Developer / Publisher – SIE Japan Studio & FromSoftware / SIE
Price – US $29.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99 / AU $38.95
Release date – November 6th, 2018
Control Method – DS4
Pro Enhanced – No
Digital only – No (PlayStation Store)
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
It’s always exciting when a bigger name developer ports over a classic title to VR or comes up with something entirely new for our headsets as a classic library of hit titles would suggest that something great may come to Virtual Reality. FromSoftware is known largely for its Dark Souls series of games, though the trailer released during the tail end of this year’s E3 showed us that whatever Déraciné was going to be, it wasn’t going to be anything like that violent franchise. As it turns out, you play as a faerie in a world frozen in time and its up to you to navigate the halls of a boarding school, interacting with its residents through some light puzzle solving and exploration.
Move controls are your only option in here and the game is played out in 1st person with you grabbing and interacting with the environment around you. You traverse the Boarding school by waypoint only, but the points are frequent enough to give the illusion of a freer teleportation option and turning is only of the click variety making the controls feel a little dated given more recent and common standard movement options. People and some objects can be focused upon making them central to your movements, so you can only circle them until you highlight a waypoint which is fine when you are investigating something, but when you are just trying to get from point A to B, these get in the way all the time. As the world around you is frozen in time, interactions are limited to items that directly carry the game forward. You can grab the odd book or vase but once you let it go, it just appears back where you found it. As a faerie though you do have a few powers to bring this world to life, including being able to grab plot necessary items like keys for doors and lock boxes or other personal items that will be needed for a later interaction. Time is also a passive power with you being able view memories of the school’s inhabitants, still frozen in time, or trigger emotions or reactions from the people in here if you remove an item from their person or interact with whatever they may have been doing when time was frozen. Some items you pick up are placed in your inventory, with description on each them that tells you where they may be needed, if it’s not apparently clear. The plot pushes you through different points in time with the story initially seeming very random and innocent, though comes together with some more darker tones towards the latter half of the game. Throughout the 5-hour(ish) campaign you’ll be required to perform a variety of simple tasks, mostly of the fetch quest variety with the game not letting you advance the story until you have viewed almost every interactive moment in a level.
Déraciné looks great and contains some top-quality VR visuals. Each stage is frozen in time, similar to what we saw in Invisible Hours so for the most part, the levels are static. As a faerie though, you exist in these frozen moments and can manipulate objects like a character’s hat or eye glasses and in some cases, when you grab those items, it will trigger a small cut scene as that character reacts to your actions. The majority of the game takes place in a boarding school and its grounds and centers around the children who reside there. The house and environments look great and the stages are littered with detail and some nice lighting effects. Character models are a little worse for wear, but by no means look awful but do animate quite stiffly during those cinematic moments. You can take a close look at items in your inventory or the few interactable items around the stage and overall it looks pretty good.
The audio is best described as ‘airy’. What I mean by that is a majority of the narration and children talk in very slow, deliberate and breathy ways, almost making them sound like they are talking in a little bit of slow motion. This kind of fits the overall theme of the game, but when combined with the actual performances and script, these children always feel like characters, not real people which the game tries desperately to make you believe. The music is very somber giving the overall game a sense of sadness, even in the early goings when the game is anything but. Still, if anything stands out in Déraciné, it’s the presentation and my few complaints are minor ones at best.
My largest issue with the game, besides the forced teleportation and click-turning, is the randomness of some of your quests. In the second stage my mission, according to my faerie pocket watch, was to explore the house. What this means is I have to activate every interactable scene I can, which for the most part is easy enough as most of the moments center around the kids, but on occasion you may be tasked with finding a specific item in an order that might not always be clear. Sometimes a child may have an easily missable item that holds up the whole process forcing you to frenetically search every kid for that one thing you missed the 1st time around or you may need to interact with something that just isn’t readily apparent and thus ignored until you have exhausted every other option. It’s that kind of randomness that makes the game a little confusing at times. Once you are made aware of what the game is asking of you, it becomes less of an issue, but on multiple occasions throughout my play, I was teleporting around looking for that 1 ‘thing’ I needed to do or find to advance the story to a point of irritation that made me want to quit. On that note, don’t quit until you have completed a stage as the game only saves at those points costing you any progress should you not be able to finish a level.
Though it’s not readily apparent, Déraciné is a light puzzle game centered around a heavy narrative and item discovery. The story takes its sweet time during the 1st half of the game and had me quite bored. The latter half does get a little more intriguing but overall, I think the team at FromSoftware made a title which just won’t appeal to a large audience. Déraciné has its moments and those that are into more narrative tales like The Invisible Hours or Torn will pull more out of this then a casual player. It’s not a bad title by any stretch, just one that may be a little to niche for most players.
What would I pay? The $30 price tag for me is a stretch but that’s mainly due to the plodding nature of the story. There is plenty of content here and the visuals are great, but I just found the overall experience to just be kind of boring. Ironically, I liked the 2 games I mentioned a lot more then this one and they were both priced the same at launch and while some aspects of Déraciné are top notch, many other counteract that quality. $20 is the most I would pay for this.