So I usually don’t have a lot of times for games, I’ll get one that I like and play it a lot but the times I play are always very spaced out between other duties. But I also get bored sitting around and doing nothing so I’ll usually hop into the app store and download something free that I’ll inevitably delete a week later before downloading something else to keep me occupied in the few couple of minutes when I’m in a car or on a plane or just waiting for the next scheduled thing to happen.
I’ve found quite a few fun ones (PostKnight, High Sea Saga, A Girl Adrift, etc.), some ones with a bit of humor to them (WorkeMon, LivingAlone 2, etc.), some longer, more story-based ones that I’ve kept on the longest because I’m actually curious where they go (The Prison Boys, War of Crown, Song of the World, etc.), and a couple that I downloaded because they seemed either weird enough or bad enough to get a giggle outta me (I Became a Dog, etc.)
Recently I found one that… well, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of at first. I used to be a big fan of Harvest Moon when I was younger and still love a lot of the more combat/story-active Rune Factory series. Something on the appstore caught my eye because it reminded me of both of these in a way- that same ‘live out your life in a village where you can gather things/hunt monsters/fish’ kind of aura to it. Except it was also multigenerational, with one facet of the game being that you would get married, have a kid, and then go on to play as that kid. It struck me as a neat mechanic so I decided to give it a go. The name is kinda funny, too- “WorldNeverland - Elnea Kingdom.”
So here’s the funny thing, the way it’s presented the game makes it sound like the ultimate goal is to social climb your way up to becoming the Queen (or King) of Elnea Kingdom. And here’s the thing about me and games- if I give myself a challenge, I will make that challenge happen. (Just look at the many, many hours I’ve poured into BoTW solely trying to climb all the mountains on the very base amount of stamina and ignoring the main plot… except for the one time I wanted to see if I could climb to the top of Hyrule Castle with three hearts, one-and-a-fifth stamina wheels, and no equipment as, quite literally, the first thing I did once I got off of the starting Plateau. I got about halfway up before an archer shot me down.)
The Story of Illa Caine
So I made myself a little character, named her Illa Caine 'cause that sounded cool to me at the time, and decided that she was going to manipulate her way to the top of the Elnea Kingdom hierarchy one step at a time. And buckle up, 'cause this story got pretty funny halfway through Illa Caine and her ambitious adventure towards royalty.
So Illa arrives at the wharf on her first day, a Street Smart redhead with one eyebrow eternally perched above the other in a perpetual “are you serious” expression. You go through a fairly quick tutorial that you technically don’t have to do but I did some of anyway just to learn how to move around and do what I want. Once she figures out the basics of how Elnea works, Illa quickly decides to ignore everything else that the helpful tavern owner is telling her to do in favor of hunting down the nearest elligible bachelor in the royal family to trick into marrying her so that she can usurp the crown out from under him.
There’s good news and bad news- the bad news is that the Crown Prince is already married to someone else. The good news, however, is that he has two younger brothers, both single and close to Illa in age. Which means she gets to take her pick. But which one is better? Illa considers mostly the older brother, a blue haired fella second in line for the throne… But even if something tragic and not-at-all planned happened to the older brother, there was still a matter of the current Queen, her husand, the Crown Prince’s wife, and any children they might have in the time it takes Illa to convince the prince to marry her. Debating the pros and cons of each brother, she turns away from the public citizen rooster and crashes head first into- whaddaya know- the younger prince.
Figuring if that wasn’t a sign then nothing was, Illa jumps at the chance to launch into a conversation with Noel Flecker, third in line for the throne, that consists only on ‘Hello’, ‘You look happy’, and ‘Sure is nice out today, huh?’- with the occasional “Where’ya going?” or “What’re ya holdin’?” Thrown in for some spice. (The conversation mechanic is… limited.) She also throws a pizza at him.
She throws two pizzas at him.
He quickly becomes a close friend.
And, guess what his personality is? That’s right- he’s a Romantic.
Figuring that this entire goal was going to be over quicker than anticipated, Illa decides to go back to the tavern lady’s quest (by this point she’d been waiting on a fish delivery for a solid two days), so she invites Prince Noel to go fishing with her and they have some casual fun time fishing and talking about the most interesting topic in Elnea- how gosh darn good the weather is. Then this blonde chick comes up with a boquet of flowers and suddenly Noel is leaving their fishing trip to go off with this new lady and her boquet.
Obviously Illa wasn’t about to let this stand, so she chased them down all the way to the farm where apparently the lady brought him to gather some herbs. Illa puts a stop to that by spraying the Prince with some perfume (he said he didn’t like the smell at first but the second time she probably threatened politely asked him if he would like it Noel seemed all for the smell of Autumn even in mid-summer) and then, because he apparently didn’t want to go off into the middle of a dark forest filled with monsters with Illa, they compromise and fulfill Illa’s inherently spiteful nature by making him ditch his herb-gathering adventures with the boquet lady to come with Illa…
And gather herbs.
After a while of that Illa returns to the tavern lady and hands her a couple of day’s old fish that have been flopping around in her bag along with some bread, seeds, a sword, some worms, and fish bait since early in the morning. The tavern lady thanks Illa for the ingredients and says that Illa should come by sometime to try out the new recipe she’ll be cooking up with this very fish.
Illa politely declines. She then goes to talk with the librarian about becoming a permanent citizen in Elnea but turns out citizenship is damn expensive and she figures she’ll just marry into not only money but also citizenship as well once she becomes a contender for the crown.
So, in order to solidify her position of power she decides to befriend the Queen. This goes marginally well but the Queen is a busy, busy lady and won’t even come out to go fishing with Illa. (Nor will she accept any food, turns out that no matter what time of the day it is, the Queen has always just eaten. But I guess that’s how royalty works- you have the stomach of a god and probably a servant or two who follows you around feeding you grapes or something of the sort.)
So Illa opts for the second best thing- becoming best friends with the Crown Prince’s wife. (She also briefly befriends their youngest sister, who’s a child so all it took was some bread before they were good friends). The wife turns out to get along pretty well with Illa, and they hit it off so it takes just about a day of weather-talk before she’s in her good graces. Illa figures nows a good time as any to ask the Crown Prince’s wife to become her best friend- which is a complicated two-step process of first getting her to accept an invitation to the tavern (the entire Kingdom’s only supply of cooked food) and then a final step of once she’s in the tavern getting her to sit down and eat a meal with Illa.
Now, you’d think that you’d get the first step and the second would come naturally, right? If she says yes to coming over for a meal, then she’s gotta also actually eat the meal, right?
Well, apparently not. Illa invites this woman three times in the course of one day, and even though she’ll walk from one end of the kingdom to another to get to the tavern she always refuses to sit down and actually eat with Illa. Saying that they’re good friends- but not that good. So, Illa figures, okay, well, she’ll let her sleep on it and then they can reconvene in the morning. So she spends the rest of the day fishing with Noel, makes another friend in the mining corporation just for kicks (and because it helps to someone with an unlimited access to all the kingdom’s precious jewels), quickly and successfully becomes best friends with the girl she’d only known a day from the mining corp and then follows Noel into the castle and awkwardly stands in the Royal Chambers all night long waiting for the Crown Prince’s wife to wake up so that, as soon as she stands, Illa can ask her to come to the tavern with her and have a meal.
She says sure, she’ll come to the tavern at one a.m., even though the castle is fairly far away, with a woman who stood silently, unmoving by her bedside all night. Illa’s a good friend of hers and she hasn’t had breakfast yet, so it makes sense. Thinking this is it, this is the time she finally solidifies her hold on the Royal Family, Illa takes her to breakfast.
But the woman refuses to eat again.
At this point, Illa decides to settle for what she’s got. They’re close friends, not best friends, but close friends and that’s gotta be enough to get Noel to marry her, right?
So Illa spends a day with Noel, she gives him a ribbon, she throws more pizza at him (even some bread), and even hands him a slimy fish she caught that morning after being rejected by his sister-in-law. But for some reason he just won’t budge, no matter how many not-dates they go on, no matter how much stuff she throws at him, no matter how much weather they talk about he just won’t date her- let alone marry her!
Illa thinks that maybe this is because she’s still just a lowly traveler- maybe if she was a citizen she’d be able to truly be with Noel. So Illa works, she fishes day and night, hunts down monsters, and picks mushrooms in the depths of the forest- she traverses through caves and beats coal out of rock- all until she can finally, finally scrounge up enough money for her citizenship permits.
As a bonus, she also receives a dingy little apartment and a new dress. Hooray.
With newfound vigor, Illa decides to ask Noel to go off into the woods with her and hunt some monsters in celebration. He’s never agreed to it before and she figures he won’t and she’ll just head off by herself anyway (hitting monsters with her sword had, by this time, become Illa’s favorite passtime.)
Surprisingly, Noel accepts. And the two happily saunter off into the deep, dark woods to do some monster huntin’.
Mistakenly, they saunter off into the deepest, darkest woods that Illa has access to, with the hardest monsters.
Even more mistakenly, Illa thinks it’ll be ‘more romantic’ if it’s just the two of them traversing through the woods together, with no one more experienced alongside them. (Especially if she used their bonding time to then ask him out afterwards, which would be awkward if someone else came along.)
It… doesn’t go well. Illa’s dying, Noel’s dying, they’re three-levels deep into the five-course dungeon and she’s already down to two healing bandages and nothing else. But they’re making it through, and she’s thinking maybe, just maybe they can make it to the final boss and then turn around, so long as they’re together. They can do this. And later it’ll be a fun story to tell the kiddos, heck, she could even earn points with the Queen by saying she saved her son.
They make it to the fourth dungeon, it’s getting a little easier even though they’re both horribly ill-equipped for this kinda thing. They make it to the end, Noel proclaims, simply that the dungeon is ‘so easy he could do this alone!’ Illa of course scoffs and says ‘yeah, mmhmm, sure, buddy.’
And then Noel leaves her.
Apparently he’s decided that not only can he do the dungeon alone, but that he will. The prince left her to die, in the middle of the forest, all alone.
Illa, logically, panics. There’s no way to turn around until she reaches the end of the fifth level- the hardest level. She slashes her way through wave after wave of monsters, and she’s bleeding out and down to just one last bandage for healing but the progress bar is saying that she’s already 70% of the way there. Illa lucks out, dodges three traps of twisting vines, poisonous gas, and jagged stalagmites jutting up from the forest floor. (Weird but she wasn’t concerned with the logistics of the forest ecosystem at this point in time).
Then she takes a blast of poisonous gas to the face- and her HP goes from 100 to 50, she finally uses her last healing item to bring it back up to a meager 150. Illa staggers forward, and at 80% she runs into a hoarde of five monsters. This is it, she thinks, she’s going to die here. Still, she claws her way through them, escaping with a meager 28 health.
She can make it! She can-
Get hit with another blast of toxin, and Illa collapses to the floor. She loses everything, all her experience, all her items, everything she’d gathered on her trudge forward.
Understandably mad as hell at Noel, and with the already added frustration of the Crown Prince’s wife rejecting her four times now, and the Queen never giving her the time of day… Illa decides that she’s not going to marry into the throne. No- she’s going to become their personal guard, get as close as she can to the royal family, and she’s going to marry someone else and end their reign. Her child is going to be the King or Queen, and a Flecker will never, ever feel the throne’s cushion beneath them again.
She staggers, injured but with a new determination, out of the forest. She limps her way towards the citizen records and looks for the richest single man she can find, figuring she’ll marry into a high position and use that as leverage to quickly rise the ranks of the Knight’s once she enters the Tournament they hold to hire new knights.
She finds the perfect candidate, his name was Henry and he was a priest on the verge of death. But he wasn’t just any priest, he was the head priest. A man of both power and failing health due to old age. Better yet- he had no other family, so she figured she’d trick him into marrying her as something of a political arrangement and then once the old guy kicks the bucket and she earns all his money she’ll go on to buy the best sword out there, slaughter the competition in the tournament, and leverage her newfound title into power through the Knight’s society. From there it’ll be easy to find a more suitable suitor, charm whoever he is, and train her kid to be the ruthless ruler she always dreamed of being herself.
So she invites him out on a couple of dates and turns out Henry isn’t just a devout priest but also a fanatic monster slayer, so the two of them bond while hunting through the forests Illa was abandoned in by Noel. (She runs into him several times along the way, and each time Noel tried to invite her out for fishing or herb gathering, but Illa quickly shut him down). Still, Illa always leaves before the last dungeon, scared by the fact that Henry seems rather fond of the phrase “This is so easy I could do it myself!” each time they reach the fifth segment.
Which leaves her waiting outside the dungeon quite a bit for him to return from the final leg of the excursion.
This is where she meets Volos. A young knight patrolling the forest who decides for, really no real reason at all, to come up and chat with Illa in her downtime. He frequents the dungeon himself, apparently, as she never sees him anywhere else. They hit it off rather well, both sharing an apparent love for exploration and monster-slaying.
And for the first time, Illa’s determination wavers. Things were already going shaky with Henry, she wasn’t really attracted to him at all herself (only utilizing his position of power for her own gain), and he seemed to have plenty of other suitors as well. While Volos seemed to have no one else pursuing him, and he and Illa actually got along well, he was… just a knight. He had no power, no money, nothing but his armor and the sword on his back. She decided to take the ultimate test- she would explore to the end of the dungeon with both Volos and Henry, and see if either one of them abandoned her, and who was truly going to be loyal to her goals.
… Both of them left by the fourth segment.
Illa, powered half by frustration and half by weeks and weeks of training, slashed her way through the rest of the dungeon, until she finally reached the last boss. Illa had never made it this far, she’d never even seen the last boss let alone fought it. She knew that if she lost here, she would lose everything, again. Just like before.
Only now, she had nothing to lose.
Illa clashed with the boss, giant tree monsters guarded by the monsters that inhabited the forest, she carved her way through their minions, and cut down one of the large creatures before coming face to face with her final enemy. It was a tense battle, each tossing back blows of equal power- though Illa was grievously injured, and her opponent was not. She had 50 health, and all seemed to be lost. In a desperate attempt she threw everything she had at the monster and… it fell.
She had done it, Illa had beaten the dungeon she’d been left to die in, twice, and done it all on her own.
Illa swore then, limping out of the dungeon, that she was never, ever going to give up on her goal of putting her blood on the throne. But she was going to do it on her own merits. Even if it meant clawing her way through waves of monsters all on her own to prove herself to the head of the Knight’s, she was going to do it. She was going to do it with her own strength, and nobody else’s.
No more marrying for power, or position, if she was to meet and fall for somebody it was going to be for love. No more leveraging of unearned titles or manipulation of family emotions, none of that had worked before.
She was going to get revenge on all those that had hurt her, all that had broken her heart or refused her friendship or otherwise abandoned her.
She was going to bring them all down to their knees.
And she was going to do it proudly.
Long story short- this game is very fun when you take it too seriously. And I’m not yet done with Illa so… we’ll see what happens next!