Depersonalization Preview – Anime! Lovecraft! Roll!

It’s always great to see modern RPGs revisit their roots within the tabletop RPG era. Depersonalization is a top-down RPG blended with tabletop elements, environmental puzzle-solving, and Lovecraftian storytelling. Inspired by the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game and mythos, it wastes no time throwing you into a challenging and cryptic world.

The story of Depersonalization begins as you assume control of Anan, a young boy who was just allowed outside the confines of his castle home. Then, it fast-forwards to Anan as a young adult as he begins investigating the inexplicable forces that hide within his past. As you progress, you’ll be tasked with unraveling the mysteries of some of the most infamous gods in the Lovecraftian mythos.

Players experience a series of scenarios across different periods. Each scenario has multiple endings, though many leads to the scenario cutting itself short. While some endings are tied to player decisions, you’ll also be at the mercy of an onslaught of dice rolls, which act as checks for events. If you fail a stat check, you’ll be subjected to a debuff, an enemy attack, or you will overlook a clue. These stat checks are the core replayability element, as you will need to revisit the scenarios equipped with better items and foreknowledge.

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Once you gain access to the central hub, known as the Temple of Time-space, you’ll be able to access a few customization options that will follow you to the start of a scenario. In addition, you’ll gain access to Mythos Items, which will be accessible in your inventory at the beginning of a scenario that is gained by completing certain endings.

You will also be able to create your investigator, which includes their job, attributes, skill stats, traits, and a preset appearance. If you already have a single character, you’ll have to pay with space-time points to create more characters, which are distributed based on your performance at the end of a scenario. With the character creation, you can formulate an investigator that has the most suitable aptitude for the events in a scenario you would like to trigger. These characteristics are fundamental to progression.

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While in a scenario, there are still ways to modify your stats. Finding clues will often award you Luck bonuses, which affect your chances of getting a low number on your roll. If you fail a roll, you can reroll at the cost of lowering your Luck stat, offering a risky solution if you direly need a second chance at passing the check. Most scenario stat increases are tied to passing attribute and skill checks, which may prove beneficial when planning a character build for a scenario.

Passing dice roll checks also will get you out of initiating a battle, as enemies are present in the overworld and will chase you down. The battle system includes attacking, performing an action, using or throwing items, and casting spells. Occasionally, you will have additional characters who will join your party. However, you’re best avoiding confrontation, as you don’t gain anything by winning non-required encounters.

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If you enter a scenario under-prepared, an enemy encounter can be ruthless. Beyond that, you can interact with the people you encounter, which includes provoking, bribing, and supporting them, all of which add optional variety to the scenario gameplay. After completion of the first scenario, when you receive a Game Over, reloading or reviving may cost time-space points.

Suppose you can’t pay the amount or want to give up. In that case, you can perform a Consciousness Decomposition, which permanently deletes your current investigator and allows you to bring in a new investigator. Unfortunately, you’ll likely have to redo a scenario with another investigator if you enter with the wrong character build the first time.

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The difficulty of this open-ended stat system may discourage some players who want to enjoy the story casually. However, you can resume a scenario at a saved point after you create a new character, so light note-taking may benefit people who wish to play at their leisure. Unfortunately, beyond the intentional features, there is one glaring issue in the current build that makes gameplay unnecessarily difficult: the machine-translated text.

The machine translation makes it difficult to discern what’s occurring in the story, though it’s still possible to get a general idea of the plot, as plot points emulate the lore of the Cthulhu mythos. However, grasping concepts proves difficult as the machine translation adds a layer of vagueness to many of the instructions, making some mechanics extremely confusing to navigate.

You will need to experiment with mechanics, as grasping them from the tutorials alone is challenging. As a side note, the game supports text-to-voice, a great accessibility feature. However, the spoken English dialogue is extremely awkward, so I recommend disabling the text-to-voice if you don’t require it. There were a few visual, sound, and bugs I encountered, such as unfinished animations and lingering menus. However, most were difficult to replicate and didn’t show up in subsequent scenario playthroughs.

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Altogether, Depersonalization displays a strong showing for its early access release. The gameplay loop is customizable and kinetic, as it offers a great sense of freedom despite the rigid planning each scenario can require. The developers have confirmed that new story scenarios will be added in future updates, along with adjustments and bug fixes. If you’re a fan of tabletop, Lovecraft, and anime-styled visuals, keep a lookout for Depersonalization.


Depersonalization enters early access via Steam on December 20, 2022.


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