Death End Re;Quest 2 is the sequel to the title that released back in 2018, of which I also provided a review for. Back then I wasn’t really expecting to get a sequel, much less one so soon, but lo and behold, here we are! A sequel to the JRPG with the choose-your-own adventure style choices, some messed up “death ends”, and a weird but interesting combination with a visual novel touch. Thankfully, Death End Re;Quest 2 keeps a lot of what I liked about the first title, mostly just improving upon some of the aspects I wasn’t too fond of in the first game.
In this sequel to what is actually one of my favourite Compile Heart titles, we follow protagonist Mai Toyama as she explores the lakeside town of Le Choara in search of her little sister Sanae. Now, if you’ve played the first game, or heard about it, you’ll probably realize right away that the sleepy little town is more than it seems to be. After midnight monsters roam the streets, preying on anyone foolish enough to be outside past their curfew. Unfortunately for Mai, this is the only way she will find clues about her sisters disappearance. Written in collaboration with one of the same scenario writers from Corpse Party, you can tell that this isn’t going to be a very sanity preserving ride for our protagonist. Set in the same continuum as the first Death End Re;Quest, you will get a chance to maybe see some familiar faces amongst the horrors that stock the streets. But the horrors aren’t only out at midnight. Something strange is going on in town, and there have been a lot of mysterious deaths and disappearances surrounding the orphanage/foster home for young girls that Mai has relocated to.
At this point I would like to point out that a large amount of the NPC cast at the dorms are not granted the status of “plot armour”. Yes, that’s right, depending on your decisions in-game, it could result in the deaths of many of the generally quite young cast of orphaned schoolgirls. Like dismemberment. Or being eaten alive. Cuz yeah, those are things that might happen. Making a repeat appearance from the first title, you are given options to choose what you want to do occasionally, but unlike in the first title where these options would normally just result in your death or continued progress, now they mostly determine whether or not your dorm mates get their spines ripped out through their mouths. I’m honestly a little on the fence about this, as some of the options take a while before you find out their implications, meaning if you really don’t like the result, you’ll have to go back and redo a chunk of the game, or wait until your next playthrough. On the plus side, normally it doesn’t take TOO long to figure out the implications, and the game lets you know if you’ve made a certain choice before.
Maybe I’m a little more prepared for DER;Q 2 than I was for DER;Q, but I found a lot of the scenarios to not get me as bad as the first title did. I mean, in the first title I wasn’t expecting the game to have a scene with a CG about a party character getting crucified and their face flayed off while they’re still alive, so that hit me like a load of bricks. Now however, I kind of expect it. It is a lot more of a slow burn “gor-ror” (gore and horror) title than the first, with more of a focus on ambience rather than the occasionally one-off of “oh good lord, why?” that they threw at you. Corpse Party writer at work, evidently.
DER;Q 2 functions in quite a similar manner to DER;Q, with a few notable differences. First up is the Visual Novel style section have been somewhat toned down a little. Between sorties into the night domain of Le Choara, Mai has the opportunity to roam around the dorms and town, interacting with the other members of the dorm, provided they’re still alive mind you. Unlike in the original title where the “intermission” sections were mandatory, here you can pretty much just choose not to interact with people if that’s what you’d prefer. Pro tip, you CAN save during dialogue, and at any choices that you’re given. Also, if you make a choice resulting in a death end, the game lets you return to the last decision you made, which is something that didn’t happen in the first title, or at least I haven’t checked to see if they patched that since I played the first title, rather.
The combat and field map are largely the same as before, where you can roam the field map, and upon interacting with an enemy, you get into a fight in a “ring” with turn based combat. As far as combat goes, on your turn you can walk anywhere there’s space inside the combat ring, and you may choose up to three actions, whether they are skills that use MP, a standard attack, a guard, or an item. I’m pleased to note that skills now inform you what element they do best against, so no longer do you have to sit there wondering whether star is good against moon or sun, you can just check the skill description. The game also gives you ample info about your enemies if you look at them, providing you with their health, element, and general stat distribution. Good to know when you do 2 physical damage, and then check to see that the enemy has 1500 physical defence, but only 200 magic defence.
Also making a return is the knock back and bug systems, although with a few tweaks to them. For the knock back, basically whenever you use a move with a knock back effect, you can send an enemy careening off towards either other enemies or the battle area boundaries. Upon impact, not only do the enemies take damage, sometimes a lot of damage, but they will also continue to bounce around. If a knocked back enemy runs into another character, that character will hit them again, providing a velocity boost. Now there is also a sort of “super knock back” that is able to send the small enemies bouncing around the field like a pinball machine, or allowing you to send the big enemies flying like you would normally the small ones, because yes, weight does matter.
As for the bugs, they are essentially little “parameter affecters” that will be spawned in at the start of battle. The bugs have numerous effects, such as increasing certain stats for a battle, restoring health or MP, or doing damage. Here’s a hint, send the healthy enemies into the damaging bugs and watch them blow up. Incidentally, knocking enemies into these bugs is a great way to remove them from the field, while also giving you the positive effects from them, and ONLY the positive effects. Clearing bugs or overkilling enemies by dealing significant or extra damage also awards you with more money and exp after battle respectively. Maybe you don’t want to use enemies for most of the bugs though, as walking over them, or getting attacked, builds corruption. Hitting 80% makes you transform into glitch mode, giving you a substantial stat increase and access to a super move, but will decrease your corruption 10% per turn until you are back under 80% again.
I do have to say I’m really glad I played the first title first, as I was able to ease into the battle system a lot better. The reason I say this is because of what I generally refer to as “Compile Heart’s bad habit”, by which I mean their difficulty scaling is absolutely weird. Some enemies will roll over and die without a fuss, some enemies will kick your teeth in by accident, and bosses are generally a screaming match of “why do you hit so hard!?!?” if you aren’t prepared, or you don’t really grasp the importance of playing to enemy weakness or making the most out of pin balling them around the stage.
Completely new to the formula is the “Berserker”. This creature will occasionally appear on the field map and slowly chase you around. It’s suggested you run from it. No really, my first thought was “I wonder how tough it is?” so I went to attack it. Nope, just a game over. Thankfully, it will disappear after a while, so try and avoid it. It helps that enemies are also scared of it and will run away from it as well, making it easy to dodge enemies. Unfortunately, this isn’t the last you’ll see of the Berserker, as it can invade battles as well. It gets a turn and well start a wide range attack that will display as a red circle. If you’re in the circle when its turn comes around again? That character is KO’d. While the range is huge, as far as I can tell the Berserker will never gib you by taking two turns in a row, or acting faster than you can get a turn to move in. On the other hand, it will only go away when the battle ends, and won’t attack your enemies for you.
The art style is what you’ve come to expect from Compile Heart, with the “Live2D” anime stylized models for the visual novel portions, and 3D models for exploration and combat. Gotta give them props for the 3D models this time around, because Mai’s overcoat actually sways when she walks. The weapons look a little…gag like, and the enemy models range from “oh, a bat” to “what in the name of all that is good and holy is wrong with that thing”, there isn’t much clipping of textures, and apart from the 3D models having a little bit fatter looking faces than the Live2D models, there isn’t anything I can really complain about. The music is also really well done, with appropriate ambience inducing tunes, and normally good transitions. And the battle theme. MMMMM, the battle theme is so good, I totally was sold for the track within 5 seconds.
That all being said, DER;Q 2 isn’t without its problems. Combat can easily flop between aggravating and fun depending on what enemies you happen to be fighting, bosses can be dirty depending on how well you’ve adapted to the game, the Berserker feels more “gimmick” like than actually frightening, and I feel like there aren’t as many choices as in the first game, although they are now more story cohesive. Also, the level system is a bit awkward. You don’t get much in the way of stats per level, they tend to be all about the HP and MP increases, and the rest is made up with skill and planning. Also, I still have no idea what smacking a window or car really does outside the dorm. The game says it will draw unwanted attention, which I assumed was the berserker, but five minutes of slapping a car and nothing happened, so I have no clue on that. Thankfully, most of the game is fairly well explained.