Déraciné Review

Déraciné comes from the French. As a noun, it means a person who has been or feels displaced. As an adjective, it means uprooted or displaced from one’s geographical or social environment. Fans of FromSoftware’s previous games, the Dark Souls franchise and Bloodborne, will feel like the latter. For the game, the noun form of Déraciné works on several different levels: it could be referring to the character you play in the game or it could refer to the orphans you interact with. Or it could even refer to the orphanage proper.

Gamers expecting another variation of the Dark Souls or Bloodborne games will find no ghouls, monsters or other undead creatures here. They will be shocked on several fronts. First, this is a PSVR game with no castles or dungeons or other horrific settings to wander through. Déraciné takes place in a Dickensian orphanage, an environment certainly steeped in atmosphere, but one of human making. There are no weapons and no combat. The game has supernatural and science fiction elements to it, though. You play the game as a faerie (note the spelling—you don’t play a Tinkerbell fairy but rather the more sinister version). With the aid of magical items you are able to travel back and forth through time. This element forms the narrative spine of the story as you try to set right any and all wrongs in the present by going back into the past.

The game is a very much a walking simulator, but instead of stepping through the orphanage freely you are constrained to jumping to preordained teleportation spots. The world of Déraciné is static: only you are free to move through the world. The orphans and headmaster are in a ghostly stasis. This gameplay element may turn some VR veterans off as free movement and smooth turning options are always high on the options list requested, while in Déraciné this restricted locomotion method may be a technical limitation imposed by FromSoftware. In what is their first VR game, care has been taken to weave the game mechanics into the story of the game.

Déraciné

As a faerie you are free to move about the orphanage because you’re jumping through time to different specific snapshots. In each of these snapshots you interact with the characters by taking objects either left for you or taken by you to accomplish goals. When you do so this action effectively interrupts the moment and for a few beats an orphan will come to life. During that time the orphan will either be surprised by the loss of an item or overjoyed that your taking of an object is proof of your existence as a faerie. Their dialogue also often provides you clues as to what to do next.

As a faerie you are equipped with several magical items including two rings and a pocket watch. You derive energy to manipulate objects by draining the life from living things like plants and then transferring that energy elsewhere. While your actions are driven to help the orphans, this rather disturbing game mechanic leaves you uncertain whether the orphan’s best interests are your primary motivation or if there something…else at play.

It Was The Best of Times….

Visually, the game is gorgeous. The interior of the Victorian mansion that serves as the orphanage is rendered with great detail. Paintings, furniture, curios, fully stocked book shelves, and a wide variety of knick-knacks are found in every room. The character models are also well done and are very Victorian looking in dress and style. The exterior of the orphanage does not fare as well, though the environment is still impressive. It’s just that aliasing jaggies are much more prevalent when you are outside as opposed to the interiors.

The core of the gameplay is a mix of puzzle and task solving, as well as discovering letters and journals which fill you in on the backstory. Certain elements are new, like the need to find a certain object to distract a cat who block your path from time to time. It’s an organic approach to force you to complete required game task before moving on to the level

You have to applaud creative people, be it authors, musicians, film-makers, and in this case, game creators like director Hidetaka Miyazaki and FromSoftware when they step outside their comfort zone. Fans of their previous games might be taken aback by Déraciné, and that would be too bad. Déraciné is an engaging VR adventure with a tinge of darkness to it that other such games often shy away from. There is a frisson of tension in this story that drives you forward through the conservative VR gameplay mechanics to find out if FromSoftware’s reputation for dark material will eventually surface.