Indietail – Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star

Remember that one time where you had that magical moment where you first fell in love with someone? When the stars aligned and everything seemed perfect? When you told yourself: “This is it.”

I remember that one time where the clouds broke up and the sun was shining after this rainy day. When I spotted her, sitting next to me, doodling in her notebook. As the professor was talking about something boring, I couldn’t help myself but get caught in her countenance. It was such an average moment with nothing special to it – but I couldn’t help myself dreaming of a common future or something that connected us, even if we were strangers. I had similar moments in the past. Love at first sight. A distinct connection that you feel to people you hardly know. Fate. Destiny. Magic. Whatever, you want to call it.

Developer: Eyeguys, Lorenzo Redaelli
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Genre: Visual Novel, Indie, Dark Romance, Anime
Release Date: August 13th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - coming soon to Switch, PS4 and XBOX One!
Copy received from the devs.

In today’s review, we’re talking about Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star, a partially autobiographical dark-romance visual novel about Sune and Nuki, two young men whose passionate love affair collided with their inner demons. It’s a game about intimacy, idealization and abusive relationships. Hence, there’s a trigger warning.

We play as Nuki, a young man with a fascination for stars, who is being somewhat melancholic during the last days of summer. His obsession with stars goes as far as owning a pet starfish and gazing stars at the horizon and the ceiling of his room. One day, something crazy happens and after following a shooting star, he gets to meet and falls in love with Sune, another young man who seems to be upset about something. We want to know more about the two characters. We want to discover what’s up with Sune. We want to know if it works out. I really had my fingers crossed for the two of them… but some things are not meant to be, right? Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes, your issues get into the way. Your past haunts you while you’re sabotaging your luck.

The game’s constantly enigmatic, drawing you in, wanting you to cheer for the two unfortunate souls… but then you get rejected or accepted, based on your choices and senses. You want to help Sune and you want Nuki to be happy but in certain key moments, you just end up feeling the weight of your words and the way that you can harm others. It’s not that simple.

You can’t just help someone. Even if you want to be there for them, you can cause them more pain by doing so. Get caught in the moment and make one mistake, suddenly you’re feeling down in the slumps again as you give yourself the fault for the unfortunate outcome… And then you do it again or do better and it’s just a rollercoaster of emotions. It can work out! You can make it work! Or can you? I’m not sure.

And when you think that everything is alright, nothing is. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong but there are always (at least) two people in a relationship. There are two sides to an argument, right?

While playing the game, I constantly saw myself in the characters. Getting eager, reading too much into certain feelings, feeling the passion, being up in the clouds and wanting to feel more… and then you’re down in the slumps again. Past abusive relationships that I had made me feel just like that. I see it. I see certain patterns and I get reminded of what I did wrong, even if it’s not about me. It’s about Nuki and Sune. It’s about the past experiences of Lorenzo Redaelli, the developer of the game. It’s about intimacy and idealization. It’s about mental health and problems. It’s about passion and struggle. Love and pain.

The game follows these kinds of patterns. You have moments where you enjoy yourself with Sune or where you are talking to yourself, thinking about things, and reflecting on a lot of stuff. But there are also choices. You can change the outcome. It doesn’t have to end badly. It doesn’t have to end well. You decide. And that’s something that surprised me. Your actions, your words, they reveal secrets and information. No playthrough is like the other, and I loved that about this game.

And when Nuki is with Suni… when they love each other, you’re able to use this special and innovative mechanic where you chose different senses to influence the sex, the love, the passion. Find out something new. Bring light into the darkness… or add more shadows to it? Control what happens, without it being too graphic. I liked that idea and the different outcomes are really interesting. I’m not sure if I’ve seen something like that in other games before!

On top of that, the game’s presentation is just amazing. Very abstract and ominous. At times quiet, at times loud. The game’s original, space-y, baroque electropop soundtrack is amazing and truly adds a lot to your experience… but it also lets you reflect on things at times. When you’re alone, all by yourself… Just you by yourself, the game’s quiet. You look at your phone, at the ceiling, at your mirror, and the game’s quiet. Silence is important. I highly enjoyed that aspect.

And then there’s the colours and the art style. Abstract. Minimalistic. At times just magical. The neon colours and all the different tones of red… they just add a lot to it. Sometimes it’s brighter and sometimes darker. Usually quite fitting to your feelings and your inner world. At times you see very interesting metaphors and images, although I don’t want to spoil it too much either, right now. In the end, my experience got enhanced by this and I highly enjoyed it, especially because of this art style that is so different from other games.

I guess the only issue that I had with the game was that it, at times, was too abstract for me. There have been some similes and images that I didn’t get… I also wasn’t able to tell when something was real and when something wasn’t. At times, I was wondering if it’s just a daydream or some sort of metaphor that Nuki uses to solve the problems he has. At times, I was confused… while at other times, I wasn’t sure which interpretation and which theory would be the most accurate.

Sometimes, I also had an issue with how Sune would react to things that Nuki said. You chose some of the dialogue options but sometimes the results or the reactions of Sune would be unexpected and it made me feel helpless. This is both an issue and a feature, in my opinion, as in real situations these kinds of things happen as well. You don’t get the expected results from a conversation. You cannot completely understand everyone. It doesn’t work like that. So, at times, I felt as if the choices were worded differently from the intention that I thought they would convey… which was an issue at one or two instances… but at the same time, it adds a bit of realism to the experience.

In the end, I couldn’t really talk too much about the game’s story itself but more about its topics and what I liked about it. It was somewhat hard to not spoil anything but I think I did a good job here… especially since there is so much that I didn’t talk about at all!

My first experience with this game was awesome and I still have goosebumps even while thinking back at it. I highly recommend this game… but I’m not sure if it’s for everyone. There are certain triggers in there. If you can’t deal with heavier topics like mental health issues, abusive relationships, borderline personality disorder, and the like, I wouldn’t recommend this to you. Otherwise, it’s a great experience that is definitely worth checking out!

The different endings and plot lines, the small secrets and the different choices really add a lot of replay value to the game, and even after you’re done with one ending or a lot of them, you’ve still got a ton of room for theory crafting, analysis, and speculation, so the game doesn’t end when you’re done with it, which is interesting and one of the many reasons as to why I’m recommending this.

Cheers!

Indietail – Void Bastards

What does it take to become a good mercenary? What does it take to outwit your opponents, to survive? What does it take to escape the Sergasso Nebula?

Well, according to today’s game, Void Bastards, it only takes water, prisoners, and a whole lot of sneaking.

In today’s Indietail we’re taking a look at Void Bastards, a rogue-lite Stealth-Shooter that could probably be best described as FTL meets System Shock. You play as one of many prisoners that get sent through the Nebula to eventually just escape its fangs. On your way, you’ve got to manage resources, fight or outwit enemies, chose between different paths to take, and routes to walk through.

Developer: Blue Manchu
Publisher: Humble Games
Genres: Stealth, First-Person, FPS, Action, Rogue-lite
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4

The framework gameplay revolves around you navigating your tiny little escape pod through the nebula by choosing different paths and ships that seem to be procedurally generated. This aspect reminds me heavily of “FTL: Faster Than Light”, which was quite pleasant as it directly contrasts the seemingly action-heavy inner gameplay-loop that revolves around sneaking and shooting. There are a lot of different ships to explore from shopping ships, manned with only gun-point-turrets at max, to medical bay ships or cargo ships. Each of these come with different supplies, loot tables, allies, and enemies.

When you board these ships, you’ve got to find the next exit and loot the ships for items, resources, and materials. Obviously, you can also just move past the ships and skip out on potential dangers at the cost of loot but I usually ended up just going for the looting-experience as I felt that it would be too much of a waste.

The different ships all feel different.

There are different musical pieces as well as different layouts that these ships can have, resulting in a unique experience whenever you board a ship.

In the beginning, you’re only equipped with limited ammo as well as weak(er) guns but over time you’ll upgrade them – and throughout your runs, you’re able to keep all the upgrades as merely your player dies and as there are plenty of other convicts to send out in the Nebula, each equipped with their genetic traits, making the experience rather unique similar to how your genes make you taller or colour blind in Rogue Legacy.

While I used to just run and gun every ship, trying to get as far as possible with my limited ammo, I quite often ended up dying prematurely due to missing ammo and/or drastic actions, but that’s not what Void Bastards is about. In the beginning, I also didn’t see the comparison to Bioshock but over time I came to realize:
It’s a stealth game.

Awww, cute! It’s a tourist!

Just because you have a gun, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to use it.

You don’t have to kill most people and usually, you’ll end up getting killed if you take on too many or the wrong enemies. Essentially, the best way to survive in this game is to sneak past enemies, to lock doors, potentially trap enemies in different rooms while looting ships and making it further and further into the void. Your gun is your friend but more often than not you should just rely on sneaking and immerse yourself into the unique atmosphere that each ship has.

Every sound you make can be the last sound you make. A neat little gimmick that the game has is the fact that it displays sounds made by you or enemies on the screen. Thump, thump, thump… Step, step, step… BAM! BAM! You get the idea! It felt similar to XIII, a game for the original XBOX that used to utilize a similar comic-gimmick with the sound-displays, the cell-shading and generally the vibes that this game has as well.

But despite being able to take a trip down nostalgia-road with all the gimmicks and references to System Shock, XIII, or Bioshock… the game still has flaws that can’t get ignored, in my opinion.

For instance, the game gets rather monotone and repetitive over time.

Monotony-wise…
The soundtrack is monotone and seems to be lacking something as it only features 23 different tracks that all sound way too similar. The game doesn’t shine when it comes to the music, which is – in my opinion – a bummer as it really could have done more there and as it really could have been more fun if the soundtrack accompanied you during stealth- or action-passages.

As far as repetitiveness goes…
Part of the reason why I always wanted to rush through the levels was the fact that I felt rather uncomfortable having to face a game like this with its monotone music and all the stealth going on without any action at all. Once you realise that Stealth is your best friend, you have to get married to the idea of being sneaky. Sneaking through ships, looting caches while not getting seen… it’s the most successful way of playing this game and essentially you’ve got the whole game figured out if you get to that point.

And well, the whole gameplay loop may be flawed at this point…
I know that every run can’t be completely different when it comes to rogue-likes but I personally found that there wasn’t much replay-value there past the first few hours. You already have seen plenty of the game after a few hours of gameplay. Same goes for the campaign… I didn’t find it too entertaining for something that is supposed to take “12 to 15 hours”, resulting in a bit of a negative experience for me personally. The humour and the initial impressions with the comic-like presentation are rather cool and entertaining, I’d say, but they don’t outweigh the other issues in my opinion.

Alas, I don’t think that I really can recommend this title. For a game that costs thirty bucks without any discounts on Steam, I would have expected a bit more. If you aren’t bothered by repetitiveness in stealth-rogue-lite-shooters, I’d say go for this game… at a discount.

Either way, I hope that you enjoyed this post and I wish y’all a wonderful day. I was really excited about playing Void Bastards but in the end, I got a tad disappointed as the game became stale over time, which is a bummer.

Oh well, cheers!