As VR gaming offers an opportunity to reshape your design philosophy, it’s been interesting to see how different developers have approached their first VR title. Many tried to take what worked outside of VR and fit it into the new framework, while others went in a wholly new direction. FromSoftware’s Déraciné is quite firmly in the latter group, representing a complete shift from what we’ve seen out of the famed developer of Dark Souls. Déraciné is not the Dark Souls of VR, but that’s for the best as it instead does something all its own.
Déraciné opens with you taking on the role of a newly minted faerie who has been summoned to a remote school by a young girl seeking your help. You quickly learn all about your abilities as a faerie, which include stopping and starting time, transferring time energy between objects, and manipulating items within the environment. Using these abilities you will help the children of the school as you prove your existence to them and build a relationship with each.
So yeah, nothing at all like Dark Souls or really anything else we’ve seen out of FromSoftware before. If you’re a die hard fan of the developer and are looking for their latest ultra challenging adventure, you should look elsewhere. Now that that band-aid is ripped off, we can instead look at Déraciné for what it is, which is a beautiful story told in a somewhat unique way. While it is far from perfect, its good parts outweigh the bad, if you are looking to get an emotional impact rather than another adrenaline shot.
Déraciné is nothing at all like Dark Souls or really anything else we’ve seen out of FromSoftware before
The basics of the game will be familiar to anyone who’s been keeping up with the VR gaming scene over the last couple of years. As a faerie you exist outside the normal environment and even the regular flow of time. Because of this, each level loads as a sort of tableau that is open for you to explore.
Characters are frozen in time until you interact with them, usually grabbing objects for use later, or exploring the scene to unlock pieces of dialogue that help further the story and your mission in each stage. This frozen time aspect feels like an easy way to not have to animate the many characters in Déraciné, and while that may be true it also gives the game an eerie sense of voyeurism and otherworldliness that really builds on both the suspense and fun.
Each level feels like a puzzle of its own, with tinier puzzles nestled within. You may know from the outset what you have to do, such as getting into the Headmaster’s office, but as you move toward that main goal, other ones open up that expand your knowledge of the students and their school, along with the mysterious things going on there. Some of the stumbling blocks in your way, such as a cat that you cannot pass by, feel artificial, and having to move back and forth through the expansive school can get tiring, but once you get past these challenges they don’t actually impact the overall feeling you receive from completing the level.
The puzzles aren’t brain busting, but they do offer enough of a challenge that you rarely feel like the game is holding your hand. What’s most unfortunate is that the deeper elements of the game get introduced at the start and then abandoned for a good chunk of the experience. As a faerie you can steal time from one thing, a flower for example, then gift it to another, making another flower bloom. This could have been a perfect tool for puzzles throughout the opening of the game, but instead you spend most of the first hour or two just wandering the school to find objects or people to interact with, which then unlocks the next puzzle/scene/room.
In terms of art direction Déraciné is a bit of a mixed bag. The graphics are toned down quite a bit to allow for the VR exploration. Characters and the environment are decent quality when you don’t look too closely, but with everything being so static you don’t really get to appreciate the world like you normally would. What little character animation there is is pretty robotic, which unfortunately matches the voice acting well. Check out the announcement trailer to get a taste of the breathy whispering that awaits you throughout your time with Déraciné. Thankfully the music feels more enjoyable throughout, with soothing tunes that really evoke the spirit of the game and its environment.
Déraciné is a solid addition to PSVR’s growing stable of exclusives. It’s not a must-play game though, especially if you’ve been through any of the other VR adventure games out there. It does have a bit of extra magic thanks to its developer and the story they are telling. FromSoftware crafted this game with love, and it shows in its overall polish and heart. If you devote yourself to getting engaged in Déraciné’s story then you certainly will. You’ll grow attached to the characters and the school they inhabit, and you will feel a sense of urgency around helping them with their problems. When the story is over you will feel a sense of both accomplishment and loss, and that is a true achievement in VR storytelling.
- This article was updated on November 5th, 2018