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About the Story
Vespertines is an urban fantasy/romance interactive fiction about demons and found family. You play as a human working at a bar for demons, getting to know your customers and collecting their stories.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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What first attracted me to this game as I browsed through the interactive fiction tag on itch was the banner art. It's dynamic--the color palette is sumptuous, excellent composition, killer style and a person engaging in the oft-taboo act of smoking. (I adore cigarettes, aesthetically and actually. If they didn't destroy my meatsack I'd engage them like a hobby. Fictional characters aren't burdened meatsacks. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em!)
"But Laurie," the fictional audience in my head says. "Isn't this a text-based IF game? What does great art have to do with anything?" And to that I tip my sunglasses down my nose, light a fictional cigarette and say, "Vibes."
This game has a great start, setting the player in a clear time and place that guides, but does not stifle, the imagination. You play as a fully customizable PC on the run from a nebulous past. Details unfold in this story gently and enticingly, inviting you to invest more of your imagination in exchange for a rich story. A fair trade.
"Skyscrapers loom like cold cliffs around you, riddled with fluorescence, hemming you in and stealing real-estate from the stars." *chef kiss*
This was the first IF game I played that allowed for gender-selectable ROs. I wasn't sure how I felt about the concept at first--I worried that it would affect the authenticity of the characters if they weren't written with a specific gender lens in mind. Then, the more I thought about my thoughts, it seemed like they were generated by some old, baked-in terfy nonsense from my conservative upbringing. The customization empowers the player to have more control over their experience of the narrative and further invest themselves in the story. That's a positive for everyone.
Vespertines allows for what I think of as "personality tone" for the playable character. There's a couple of binary gauges to help give you a sense of the mechanics being checked in-game. I'm really enjoying these games that let me play as a softer, more vulnerable character. When I was younger, all I wanted were characters that were bad-ass, take on the world, chew their problems and spit them at their enemies type of heroes. I wanted to play as someone confident and disgustingly capable because I wanted to believe I could be those things. Lately, I find myself drawn to characters that have space to feel, that are frightened because the world is frightening, that can cry and still face the challenge ahead of them because I want to believe I can be those things. And I love Vespertines because in my heart there's a frightened girl waiting for the monsters to save her from humanity.
Another thing I loved. I got to be a vegetarian in the game. <3 Little ties to my real life add such specialness to a game
This is an urban fantasy Twine game about seeking refuge in a new city. On your first day in Bareport you make a monumental discovery: contrary to what you always thought, the population of modern civilization is not entirely human. (Spoiler - click to show) Demons partly make up the waking world and have lives of their own in society. With nowhere else to go you find yourself taking a job at a bar called Vespertines with unearthly patrons.
At first, I thought this was a full-fleshed game. The game’s IFDB page explains that it is a multi-branching story with different endings. Right now, it is currently a demo (though a quality one, nonetheless). This review is for CHAPTER 1.
This is a Twine game that features character customization. It starts with the basics of choosing name, gender, and pronouns, and later lets the player customize the protagonist’s physical appearance such as hair, height, eyes, and body type. It only takes up a brief portion of the gameplay but still adds some richness that is nice to find in choice-based games.
Most of the gameplay is based on conversation, which some significant choices near the end such as (Spoiler - click to show) deciding whether to get a tattoo of a protection ward. I had the impression that the gameplay would be largely about the protagonist in their new job, but the chapter ends (Spoiler - click to show) once Gremory agrees to employ them. If you were looking forward to encountering paranormal bar patrons, you are out of luck at the moment.
There is not much to spoil right now. The story is still developing since the game is only on the first chapter. This is a partly a romance game and so far, everything has been built around (Spoiler - click to show) introducing the two (potential) romance option characters. But the game does not feel over-saturated with romance either. The characters are interesting for other reasons and the player is not required to purse a romantic relationship with them. I think this flexibility will appeal to players.
Most of the other urban fantasy games that I have played so far are a bit grittier. This one is a little more lighthearted and upbeat without abandoning its somber undertones. Then again, this is just the first chapter. I cannot say what direction it will go in.
The protagonist has run away from home for some unexplained reason, other than that they are being hunted by an unnamed entity. The only default piece of character background is that they previously lived in a country environment and now must adjust to life in the city. But other than that, the protagonist’s character features are selected by the player.
There are two love interests, Ashheart and Gremory, that can be romanced in the game, and their gender is selected by the player. Romance games can stumble when it comes to pacing or character dialog but so far, the game has managed itself pretty well. The characters, Ashheart and Gremory, do not seem contrived. Ashheart is thoughtful, mysterious, and cryptic without overdoing it while Gremory is an interesting blend of no-nonsense and compassion.
The game’s description flat-out mentions (should I put this under spoilers just in case? Fine.) that Ashheart and Gremory are (Spoiler - click to show) demons. While this proves to be a startling discovery for the protagonist the player already has a sense of what to expect. The game still devotes a chunk of gameplay for the player to ask questions about (Spoiler - click to show) demons and their place in society which adds some worldbuilding. The game ends before we get a chance to interact with other NPCs, but I hope that upcoming characters share the same quality.
The game’s appearance is basic but stylized. Grey screen with light grey text and pink links. The font and text organization create a simple and elegant look. There is a column on the left side of the screen with a link called “profile” that has an overview of your character’s attributes and stats. The game keeps track of stats for character self-awareness and attitude which are shown in percentage bars, similar in appearance to the format used in ChoiceScript games. While the game is currently not long enough to really see these stats at work, there indicators that the player’s choices do influence the gameplay, making everything more robust. For example, (Spoiler - click to show) if you have a high enough “withholding” stat an option to trust a character may be grayed out in an encounter. This provides opportunities for strategizing and encourages multiple playthroughs.
This game has a lot of great things going for it including smooth implementation and complex characters. Does urban fantasy romance sound like your cup of tea? To summarize, here are some defining features that may interest players:
-Choice-based format romance with flexible gender identity and orientation
-Paranormal non-human NPCs
-Atmospheric city setting
-Offers another interpretation of the urban fantasy genre
Even if I was expecting Chapter 1 to have more content, I must admit I found myself thinking, “aw, it’s over?” It is off to a great start, and I hope it continues in this trajectory.
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