Best known for creating the “fantastically demented” action games Dark Souls and Bloodborne, From Software’s Hidetaka Miyazaki was motivated by a desire to learn about VR — and create something surprising for fans — which resulted in last week’s unexpected announcement of Déraciné for Sony’s PlayStation VR. The virtual reality adventure is a collaboration between From and Sony’s Japan Studio, and charmed us during a full hands-on session at E3.
As the PlayStation blog notes in an interview with Miyazaki, the developer wanted to experiment with a smaller team and concept after creating several big budget titles, ultimately forging a relaxed adventure that could still fit into From’s legacy. Trading the darkness and metallic themes of prior games for a sepia filter, Déraciné was meant to bring From “into the fold” as a developer of VR, where fast-paced action can sometimes lead to visual discomfort.
To slow down the visual pacing, Miyazaki chose to revisit From’s adventure game roots rather than pursuing twitch action. But he wanted to do something “new and fresh” rather than merely creating a VR supplement to a recent action game, or revisiting a prior title such as the 1998 first-person adventure Echo Night, since “occasional surprises are enticing to our fans.”
The result is a game that hits on four consistent Miyazaki themes — fragmented storytelling, quiet calmness, classical beauty, and mystery — within an unfamiliar structure. Déraciné places you in control of a fairy who explores a boarding school that’s stuck in time. You use PlayStation Move controllers to inspect students, interact with objects, and teleport around, unraveling the school’s story in pieces.
Initially, your fairy isn’t seen by the students, but over time, you learn how to communicate with them. Rather than spoonfeeding you the full narrative, the game lets you gather details as you interact with people and things, an experience meant to evoke reading a thought-provoking book.
Unlike Dark Souls, Déraciné is designed to appeal to female players, a goal of Miyazaki’s prior to his work on the decidedly masculine Dark Souls. Thematically, the VR experience was inspired by 19th-century Scottish poet Fiona McLeod, and has a somewhat sorrowful undertone, though Miyazaki wants players to feel “a sense of joy or happiness” from the start to the end of the title. That wasn’t the case with Dark Souls or Bloodborne, which were deliberately frustrating, but Déraciné has a decidedly different vibe.
Déraciné does not yet have a release date, but is expected to be released this year. Due to its co-development with Sony, it will likely remain a PlayStation VR exclusive.