There are some moments in life when a piece of art leaves you lost for words. Something is touching in a way you didn’t expect and just blows you away, making you reexamine things in a new way. Déraciné just did this for me, and from FromSoftware I can honestly say it was unexpected.
The Armoured Core of Point and Click Adventure Games
Déraciné is, at its core, a point and click adventure game in VR. You spend the vast majority of your time in an old boarding school where some young children meet you, a faerie. You mostly occupy the ‘place where time stands still’, exploring the school while the students are frozen. In this dimension, there are ghosts of the students at key moments, interacting with which allows you to unlock the information you need to help them.
You can trigger certain items that allow the students to respond to you or your actions, such as ringing a bell, or bringing something to life. For the purposes of this I suspect that time unfreezes, but just for that student for the right amount of time to progress the plot. Don’t think about that too much, or you’ll unwind the games beautiful mystique.
The Enchanted Arms of VR Games
The way that Déraciné uses VR is perfectly crafted. Movement is using pre-determined circles that you click towards, which is close enough to feel like you are moving around the school, but not so close as to cause motion sickness. This also allows the game to direct you towards key objects and moments in the narrative. Some are there to keep you guessing, but total freedom would have been far too frustrating,
You need to have Move controllers for the game, but this also adds to the game’s feel, as you pick up objects to inspect and interact with them. Aiming at the note in a child’s pocket wouldn’t have the same effect of you intruding in their world as picking it up out of their pockets with your hands.
The Lost Kingdoms II of being a magical faerie
Déraciné initially introduces you to the faerie’s two biggest powers; the ability to transfer life from one thing to another, and the ability to travel through time. The life transfer power involves taking life from one object and transferring it to a similar object. This could be taking life from a bunch of grapes and bringing a dead flower back to life.
These powers give the impression that you will be set free to switch around the world as you see fit to beat puzzles, which I initially found intimidating. These are actually used for the purposes of the story, and in reality Déraciné winds up being a very linear game. If you need to take the life from something, there will be one thing you need to find in the level to get that life. The time shifting is only unlocked when you complete a level, and then you travel to the new level by jumping through time.
The Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn of frustrations in the point and click genre
The biggest annoyance with Déraciné is the biggest annoyance I find with point and click adventure games in general. Unnecessary amounts of time looking for some obscure item, or something small that you can overlook dozens of times.
I lost hours in the game running around in circles looking for a cog, which turned out to be in something I opened, but I didn’t see that damn cog. The worst offender was an hour looking for something without a clue except knowing I needed to change something. This came right after entire levels I was blasting through, because the games tenseness and plot had ramped up significantly. This just killed the pace unnecessarily.
Then right at the end of the game, you jump between levels until you spot the thing that needs to be changed. This meant I got to enjoy the pocket watch on the loading screen a couple dozen times before finally getting to finish the game. This may be me being dense, but it’s still an issue that some better hints would have removed the unnecessary frustration.
The Ninja Blade of finales
The hardest part of explaining why a game like Déraciné is extraordinary is that the plot is superb. More importantly, the twists and turns that I didn’t see coming are utterly phenomenal. I explained this to my editor with major spoilers (sorry Brian), but the whole game winds up being a metaphor for our existence in games, and it’s pure perfection.
The best way to explain this is as follows; if you can have a PSVR headset and Move controllers, and can put up with some pacing hiccups, play Déraciné now. The story and world are beautifully designed and crafted to perfection, minor nitpicks aside my gaming life has been improved thanks to what FromSoftware built here.
It’s a faerie good game.