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Review

Déraciné Review

Fairie Tales

FromSoftware is best known for its gloomy, masochistic RPG, Demon’s Souls, and the slew of games that followed in its stead. The studio has been instrumental in reinvigorating not only the genre but how many view the Japanese gaming industry, its “Soulsborne” saga being extremely popular as well as lauded by critics around the world.

Don’t expect the team’s latest game, Déraciné, to carry the torch, however. It’s a complete change in direction and one that sees them step into the world of virtual reality. That said, this game has that distinct FromSoftware feel, despite a complete lack of combat or the usual menagerie of nightmarish creatures.

Deracine takes place within a secluded boarding school, the setting purely fictional though mirroring 19th century Europe. The children here live and learn together, seemingly sheltered from the outside world. As a result, they spend most of their time carrying out chores, pulling pranks, and thumbing through the library’s expansive collection of books, reading about the folklore of the surrounding forests and mountains.

It’s this curiosity that attracts you, a fairie. In this world fairies are disembodied spirits that can explore snapshots of frozen time, tapping into memories and interacting with people and objects. Although it doesn’t slot neatly into any particular genre, Deracine can be labelled as an adventure game, played in first person, with a linear story-driven focus.

The game is split into epochs – stages that zap you to a certain point in time. Although you’ll mainly be exploring the school, its inhabitants will move to different locations with some areas blocked off and others being unlocked as the story unfolds.

You’ll mostly feel like an observer, exploring and trying to figure out where the story might go. Although your actions are fairly limited, the fairie does have a couple of magical artefacts that come into play. These include a ring that can transfer time (read: lifeforce) between two living things, as well as the chronometer, a pocket watch that shows your current objective and can be used to travel to the next epoch. When presented with these powerful relics, it seems as though Déraciné is introducing two exciting gameplay mechanics, but their use is sadly limited to very specific scenarios with no room for experimentation.

FromSoftware employs a simplistic control scheme here though one that still requires two PlayStation Move motion controllers. Getting around the orphanage is done by looking at a nearby waypoint then pressing a button to zap towards it, while the triggers are used to grip items or listen to memories. It’s straightforward stuff in the wide and varied realms of VR gaming, but given the simplicity it’s strange that playing with a DualShock 4 isn’t an option.

As mentioned before, this isn’t a Soulsborne game. You won’t be navigating trap-laden castles or avoiding the deathblows of a grotesque-looking monster with deft precision. That said, there’s a link between these games and Deracine, one that’s hard to place your finger on. There’s that familiar sense of melancholy enthused with something a little more sinister beneath the surface, not to mention some of the same voice talent that, while not particularly good, adds a strangeness to the game’s characters.

Déraciné isn’t for everyone, even if you fancy yourself a staunch fan of FromSoftware’s previous work. The slow, deliberate pacing, the vague puzzles, and a story that revolves around fairies don’t add up to a must-buy PlayStation VR experience. It’s an oddity and one that wants you to occasionally stop, stare, and soak in its atmosphere. Déraciné will be divisive; a borefest for some, yet bizarrely enthralling for others.

What’s Good:

  • A strange yet captivating atmosphere
  • Detailed environments that genuinely feel lived in
  • Story is inventive, if a bit flimsy

What’s Bad:

  • Expensive considering its 3-4 hours runtime and lack of replayability
  • Limited interactivity
  • Puzzles in need of more creativity
  • Requires PlayStation Move

Déraciné isn’t for everyone, even if you fancy yourself a staunch fan of FromSoftware’s previous work. The slow, deliberate pacing, the vague puzzles, and a story that revolves around fairies don’t add up to a must-buy PlayStation VR experience. It’s an oddity and one that wants you to occasionally stop, stare, and soak in its atmosphere. Déraciné will be divisive; a borefest for some, yet bizarrely enthralling for others.

Score: 6/10

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