Nice seeing this bit of history get some limelight; I enjoyed your prior game, and it’s nice to see another one. In particular, the attention drawn to the extraordinarily bloody Taiping Rebellion.
One bug I noted: if you deal with the French in Indochina and turn Vietnam into a buffer state, when you return to the chapter option screen you get this:
You return from Taiwan to find challenges remaining on China’s periphery.
Some thoughts and suggestions:
- Generally I felt quite railroaded in that I was certain that I’d lose if I meddled in affairs which my character wasn’t good at. Playing as someone who focused mainly on law & order, I avoided military affairs like the plague.
- It wasn’t that clear how stats changed, and where I wanted a stats increase I picked an option and hoped it increased what I wanted.
- A bit more detail before the choices and what they would entail would be appreciated. Also potentially the number of selectable options per scene.
- I’d haved like a bit more attention covering the recovery from the Taiping Rebellion, due to its staggering death toll and the destruction. Millions died from famine and plague, not just the warfare, and though there’s a chapter dedicated to the conduct of the war, experiencing the recovery is optional and somewhat glossed-over.
- Is it possible to avoid the Second Opium War, especially if you avert the First Opium War and choose to continue as Governor of Guangdong?
- Perhaps a lenient/open-doors PC governor to simply avoid the Arrow Incident so that when the Taiping Rebellion rolls around the Brits are too busy with the Indian Rebellion to get involved in the second war? Or at all, if the First war never kicked off.
- In general, is it possible to avoid European military intervention, and if not, might it be possible as a “golden route”?
- Is it possible for China to end up in warlordism?
- Some more opportunities for international diplomacy might be interesting. So far I’ve only run into the Opium War defusing and the British/Russian involvement in the Great Game. It would be quite a bit to do, but I did enjoy the mention of being pro-British and using that against the French in Vietnam.
- Some ideas might be being able to choose which countries you allow to invest in China, which you might intend to undermine, with the potential of undermining the Eight-Nation Alliance in the long run. Or perhaps trying to play them against each other so that they’re less preoccupied with attempting to carve up China.
- Increased British investment is already factored in-game, but they could play it up to prevent French influence in China. Germany historically was a major player in reforming the RoC’s military in the 1920s and 1930s, so that could be a route. The Americans with their knowledge might help expand railroads; the Russians might attempt the Trans-Siberian earlier.
- This is probably way out of the game’s scope, but a mention of any potential Chinese involvement in this universe’s equivalent of the Great War in the epilogue would be rather cool.
- I don’t suppose a light character creation might be possible? Different starting bonuses for Manchu or Han, perhaps? So far the game seems to imply (by my reading) that you’re Han.
- EDIT: Perhaps a variation on the “Constitutional Monarchy” ending, where the Emperor isn’t entirely a figurehead and an upper house of nobles/landowners has greater power? A la Imperial Germany/Japan.
In general I really like butterflies piling up and things unfolding out markedly more different, which I admit requires a greater divergence from history, which is somewhat the antithesis of the game’s intent. But I hope some of the above might contain some useful suggestions nonetheless.
Looking forwards to see how this goes.
EDIT: So I went and took a look at the code, and some of the stuff I’ve mentioned is there, which I am happy to see. However, I never got to see most of that stuff in-game. This, I guess, was due to stat limitations or “stat-railroading”. While there is a very nice breath of options, which increase replayability, there is a low proportion that you get to see per run.
As a matter of personal opinion, I feel the game could have been improved by shifting the options around. Chapter 2 (pre-Taiping Rebellion with all the Chinese food options) could be lengthened by letting the player go to two regions instead of one. Chapter 4 is better, but there seem to be some sixteen options in total and you only get to pick some four; a few more choices might be nice.
This would lengthen playthroughs and make it seem like more time has passed overall. In general, while the game mentions the passage of time, it doesn’t entirely feel like that time has passed. Twenty years can potentially go by in the same number of choices you get to make to deal with the Taiping Rebellion.
There are also some branches which seem to be superior, at least in terms of content: You get three pages if you choose to go to Shanghai then negotiate with the French, or to the south and negotiate with the British.
I understand that shuffling all this around is going to be a major job and will probably knock balance askew, though.