This game is one that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. It’s a strategy-centric visual novel based on helping the main character, Princess Elodie, survive the one year until her coronation after the death of her mother, the queen. My initial skepticism of a pink girly princess main character faded a bit by looking over the trailer, and since it was on sale I figured, why not, and grabbed it up. Naturally, it turned out a whole lot harsher and revealed more horrifying bits as I plowed my way into it over and over again, because I just had to try ONE MORE TIME.
Starting out, this is very obviously the kind of game that will be played through several hundred times as you try to make it past one more assassination or civil war or noble uprising. There are loads of skills to be learned and since you can only pick two per week, there will inevitably be gaps. Pairing that with the bonuses and negatives that the five mood stats give you means that choosing between skills you want and skills that you can get loads of points in changes things up. Trying to figure out which ones will be needed at what point in time is tricky, too. there are some set events depending on which checks you pass and fail, but many others seem to randomize a bit. And passing some checks just open up others. After the first dozen deaths or so, I tried writing down the checks in order so I could move forward, and this foiled me more than once. After all, the story line will change not only depending on the skill sets your character has, but the checks you pass or fail. In fact, making certain checks will give you more information that will alter the set of choices one can make, just to add more to the pile.
Diplomacy and currying favor with the people seemed like a good initial strategy, so that’s what I went with at first. At first, things seemed to be going well. I failed a check about a wearing a necklace early on that led to some awkward misunderstandings and then to making someone mad with a sloppy rejection of their proposal. Still, I thought things were going fairly well. Then, a civil war popped up; My nobles were displeased with my rule. Despite massive stats in intel, my military skill was too low to intimidate them into backing down. It was sloppy, but the uprising was quelled. At the ball, I failed in poise, dance, and flattery checks, only really managing court manner well. Thing weren’t going all that great, especially after the clumsy appearance at that parade, but still, I figured things were moving along well enough. Concerned for possible dangers on the road, I opted not to visit a distant friend. Things were still a bit muddy after that civil war, and I didn’t want to risk a horde of highwaymen assassins. It all seemed well enough until a mysterious benefactor sent me a box of chocolates, and I watched a half dozen failed checks roll by as Princess Elodie thoughtlessly scarfed all the poison down just before the big tourney. End of try one.
A dozen attempts later, I kept trying to dodge around the death only to be struck down elsewhere by poor decisions. I went on the trip to the friend’s and was shot through with an arrow. I accepted the initial marriage proposal, only to be killed in the civil war. I tried to squash the civil war before it started and wound up in an arranged marriage and killed by an assassin before I even bumped into my new fiancée. I sunk a bunch of points into making a good impression at the parade and then the ball, but not enough to not eat those damn chocolates again. I finally survived to the tournament only to be challenged to a duel by an upset noble and killed when my magic was too low to take out the other guy and my swords skill wasn’t enough to thrash him in the duel. Things just didn’t seem to be going well. Every time I thought I got how to fix something, new problems blindsided me. Even writing down the checks as they popped up meant I failed most of them, spreading myself too thin to succeed at more than a handful. It was frustrating beyond belief. Being a good ruler was just so damnably hard. So I tried changing up tactics.
Next round strategy: Crashing fully into the royalty skills to get into the treasury to get the crystal and slam into magic early and then opting out of the tournament didn’t help. Dead again. It was hard, but that made it a challenge. I HAD to live to coronation at some point! Time to change up even more.
After trying and failing to win the game through diplomacy and intrigue, I won the first time by becoming a super militant dictator lady who exploded her way into the treasury to get magic powers. Well, almost. I had to die in the unexpected final confrontation, and then run through again after leveling magic to the max and adding some weapons skills in addition to the military route. Of course, my triumphant swell at finally making it through to the end didn’t keep me high long. This just meant that now I had to find all the other possible endings.
I won’t talk about all of them here, though; Part of the delightfully addictive nature of this thing is coming back and discovering new bits. Once I finally decided to try making it to Briony’s party in a later run, a whole new bucket of stuff slopped over onto the floor. Being able to save at almost any time means that, if need be, you can backtrack a few days prior to an untimely death and crash level the skills needed to make it farther. Fool that I am, I didn’t think to take advantage of the saving feature until way, way after the third or fourth time living to the end. Not game, successful game. I’ve sunk way too many hours into this thing.
There are a lot of moments in this game that definitely feel very much Guide Dang It; Looking over the achievements list makes one scratch their head in confusion over how some of the things are supposed to even happen. That’s part of the charm, I think. It’s one of the few games I’ve played that makes it seem like the head to wall banging of multiple playthroughs and endings worthwhile. So many factors are at work that wildly different outcomes are all lurking in the wings, waiting to be discovered with just a little more perseverance.
So many little satisfying facets of the puzzle to find each time, it has plenty to offer and and wealth of replayability. For less than ten dollars, that’s not too shabby at all. I say it’s worth looking in to, at the very least. People fond of strategy games will most definitely enjoy it. It’s been one of the most satisfying Steam purchases I’ve made in a while, that’s for sure. – Mariya Pischalnikov (@madmechantrix)