing.

Now let’s talk about 2D art. The side characters get speech box portraits but no sprites, even though all of them show up on CG images at least once. The main characters all have sprites which have been some of the best IF has put out so far. Hell, they even have alternative clothes sprites. Mai and Rottie have sprites wearing ballet tutus even though they only show up wearing those like, once.

Rottie never lost an opportunity to display how she was gay for Mai.
I really like this artstyle.
Why do they even bothering censoring a game so wholesome?
Actually I take that back, they do know facial expressions. They just don’t care enough to apply them to 3D models.

Sound

Idea Factory doesn’t seem to have any huge talent doing music for them. I never really have anything interesting to write about their music. On their track record they have exactly 3 good songs and all of them are transformation themes. Obviously I’m talking about Will be Venus, Full Contact and All Our Might Tonight. Both DERQ games have no transformation themes(the regular battle music keeps playing).

Anyone who likes horror knows that music is paramount in setting up the right atmosphere. The DERQ series does a good job with this, no complaints about that. Yet, none of the tracks really stand out. The Death End re;Quest series really lacks a musical theme that defines it. The menu theme is pretty good but it doesn’t fit that criteria.

Censorship

This is the Playstation 4 and that means it’s no fun allowed for anime games. Thankfully the censorship in DERQ2 was kept to a minimum and is limited to Glitch Mode character models. Actually, this censorship is so mild that begets the question: why rile up and upset the players if all they are getting is just few extra millimeters of fabric around the boobs and waist?

Rottie is basically wearing a burqa compared to the girls from the first game.

Still, censorship is censorship and the only way you can tell them you don’t like it is with your money. Given the choice between buying the game on PS4 or PC, buy it on PC where models have not been censored.

Downsides

The concept of replaying a game has become widely adopted this generation. The option of starting a New Game Plus is more popular than ever! However, it seems as if Idea Factory has yet to grasp the idea that a NG+ playthrough needs to be adjusted or else it’s simply not fun. Enemies don’t scale properly and the game becomes trivial. There should have been more NG+ exclusive content too, there were only a few extra new scenes to be seen(even if they were absolutely key to understanding the plot).

I’ve played almost every Idea Factory game this generation and I’m already getting tired of the same overworld game progression. They’ve matured quite a bit and yet, they refuse to let go this game model. They’ve made like 15+ games where the basic gameplay consists of moving through an static world, hit enemy symbols to initiate combat and then have generic JRPG battles. Maybe it’s time they tried something different? Perhaps this is an unfair comment to make, after all we JRPG players have been playing the Three or Four Dudes in a Row genre for like 30 years. At least each of their games has a considerably different battle system.

Overall

At the time of this writing, Death end re;Quest 2 has a Mixed reception on Steam. I will agree that the game isn’t perfect but, at the very least, it’s a step up from the first. I like the original premise of the story, I like how it developed and, more than anything, I enjoyed how DERQ2 is a direct consequence to the things the cast does in the first game. Causality, timeline shenanigans, time traveling and endless suffering are excellent themes, can’t go wrong with them.

Death end re;Quest 2

Death end re;Quest 2

8.9

Pros

  • Doesn’t require playing the first game
  • Good Story and writing
  • Large cast
  • Unique battle mechanics

Cons

  • Less gore compared to the original
  • Lacks a defining soundtrack
  • Slightly censored on PS4