Déraciné is a tricky one. In one hand it’s a very deliberately paced puzzle adventure oozing with ethereal atmosphere, but on the other hand it’s an insufferable exercise of boredom and painfully pedestrian gameplay.
Developed mostly by FROMSoftware in collaboration with Japan Studios, one would be forgiven in assuming Déraciné is a VR successor to their accomplished non-VR titles like Bloodborne and Dark Souls. However, digging through their back catalogue, FROMSoftware actually have somewhat of a curiously eclectic past, with a number of translucent experimental titles dotted among them.
Déraciné seems to harken back to those days, and it makes sense – this being their first foray into VR. Why push the boat out too far right away…
You play as a disembodied “faerie” who, according to European folk lore, is a young and pure spirit removed from the confines of its spiritual realm and placed as a presence among the living.
It’s set inside the grounds of a stately period-style boarding school where you uncovering a variety of mysteries contained within its 4 hour or so story.
The gameplay basically involves interacting with, or running errands for a number of children, initially to convince of your presence, and then set to complete a variety of mostly insultingly basic (put this object in this location) or unintuitive (whatever I’m thinking, do that) puzzles or tasks. Thus moving the story forward, and onto the next melancholy vignette.
The conceit here is that the entire world is frozen in time, only coming alive at specific contextual trigger points and mostly consisting of serviceable animations and flat, sonnet-like dialogue. Though in fairness, the dreary blandness of its storytelling may actually appeal to those who don’t want to wrestle with the sensory overload of many other VR titles.
The game requires dual move controller support and is bereft of full locomotion and smooth turning, providing only set teleportation positions to warp towards and incremental turning. This means that those with already well-developed VR legs will probably find it disorienting at times.
As a faerie, you have the ability to transfuse the spiritual energy out of a living object into a dead one, and while this sounds like a fascinating mechanic – is routinely used for perfunctory tasks like reviving a dead flowers…
Graphically though, Déraciné is pretty. With fairly realistic textures and well lit environments, the world is among PSVRs best realised visually. Though hardly an argument since its viewed from very specific viewpoints, it’s still nice to look around and breathe in the atmosphere.
There are also a number of collectable keys to find, which could possibly warrant replay for the most hardy and possibly self-deprecating of players. Once through is almost certainly enough though.
If it’s meant to feel somewhat poetic and dreamlike, it goes some way to achieving that – but getting through it was an effort of tenacity rather than genuine intrigue.
All in all, personal taste is the key here. The point and click adventure style in VR doesn’t appeal greatly to me but mileage will almost certainly vary. But on my personal opinion alone, and based on the wealth of other great VR titles out there, I can’t easily recommend Déraciné.
Released: November 2018
Platforms: PlayStation 4 / PSVR
Genre: Virtual Reality
Developer: FromSoftware, Japan Studios