A new VR title has dropped on PSVR that isn’t a shooting gallery and it’s by From Software, most famous in recent times for the Souls series of games. Sounds pretty exciting right? Well, one word I’m not sure you could use for Déraciné is ‘exciting’. There is no action as you play the part of a faerie who exists on a separate timeline, the real world frozen in place until you do something to impact it.
Viewed from a first person perspective and requiring two Move controllers, you explore an English boarding school and its surroundings, making friends with the children and helping them to find lost items and discover the secrets of the large building they live in. Some believe in the existence of faeries whilst others need a little convincing, but the early days of your adventure are pretty laid back and fancy free.
You can explore the building by teleporting to set positions. There is no normal movement and there is only incremental turning, smooth turning is not an option. As you explore there will be specific areas you can interact with that will have a circle around them, teleporting to this spot will allow you to rotate around and, generally, grab something. The two Move controllers represent your hands as you’d expect and things you can move will highlight as you touch them. Using the triggers you can pick up objects, if you can put them in your inventory for use later then they’ll be automatically placed there once you let go of the trigger, if you can’t then they’ll magically reappear back where they were to begin with, you can’t throw things around for fun as this isn’t that type of game.
Often the objects you can interact with will be part of memories, an echo of something that’s already happened. Here a glowing orb will float around the characters and by touching them you’ll hear their thoughts or a dialogue that happened which will clue you in as to what you should be doing to progress. If you can interact with an object in this scene then it’ll usually reveal another glowing orb which will further aid you or provide more story context. You then teleport around the house some more, finding more echoes and eventually finding the actual children, frozen in time doing whatever they were doing.
As a faerie you have a couple of powers at your disposal and I’ll use the very first part of the game to describe them. You can take life from one living thing and give it to something else and you can travel backwards and forwards through time. The first task you have is to show a girl that you exist, or rather she believes you exist but wants proof that you are present. She holds a wilted flower in her hand and in an adjacent room is a bunch of grapes. Drain the life from the grapes and then transfer that life essence into the flower which will bloom into life in her hand and she’ll realise you’re there, a kind faerie. As you’ve completed that ‘level’ your pocket watch will start to tick and you clasp it in both hands to travel to the next ‘level’ which can either be forwards or backwards in time.
The first half of the game will have you advancing through time, getting to know the kids, the problems they face in their daily lives and the friendships they form with each other. Even in these early stages, despite the kids being generally up beat and very ‘Famous Five’-like in their attitudes, they have some hardships. Being a From Software title though things don’t remain straight forward and the second half takes some turns, never fully explaining itself but giving enough information for you to piece it together.
It was this direction change that has earned the score it’s getting from me at the end of this review. The school is fantastic to look at, very well designed and the graphics in general are very good with the character models looking great under close scrutiny. However the first two to three hours are very…uneventful. Sure, stuff happens, but nothing major and the game never offers a challenge. However the next couple of hours gripped me as I tried to use my limited powers to help the children, finally finishing my playthrough at midnight.
There are eight optional coins to find in the school which make the best use of VR, with you having to look around corners by leaning and peering down into holes. The rest of the game arguably doesn’t gain too much from the format, beyond the obvious immersion. That just means it’s short on gimmicks. Could it work outside of VR? Certainly, but if VR is going to truly take off we need games of all types so I’m not going to mark it down just for that.
If you’re a fan of From Software’s work then you might be eager to try Déraciné but don’t go in expecting a Souls-type game. Souls-type story telling, yes, but the gameplay is a little overly simple and easy. I’m not sure how much replay value it will have as the story is easily the strongest part of the game and writing about it now is bringing back plenty of memories which proves to me that the story made an impact. It’s a little pricey, probably due to the production values and developer pedigree but you shouldn’t ignore Déraciné completely as it’s certainly worth experiencing.
+ Some decent characters
+ Story takes an interesting turn around the mid-point
- Doesn't make strong use of VR
- Maybe a little pricey