I’m not exaggerating when I think this is possibly the best ever WiP I’ve played! The more I play it, the more I’m impressed by it. I usually find with a lot of games that even if I like them overall, there’s also at least one thing I don’t especially like (big or small), whether that be a game mechanic, something to do with the narrative, a lack of certain choices, the romance options, etc. With this game, I honestly don’t really think anything that I could identify and say “yeah, I don’t like that”. The only things I can add are maybe the odd suggestion to improve the game even more, though even if you completely ignore what I say, I genuinely think this game will be awesome regardless.
1): I’m so intrigued by all of the main characters. Initially, it seems like Stanislas is obviously the bad guy - after all, he had our parents assassinated and tried to do the same to you and Ariana! Except it’s as simple as that. It’s clear that he didn’t go through with his plans as a tyrannical power-grab, but because he genuinely believes that our parents (and the royal family at large) are war-mongering despots who need to be replaced in order for there to be true peace and stability for the kingdom (whether or not we agree with his views is another thing, however). Of course, this could possibly be all a ruse on his part, but the way he seems remorseful if you express your pacifism at the beginning makes me believe his stated ambitions and goals are sincere.
2): Ariana’s an interesting case. Having played the game numerous times (as a MC who fully supports her views, one who goes against her views, and one who’s somewhere in the middle), I have to say that while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that she’s a tyrant/villain right now, she definitely has the potential to be one. I get that she’s grieving from the loss of her parents and that she can’t let regicide and the threat of a foreign invasion go unanswered, but the way she goes about it leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, she may be a strong warrior and an inspirational leader, but it takes more than that to be a good ruler. Even considering the circumstances, she’s far too emotionally unstable, unable to truly see the bigger picture or take in opposing (or not even necessarily opposing, just a bit more nuanced than she would like) viewpoints - especially those of their younger sibling, which brings me onto my next point.
While obviously the way the MC feels about Ariana is entirely dependent on the player, I’d argue the relationship between the two clearly isn’t the healthiest, regardless of how you play it. I’ve seen some views of her which state that she clearly loves the MC (even if the MC is antagonistic towards her), which I can’t agree with at all. While she says at one point that she’d love to rule with you at her side, if you play an MC who disagrees with her even slightly it seems hard to believe that her offer is genuine. She comes across as very emotionally abusive, consistently belittling you and dismisses your opinions if they aren’t in full agreement with hers - if I constantly have to cow-tow to your whims without question, agree (or at the very least, not disagree) with every single of your views, in order for you to not dislike me, then that’s not love as far as I’m concerned. For me, she doesn’t truly see the MC as their own person, but as an extension of herself (of our family)
For me, a lot of Ariana’s “love” for the MC is very much conditional (rather than unconditional); she clearly looked up to and embodied the seemingly warring and martial values of our parents. If we, as a more pacifistic character (for example), go against/disagree with these values, then (in her mind) we’re going against our family (against her). Hence her “love” and respect for us is diminished. Again, she’ll say things like “you know I love you, right?”, but I’m not sure she truly understands what love is. Love is not only meant to be unconditional, but it also entails respecting the other person, which I’m not sure she does in our case (certainly based on my playthrough as an MC with different personality and values to her).
However, having said all this, while I don’t like Ariana as a person at all, I don’t need to; the purpose of a character isn’t for them to be likeable, but to be interesting. The various ways the MC can be played in regards to their sister is fascinating to me. With the way Ariana treats my MC, while I probably wouldn’t plot to kill her per se, I could definitely see them letting Ariana die if the opportunity arose.
3): Reading through all of the earlier posts, it seems like there was a bit of pushback against the way the ROs have been implemented, but I’m glad you stuck to your guns. The way you’ve gone about it is exactly what I’ve always wanted from a romance perspective. To me, having a pool of smaller, yet better developed and fleshed out, ROs is the way to go in my opinion. The two ROs have clearly distinct personalities from each other, and (from having played the game numerous times), there’s evidently a lot of variation in the way you can play the romances (certainly that’s been my experience with Cyril).
Speaking of Cyril, oh my god, I think I might have found my favourite RO in any game ever. Again, having looked through earlier posts, it seems like they’ve went through a couple of changes personality-wise, but from what I’ve played now, oh my God, I think I’m in love!
4): I enjoy the different ways that the MC can be roleplayed. I often feel with a lot of games that I can’t always act in a way which feels congruent with how I’m trying to roleplay, so I really appreciate the diversity of options and reactions that the MC has.
One option I’d maybe like to see added would be to define how we feel about our parents. I know there are a couple of potential conversations later on with Ariana and Cyril, but I was kinda hoping there could be an option earlier where (internally), we could state how we feel about our parents (similar to how at the beginning we can choose how we feel about Ariana, whether we love or hate her, for example). For me personally, I think it would it would help to flesh out the MC a bit more, as I can really get into their head more, and understand why they’re reacting in a particular way (for example, I headcanon that a lot of my MC’s stoicism with regards to his parents deaths is because he felt ignored by them, like he was just a ‘spare’, and thought that they loved him less than Ariana).
5): Sorta based on my last point, I’m also kinda wondering how much of the dialogue options we can select are meant to be taken at face value? I notice some of the options have the word “lie” in brackets, so obviously they’re meant to be lies. What I guess I mean is, is if an option doesn’t have that beside it, are we meant to take that as that’s how the MC genuinely feels? I ask because with some conversations, I feel as if what my MC (in my mind) is feeling is different from what they actually say to whomever it is they’re speaking to. For example, my MC didn’t love his parents, but I wouldn’t want to say that to Cyril when they ask us about our relationship with them (if you know what I mean?). Same with if Ariana questions us on why we don’t seem to care about our parents’ deaths - yes, my MC doesn’t particularly about his parents being dead (beyond being worried about the effects that it’ll have on the kingdom and the war that’s brewing), but I don’t feel it would be in character for me to actually say that to her face.
6): I noticed that after Ariana becomes Queen, it still says that we’re second-in-line, but shouldn’t that change to first-in-line (as in, we’re first in line if Ariana dies)?
Sorry if this comment is super long - I just love so much what I’ve played so far that I felt I absolutely had to comment on it (i have numerous other thoughts, but I should probably stop here for now before this post becomes even longer than it already is)! Praise where praise is due!
Keep up with what you’re doing, and you’ll have an amazing game on your hands.