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Long Live the Queen (PC) artwork

Long Live the Queen (PC) review

"Trial and error in games is not always a bad thing, but when there is very little logic involved in making an initial choice, reloading to try another is less entertaining than one would hope."

Long Live the Queen tells the story of Elodie, a 14-year-old princess. With her mother dead, Elodie must survive 40 weeks until her fifteenth birthday when she will be crowned Queen. Power hungry nobles are all around her, and a war with a rival nation is looming. Countless other threats, both mystical and mundane, make the task of survival a serious challenge.

The visual novel is an odd duck in the gaming world. I once read a description of the Sonic the Hedgehog series as having appeal because of how well it hid its math (for spins and loop-de-loops and such) behind its cartoony surface. If one accepts that explanation, then the appeal of the visual novel exists somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum, its logic practically smacking the player in the face from behind a transparent veneer of mostly static anime imagery.

Long Live the Queen (PC) image

Long Live the Queen is no exception. Anyone who has read a Choose Your Own Adventure story knows how to “play” a visual novel like this. You are presented with the text of a story, and at certain points decisions need to be made. When you advance to a new story segment that segment is based on your last decision. There are multiple paths and multiple endings.

In the case of Long Live the Queen, many of your decisions are life and death. Mainly, these decisions are abstracted into choices about what subjects you will have Elodie study each week. From falconry, to archery, to branches of military theory and royal etiquette, the options about what to study are numerous. Studying increases the numeric stat of each particular subject, and multiple skill checks occur each week that depend upon these statistics. Study archery up to a certain level, for example, and an assassination attempt will fail when Elodie hears the familiar sound of a bowstring being drawn and ducks before being struck.

Usually these life and death skill checks offer multiple ways to save yourself. In the above example, the player can avoid a game over if Elodie succeeds in a battlefield medicine check after being struck when she fails the archery check. Sometimes these checks are a little silly and random, with no way for the player to know what skill should have been developed.

Long Live the Queen (PC) image

This system is the game's biggest strength and also its biggest weakness. Developing skills and seeing how they help Elodie survive and thrive is fun. However, there are far too many available for the player to successfully choose a set that will lead to survival. Exactly which skill will be checked at the next life or death turning point is unknowable. Only through keeping a steady backup of multiple save files will the player be able to plod through a path to completion. Trial and error in games is not always a bad thing, but when there is very little logic involved in making an initial choice, reloading to try another is less entertaining than one would hope. You will never guess that training an animal will help your princess overcome a poisoning attempt until you see the skill check fail via an onscreen indicator immediately preceding a death scene.

Another wrinkle to the gameplay is that Elodie's mood greatly effects the rate at which she will be able to learn a skill, or even if she will be able to advance in a skill at all. To change Elodie's mood the player has the option of exploring the castle once every week. Spending time playing tennis will combat depression, while spending time hearing citizens at the Royal Court will increase the amount Elodie feels pressured. It isn't all about managing negative emotions, though. Sometimes it is useful to leave Elodie scared or depressed before heading into training. Managing her emotional and intellectual development can be fairly complex, and it is wise to take notes while playing (or have a guide handy from someone who has).

There are branching paths for survivors, and multiple ways to complete the game. Different endings solve problems in different ways, and a detailed epilogue explains how the decisions the player made influenced the world. These are varied enough to provide incentive for multiple playthroughs, but one will perhaps want to refer to a guide to avoid further rounds of trial and error gameplay and simply do what it takes for the desired ending.

If a player has an interest in visual novels, especially the somewhat rare non-pornographic kind, I recommend Long Live the Queen as a flawed but enjoyable adventure. If you've never played a visual novel before due to lack of interest, I do not think this game will change that.

Germ's avatar
Staff review by Jeremy Davis (January 06, 2015)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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