It’s a day for firsts it seems with The Geek Clinic’s first review that features a guest writer and also its first encounter with BL content. As I didn’t consider myself part of Requiescence’s target audience I turned to The Geek Clinic’s Editor, Cobizah, to ensure that we could present an appropriate review. So without further ado…
Developer – Argent Games
Length – 10-30 Hours
Rating – PG-13 or R-18 (two versions)
[Review copy kindly provided by Argent Games]
[Argent Games have had no input into the content of this review]
Hello Geek Clinicers! Clinicees? Clinicians. I am Cobizah, an IRL friend of Silvachief’s and the editor of his blog. I’ve commandeered The Geek Clinic today because a while ago he got offered a review copy of a new OELVN called Requiescence, but as BL games aren’t his thing I have nobly stepped up and taken on the burden of playing a free game and then subjecting everyone to my opinion of it. And it only took me 2 months! (Apologies to the creators, I was on my medical elective.)
(Before we begin, for anyone who’s not familiar with the initialism “BL” it stands for “Boys Love” and means that the game/anime etc depicts male-male romance, and is often but not always targeted at a female audience. If you don’t like reading about that, don’t let me keep you! Door’s in the wall.)
Requiescence is the first VN by Argent Games, a small group of game developers based in Indiana. Silvachief has talked before about the struggles OELVNs currently face compared to Japanese VNs in finding a budget and an audience in a small and new market, and this applies even more so for Requiescence, being a BL game as well. It was funded through Kickstarter and made on a shoestring budget, and when you compare it to a mainstream Japanese VN, it shows. However, the atmosphere and voice acting are excellent, and these factors, along with a very serviceable plot and characters, make it worth playing and supporting.
Kymil is a young mage on a quest – to find out more about the mysterious cathedral his uncle wrote about in his journal before he equally mysteriously died. Once inside, the doors lock behind him, leaving him no way out but forwards, into the depths of the maze of passages the cathedral hold within. He meets three men and forms a tenuous alliance in order to escape the cathedral alive. But who can he really trust, when everyone has a hidden agenda, himself included?
The best part of Requiescence is the atmosphere it builds. Right from the start, it uses good music, intriguing dialogue and a personal attack to get you into the story. And it continues to grip you as the plot unfolds, with information given in bits and pieces by various sources of dubious repute. The plot keeps you guessing and you, like Kymil, don’t know who or what to believe. There’s quite a build up before the story diverges into the individual routes, and I enjoyed getting to know all the characters. Kymil is very likeable and easy to relate to, and while I wasn’t exactly swept off my feet by the three heroes initially, as their stories are revealed they all became much more interesting. Something I particularly liked was that there was a significant history connecting two of the dateable heroes! I’ve found this to be rare in other visual novels which tend to just be about the relationships between the main character and one hero at a time. Having two of the heroes have a past that didn’t involve Kymil made them feel more like real people.
Another strong point is the voice acting. Although only “partially” voice acted, the percentage must be something like 80%, and I actually found this more immersive and flowing because you could click through the dialogue at a natural pace, slowing down for important conversations which were often fully voiced. I also really liked all the voices, which were well suited to the characters and distinctive from each other. One small criticism is that one of the main VAs voiced a minor character as well, and because he has such a distinctive voice it was rather easy to tell.So when the two had a scene together, he was basically talking to himself… which is fine if you can change your voice a la Goku and King Kai, but didn’t work here.
The music is really excellent. It’s always noticeable, but augments the scene it’s in without ever overpowering or distracting from it. I imagine there were limited pieces due to budget, but I actually didn’t notice and never got bored of a piece of music. I definitely rate the music as one of the greatest contributors to the atmosphere Requiescence really relies on to keep you hooked and on edge.
The art style is quite different between the sprites/CGs and the backgrounds. The sprites/CGs are drawn in a fairly Western manga-ish way, which I initially wasn’t keen on but grew on me. The CGs were few but nice and they were well-used in the story. The background art is a sharp contrast to the sprites and is almost impressionistic in places, which I liked and thought was an interesting point of difference to other VNs I’ve read. Overall the art is serviceable but not Requiescence’s strongest point.
Most of my criticisms are not really criticisms, because they’re budget based and I understand and commend Argent Games on how much was done with so little budget. The backgrounds although cool-looking were quite limited in number and I had tired of some of them by the end of the novel. The sprites also had a fairly limited number of poses/expressions, and because of that I found that I didn’t look at them a lot and just focused on reading the dialogue. One real criticism that I do have is the 3rd route. You have to play the first two to unlock it, for reasons I’m not really sure of – it didn’t particular seem a “true” ending or have spoilers for the other routes. I was initially looking forward to that route the most but the character didn’t live up to the potential he’d had in the common route, and overall there were just a few weird choices, so for me the game ended somewhat anticlimactically.
Summary – Requiescence is the first outing of a brand new developer with a small budget and it shows. However, the game uses what it has to great advantage and definitely punches above its weight, with a wonderful atmosphere and small, but contained, and interesting story. In addition it’s very reasonably priced at 10 USD for 12-15 hours of gameplay if you play all the routes. If you’re a fan of Japanese BL visual novels I think you’d get your money’s worth, and help support bigger and better productions in the future.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable