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About the Story
In Fervency, you play as a person (male, female, or non-binary) who, after getting cured from a vicious plague by a mysterious physician, begins to feel some strange, and unfamiliar cravings - namely a fervent desire for flesh and blood.
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I figured that Fervency would take inspiration from the black plague epidemic during the 14th century in Europe and neighboring areas. It was so devastating that the timespan was called the Black Death. Still exists, but that’s another discussion.
Malignant miasmas have been assaulting your village for almost two weeks now. Pestilent toxins, noxious fluids. Even as you hole yourself up in your own home, you barely dare to breathe, lest the plague is airborne.
The game starts with an intro, during which I made some snap judgements based on what I saw: miasmas/humours + villagers + the dead being carted away + plague + bloodletting = plague years in the Middle Ages. I was hoping for a grimmer and serious game in a loose historical context like that of Vespers and Pilgrimage. I can tell you now that Fervency departs from that.
For a game of this subject matter, it is surprisingly cheery. Has the doom but minimal gloom. Messy but not quite as much (sort of) as the cover art and description suggest. Personally, it did not resonate with me, but it is good that the author decided to take an alternate route with the plague story concept. In terms of quality, Fervency needs some work, though it has strong potential to engage target audiences.
The game, already
The premise is that a plague is ravaging your home village. This is the realm of bird shaped protective masks, shaky beliefs on the origin of disease, and bloodletting. Every medical expert has tried and failed to stop the growing death toll. Daily life is isolation and fear, and you are dying.
Then, from nowhere, a visitor.
A strange woman appears before your deathbed with the promise that she can cure you.
Behind the fog of your dried-out eyes and dried-out mind, she stands there, like the Grim Reaper, or perhaps the Angel of Death. You weren't aware that you had neglected to lock your door - or perhaps you hadn't. Reapers and angels can probably pass through doors with no trouble.
That’s a potent introduction and an intriguing development when you are dying from the plague. Even though it does not explicitly say that she is an angel or reaper, the supernatural- or at least otherworldly- associations are there. Separate from the reality of a dying mortal, especially since she succeeds where all mortals have failed when curing this disease. Meanwhile, I was still glued to my Black Death + Middle Ages impression.
Even though she leaves a note saying she wants to help* the village, I felt that her skill at curing the incurable would not go over well with the village because of how it was conducted. She sneaks in, tells you the game plan, knocks you out, and cures you with some unknown method. Her entrance as a vague embodiment of the Angel of Death still lingered too, adding to the sense that she may have an otherworldliness that would leave the village a little uneasy. *(Spoiler - click to show)No.
The next day, two groups of people have gathered in the village. Healthy-looking ones, and gaunt ones that have been miraculously cured. I was expecting the former to call witchcraft and shun and/or be wary of those revived by some stranger wielding unexplainable magic in the night. Quite the opposite. Instead, everyone was all, “hi how are you?” which set the game into perspective. The final wakeup call that said, “you’re not playing Vespers, so get over it.” But there is more in store when the intro ends.
Kicking off the main gameplay, there is now an understanding that the village population falls into two categories: villagers who never got sick and anemics. Anyone cured by the Physician is an anemic. It is unclear of whether this was a good thing. Upside is that you survived the plague. Downside is that your sense of thirst and appetite are heightened. The game has you choose your type of craving.
I'm famished. A large slab of meat would do me good.
My throat is parched. I'm so thirsty I'm about to swoon.
Hunger or thirst? This decision will sculpt parts of the gameplay later. The big event in the main gameplay is that two nobles in the area are throwing a lavish costume party, inviting a mix of guests.
Now, the villagers and anemics get along quite well. This slowly changes as the anemics realize that the finest food and wine does nothing to dent their appetite. Civilized behavior goes out the window. It is not until (Spoiler - click to show) everyone gets wasted that they stop and ask, “what exactly did the Physician do to us?” Until then, party time.
The gameplay is heavily based on character interactions, mostly dialog for the first part. It follows the structure of talk to Character A about a list of prompts, then talk to Character B about a list of prompts, and so forth. Most of the prompts are the same aside from a few unique to the character. Later, you can choose to dance or interact further with an NPC.
This is not necessarily a negative feature. It is a great choice for players interested in that intimate character one-on-one at a group setting dynamic. Not so much for me, or at least with the writing. I do appreciate how it is not required to go through every prompt or interact with every character, which adds flexibility for players.
On that note, prompts could stand to be refined. Some were just back and forth banter. Are you looking forward to dinner? I’m looking forward to dinner. Do you have cravings? Same here. I like your scent. I skipped past those parts. Consensus: We hunger. If anything, I think the dialog is meant to pave the way for some romance later.
Fervency is not a romance game, but the traits emerge as the party goes on. No means a dating simulator. Just ways of indulging with that casual ooh la la your-costume-is-delectable flirtatiousness at a decadent party without pressuring the player to commit to anything. Again, did not dazzle me personally, but I could see this being a smash hit with some players. Especially the achievements.
I must admit, Fervency does a nice job of conveying the realistic longevity of a polite, refined party when everyone is trying to manage their symptoms while smiling and engaging in idle chatter. Almost like in Finding Nemo where the sharks are having a civilized conversation until someone gets a bloody nose. It is a scenario where (Spoiler - click to show) if one person loses it, everyone loses it as well. Chow down, quench your thirst, it's all on the menu.
An all-you-can-eat menu. Sooner or later, it does gets repetitive. It starts as an interesting ecstasy-ridden snacking free-for-all that drones on as the writing loses its eloquence. It gets to the point where they are devouring each other and I’m skimming through the text looking for something new. It’s more interesting to eat/drink nothing, go home, pat yourself on the back for not caving into your cravings, fall asleep, return to the manor, and see the absolute chaos caused by the previous night’s activities.
This brings us the question: (Spoiler - click to show) Is this really what the Physician intended when she game to “cure” of the plague? First off, the mysteriousness of her character decreases when she (Spoiler - click to show) casually shows up at the party dressed as a swan. Nothing ever she was not a mortal, but she seems more like an average sack of skin, bones, and organs than when she saved you from the plague. And second, (Spoiler - click to show) yes, she did intend for this happen.
To avoid ruining the entire game, I won’t hash out the details behind her healing (or “healing,” depending on your perspective) abilities. All I will say is that it turns people into proto vampires (my words, not the game’s). I’m not against that, but it currently feels undeveloped. This is meant to be feedback, rather than ridicule.
There are some bugs that tripped up the gameplay.
Sometimes the game would keep loading (indicated by an animated status bar appeared at the lower right side of the screen flickering in a universal "loading" message) but would not go to the next scene. I could not do anything else to the game. I ended up refreshing the page and starting over. Oh: The save files would not work either.
Then there are pop-up messages that freeze the game. Messages like “startup line 2518: increasing indent not allowed, expected 0 was 1” or “startup line 125: Achievement fuhrrvent already defined on line 93” that would render the game unresponsive when you clicked on the blue “okay” button to close the box. Again, I had to restart.
I applaud the author for allowing the player to jump ahead in the game to different sections. At the start of the game you can opt for the full meal (starting right from the beginning), the actual feast (party begins), or dessert (things get heated), the last of which is broken into four paths for you to choose from. And no, I’m not being cute with the eating analogies. I took it right from the game.
Point is the game can be buggy, but the author makes a point of accommodating this with ease of accessibility.
I was not sure of how to rate this game. As I’ve said, it did not exactly reach my interests, but I am confident that it will attract an eager audience. Tightening up the writing and pacing would make a difference. Plus, some (just some) bugs are sprinkled about here and there.
However, the game begins with a disclaimer saying that it is still a work in progress. That had a large influence in my rating since I did not want to take everything at face value. I hope this review functions partly as feedback even if reviewing was the main objective of my lengthy (lengthy) discussion.
While some parts, such as the party dialog options, were lengthy and lackluster, they serve as a solid outline. I am glad to see simply that content is there. What matters is that there is structure. The concept is on paper, and that is the first step. In this regard, Fervency is far more than a “first draft.” It is developed but would go further if it were developed a little more.
If you liked Fervency, I highly recommend that you sample The Lady’s Book of Decency. It’s a Twine game about an upper-class girl (and recently turned werewolf) who must prepare to attend a fancy ball during a full moon. It has stats, including one for hunger which matches perfectly with Fervency.
This affected me in a way that makes me need to give it 5/5 - I couldn't stop thinking about it and a variety of its endings. Some tragic, some jovial, and some "it is what it is."
The language is exquisite and delightfully flowery, making me need to stop from time to time to simply enjoy it. The atmosphere is gorgeous, theatrical and strangely gleeful in all its doom, as if it was all a foul game in some occasions. Beautifully decadent if you choose those paths. The characters are vivid and full of personality with their own eccentric ways.
Not to say it's perfect, because nothing ever is. If you don't like a slow burn, this won't be for you. The mingling scene was part lovely, part a study in tedium. I don't know the author's intentions, but it almost felt tongue in cheek from time to time.
It's a work in progress, so I can't say exactly where this is going, but I'm having a jolly good time at the moment. The erotic scenes are just that - highly erotic, and the platonic paths are equally satisfying.
I recommend this to people who enjoy atmospheric stories, but not as much to people who needs constant action. It's a strange story, but beautiful in its oddities.
|The Golden Rose, by Ana Ventura|
Average member rating: (10 ratings)
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