Surreal labyrinthine dreamscapes filled with strange, ethereal entities await in Exit Veil, the latest game from Cherrymochi Studio. Recently announced through Kickstarter, the game is said to be a “darkly psychedelic JRPG” with a fully integrated tarot deck.
Cherrymochi is an independent game studio based near Tokyo, Japan. Founded in 2014 by Jon Williams (penname Imazato) and run by an international team of developers, the studio Kickstarter funded its first game, Tokyo Dark, which was launched in 2017. Presented with a 2D anime art style, Tokyo Dark is a mystery horror game that blends visual novel elements with a point-and-click adventure.
With Exit Veil, Cherrymochi is taking on an even more ambitious project, moving from 2D to 3D format and opening up the gameplay with RPG mechanics and turn-based combat. When asked about making the transition between their games, Imazato noted:
Personally I like to work in different mediums and find the best tool for the job… I don’t think any creative team should be limited or confined by their choice of tools or engine or aesthetic etc. Learning to use a new tool takes time, but the creative process always stays the same!
According to Imazato, when putting together their sophomore effort, Cherrymochi drew “from many fields, from tarot to the occult, to elements of horror and science fiction.” In another interview with Loudwire, he also referenced heavy metal music as inspiration, describing the Exit Veil as “a Final Fantasy game inside a Tool music video.”
Players will enter the world of Exit Veil through the character of Tori, a young woman trapped between the ethereal and mundane realms, which are decaying for reasons she doesn’t understand. As she explores the realms, she faces various creatures, such as archetypes, daemons, angels, machine-elves, and beyond—some of whom are wicked, others kinds, but most of whom wish her to leave.
Tori is protected from danger and madness by the Veil, an ancient ritual headpiece that is “as much a diver’s helmet for the realms between as it is a lethal weapon against those who would bring Tori harm.”
Regarding the design for Tori, Imazato explained:
Sarah Williams from Labyrinth and Ofelia from Pan's Labyrinth both inspired our approach to Tori—which should give you some idea about the tone of the game! When designing Tori we considered it important that she felt “down-to-earth”, hence her scruffy presentation.
According to the Kickstarter page, the gameplay for Exit Veil features the exploration of dark and surreal realms. Imazato noted that this includes a central hub area along with areas that branch off from the main hub, which players will be able to backtrack to as they need or desire.
When Tori encounters hostile entities, the game will shift into turn-based combat that requires “strategic planning and quick thinking.” Operated through the visual field of the Veil device that Tori wears, battle involves managing a combination of digital and occult systems, which involves maintaining a variety of shield barriers. The campaign page for Exit Veil explains that “If one shield falls, the failures will cascade until Tori is left unprotected and exposed to all who dwell in the realms between.”
Combat is also where the fully integrated tarot deck comes into play, which according to Imazato, was “integrated into the gameplay from day one,” as it ties into the esoteric and qabalistic themes of the game. He said,
When you defeat an entity in EXIT VEIL you are not granted loot or treasure. You harvest the emotions which held the entity together. These emotions can be used to craft Tarot cards which unlock special abilities both in and out of combat.
During battle tarot cards that have been collected are drawn from the deck. Each one provides different benefits or abilities during combat. The Major Arcana (which represent major archetypal themes in traditional tarot) unlock major abilities, such as summons, while the Minor Arcana (the suit cards in the tarot deck, typically represented as Coins, Swords, Cups, and Wands) provide elemental boosts to the attack, weaken, or heal actions.
At first glance, this system may seem complicated, particularly if the player doesn’t understand tarot. However, Imazato assured me that the gameplay and combat systems will be accessible to new players:
EXIT VEIL introduces concepts step by step. We expect most players to have zero knowledge of tarot or any of the more esoteric aspects of the game before they play.
If a player can play a classic Final Fantasy game, they can play EXIT VEIL, it is no more complex in how it walks players through its systems.
One of the aspects that drew me into Exit Veil is that the game not only features a digital tarot deck within the game but also a physical tarot deck that can be acquired as part of the Kickstarter campaign. According to Imazato, players who elect to purchase both the game and the physical card deck will be able to use the physical deck in order to enhance the digital gameplay. He explains:
The physical deck and the game integrate in several ways. First, the most obvious, there are secrets hiding in the art of the physical deck. These secrets unlock hidden aspects of the game. Studying the art of the physical tarot will be very ~ literally ~ revealing!
Secondly, the deck is a complete 78 card Rider-Waite-Smith deck. EXIT VEIL introduces various ways one can use tarot for contemplation, meditation and problem solving. Using the same deck as seen in game makes this easier, but the lessons learnt while playing EXIT VEIL are compatible with any RWS tarot deck.
The Kickstarter campaign for Exit Veil ends on August 11, 2022. Currently, the game has surpassed its initial funding goals, and Cherrymochi studio plans to launch the game on PC (via Steam) as well as current and last-gen home consoles. They are also exploring the possibility of bringing Exit Veil to the Switch.
The estimated delivery for the game is October 2024. Click below for nearly four minutes of gameplay footage.
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