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RPG Codex Review: Long Live the Queen
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 13 July 2014, 18:44:59Tags: Hanako Games; Long Live the Queen
[Review by Deuce Traveler; edited by Infinitron]
Back in the decline-plagued year of 2011, with no proper RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin or tactical RPGs like Blackguards in sight (and with Age of Decadence remaining the all-too-easy subject of "vaporware" jokes), our very own Darth Roxor did a review of the CYOA RPG Academagia. Our readers generally prefer "full-fledged" RPGs, or at least those with good combat or interesting "choices & consequences" (C&C for short), so Academagia didn't really gain a lot of traction around these parts. However, CYOA RPGs are still RPGs, at least to some extent, and so it shouldn't be too surprising that another one, Long Live the Queen!, has caught our attention.
In this quick review, esteemed community member Deuce Traveler tells us what's good about the game -- but also what's bad, and not particularly exciting, about it.
There are plenty of people on the Codex who dream of being a pretty princess. Some of them even have a tag labelling them as such. Yet despite those dreams, there haven't been many video game that would allow you to become one. Well, I have some good news for all the inner princesses trapped in the bodies of greasy neckbeards: Hanako Games have published a princess simulator, in which you play a young princess in training who is set to be crowned queen on her upcoming 15th birthday. What follows is my short review of Long Live the Queen, so go grab a mountain dew, pour a bowl of doritos, and put your feet up while I pontificate on my experience.
Long Live the Queen is categorized as a simulation game and an RPG on GOG.com and Steam, though Hanako Games refer to it as a visual novel. It is similar to the much older Princess Maker 2, in that you start with someone unskilled and can develop her through lessons, although there are also some distinct differences. First, in LLTQ you have direct control over the developing princess, in contrast to playing a patriarch commanding her development. Second, Princess Maker 2 is a bit more complex as you also have to balance finances used to purchase lessons, and you can send your princess to work for money, while in LLTQ, our tireless heroine has no concern for personal finances.
You play the 14-year old Elodie, who is to become the next queen in 40 weeks. Each game turn takes place over the course of one week, with each turn consisting of three phases of play. In the first phase, you determine what field Elodie will study, with options such as Composure, Foreign Affairs, Naval Warfare and so on. Taking these lessons increases Elodie's corresponding skills. Skills are associated into groups of three, each of which corresponds to an overarching skill with a value equal to its average. For example, if Elodie learns Novan History at skill level 50, Foreign Affairs at skill level 30, and World History at skill level 40, then her general history skill level will be 40, the average of the three.
In the second phase you decide on an activity for Elodie to conduct, such as sneaking out, visiting the chapel, or helping at court. This second phase affects Elodie's overall mood, which in turn makes learning some lessons harder or easier for her. For instance, if she is Afraid then her Agility and Faith skills will increase faster through lessons, but her Royal Demeanor, Weapons, Intrigue and Military skills will be learned at a reduced rate. I had some issues with the game here, as I could not find a tutorial or guide that explained how the mood system worked. It seems that the developers expect the player to spend some time mapping how the different actions in this phase affect Elodie's mood, and which skills are affected by each mood. Mastering the mood system is a key element of the game - you'll quickly find that long-term planning of Elodie's growth is essential to your success.
The third phase is story-driven, consisting of branching narrative paths that you will traverse depending on past decisions you made with Elodie. Usually you will be challenged with a static skill check during this phase, and if Elodie has the corresponding skill at the necessary level, then she will be rewarded with additional decisions that affect her future. For instance, early in the game Elodie receives a gift from a foreign noble. If she has enough points in Court Manners, she understands the significance of the gift and can decide whether or not to wear it publicly, otherwise that choice is taken away from her and she is forced down a particular path. If you fail too many of these checks, it is likely you will not survive to see your coronation and the game will end.
That brings us to the topic of survival. This may be a cute-looking game illustrated with a Japanese anime style, but don't let that fool you. During my journey through this visual novel, I have seen Elodie overthrown (the least negative bad ending you can expect), poisoned, shot with an arrow, stabbed at a ceremony, beaten to death with a staff, and killed in a magical duel. Other endings include wonderful fates like being drowned at sea, blowing yourself up, and (according to a image on GOG) being dragged away by a tentacle monster. All of these deaths are presented in a cute, PG-rated fashion. Afterwards, you are free to restart and try again with a difference choice of skills, to see if you can get past your last failure.
And this is my biggest issue with Long Live the Queen. There is no way for you to predict the various skills that you will need to survive. In one playthrough, I had done well building up my courtly skills, only to fall victim to an arrow that I could not avoid due to a lack of archery skills, nor treat the resulting wound due to a lack of battlefield medicine skills. So, I loaded a previous save and pumped my skills up just enough to be able to live through the attack and move on. The game is won on the basis of trial and error rather than any tactical decision making on part of the player. It really is just a choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) visual novel. Due to its lack of randomization or tactical considerations, the skill checks are simply another CYOA element. Even the somewhat similar skill building simulator, the infamous Slave Maker 3, has more randomization, and that game is a fan project.
That brings me to my final point. Long Live the Queen is a fine story as seen through Elodie's eyes, and the character works as a quirky slate for the player. However, the supporting cast is full of unsympathetic arseholes. Even Elodie's father hides critical information from her, despite having a vested interest in her survival. Her friends are fickle, the nobility behave as vultures over a rotting carcass, and the peasants are either dull or violent. With so many unlikable characters, I often found myself playing Elodie as a martial character, mastering warfare, weapons, and magic. To the game's credit, however, you can play as a much more cultured and peaceable character and still win. I have read, for instance, that there is a winning path for someone who becomes a master musician. You can also develop romantic relationships with many of the different characters, despite a range of ages and genders. Because of this, the game has some replay value for those willing to work through its trial-and-error gameplay loop.
Ultimately, I didn't find Long Live the Queen to be very enjoyable as a game, although it was an interesting experience from a mechanical standpoint. I also do not think it should be considered an RPG, though I respect those who would disagree. Despite my critiques, I would strongly recommend Long Live the Queen to those who enjoy anime-styled visual novels. Oh, and all of you with pink-frilled princesses waiting to burst out of your male shells should also like it more than I did, so grab it on GOG or Steam for a few dollars if you swing that way.