You know, I thought that getting a young princess through her final year before her coronation wouldn't be too tough -- even with all the court intrigue, invading armies, and economic issues. I was wrong. She died… a lot.
Like many PC gamers, I love Steam sales -- even though they do little more than leave me with less money and a larger pile of shame. However, during this past sale, I was rather good: I bought only a single game called Long Live the Queen -- a game that I had never even heard of but was sold on the moment I watched the trailer.
Long Live the Queen is a visual novel where, after the assassination of her mother the queen, the young Princess Elodie must ready herself to take the throne. To do this Elodie spends her time acquiring the vast amount of skills and knowledge she needs while also attempting to handle the obstacles opposing her rule. These range from economic issues and party etiquette to wars and assassination attempts -- so many assassination attempts.
The flow of the game follows this set cycle: Each week you (as Elodie) choose what subjects to study. How well you learn is based on Elodie's mood. If her dominate emotional state is anger, martial skills like swordsmanship come easily to her while those dealing with royal demeanor are impossible to learn. At the end of each week, you choose where to spend the weekend, with each possible location altering Elodie's emotional state in some way.
However, that is far from all there is to the game. The real bread and butter comes from the special plot scenes that happen every few weeks. Each of these events includes some kind of skill check -- e.g., you get a necklace from a noble and passing a "court manners" check will tell you more about what the gift means and what you should do with it. Failing the check simply means you don't get the information or the choice -- and you'll probably encounter some unforeseen consequences down the road.
Sometimes, though, failing the checks can be lethal.
Let me tell you about how my first Elodie died. She was spry and quick, with great reflexes. She was also a wiz at economics and trade. But perhaps her biggest asset was her network of assassins and spies who kept her potentially treacherous nobles in check -- compensating for her lack of the poise, presence, and manners of a queen. One day, she was invited to her friend's birthday party in a neighbouring castle. On her way there, the coach was attacked by bandits. Though her reflexes were through the roof, it was archery skills that could have saved her from getting an arrow in the chest. Still, it looked like she might still make it as she had some battlefield medicine training -- enough to remember to push the arrow through instead of pulling it out. But clearly she didn't remember what to do after that as she bled out and died.
As I played for the first time, I made notes of all the events, how high my skills were, and if I passed or failed. Armed with this knowledge of the future, I made my second Elodie.
Princess Elodie #2 looked and acted like a true queen. She was a master of courtly etiquette, public speaking, and military strategy. However, her biggest asset was the secret power within -- she was the strongest mage the kingdom (perhaps the world) had seen in centuries. She was kind to both commoners and nobles and was a true peacemaker -- except, of course, when confronted publicly and directly with physical harm. Then, she would unleash her magic along with an ample helping of scorn.
She died several different ways: First was in an honorable duel -- as she didn't know how to even hold a sword. Her second death (after a load) came on the deck of a ship as it sunk at sea. But finally, with the lessons learned from her third death (which I won't talk about because of spoilers), she proved victorious and did indeed make it to her coronation.
Of course, what makes Long Live the Queen so fun is that my way was only one of many possible ways to make it through the game.
So many seemingly small events have lasting consequences that change the story in drastic ways. In one playthrough, I strongly cemented Elodie's relationship with one of her allies as preparation for the game's climax. Of course, as it approached, I was also preparing for a slew of upcoming assassination attempts -- a slew of upcoming assassination attempts that never came. This, on my fourth playthrough, was how I discovered that perhaps my friend wasn't as friendly as I had thought.
Even now, after five times through the game, I have yet to come across many of the events hinted at by the achievement list. I have never had to quell a commoner rebellion or had an adventure in a magical forest. Heck, I haven't even managed to meet some of the possible love interests for Elodie. So, yes, I am looking forward to playing it again and again to find these events -- even though I am likely to die numerous times figuring them out.
When it comes down to it, Long Live the Queen is an excellent visual novel with an inordinate amount of replay value. If you like stat management, games like Princess Maker, the level of betrayal and intrigue found in Game of Thrones, or a liberal dose of morbid humour, this is the game for you.
So if Long Live the Queen sounds like your cup of tea, allow me to part by giving you one helpful hint: "court manners" is by far the most useful skill in the game; don't skimp on it or you'll be sorry -- and probably dead.
…OK, definitely dead.