Indie Wonderland: Long Live The Queen

Long Live The Queen is an interesting case as far as review histories are concerned. On its Steam release about one year ago, a large group of my Steam-and-Twitter-friends all started playing and talking about it simultaneously. It was everywhere for a few days. And while you’d think something like that would practically impel me to write about it, I, er… just kinda didn’t.

I don’t actually remember why I chose not to write about Long Live The Queen. Given that Hanako Games‘ repertoire includes Magical Diary, one of the very first games I wrote about on the Blue Screen Of Defunct and a game I enjoyed a great deal in general, and given that all my friends were playing at the time, neither game nor publisher had done anything to earn any active distrust. But… again, I don’t know. The most likely answer is that there were just too many other games around then, as there are now, and I just forgot about ever addressing it.

And now, one year after everyone stopped caring, I’m here to rectify that oversight.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-high. Mechanical, mostly absolute.)

Opening

I’m not sure what I expected to see, launching Long Live The Queen. Something… regal? Something expressing, conveying, the weighty subject matter of ruling through hereditary right, and the influence a life of these expectations can have on a person? Whatever it was, I’m fairly sure I wasn’t expecting to get a pink-haired 14-year-old girl in a revealing magical girl outfit.

But that’s what I’m getting today, apparently.

Do you think that girl is looking so shock-surprised at the low-key piano notes chiming out ‘God Save The Queen’ on the background? I think that might be it. Or maybe, like me, she’s trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance of associating that rhythm with the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen.

After over two months of non-stop visual novels and dating sims, I have certain expectations when it comes to these games’ options spreads. Long Live The Queen does not disappoint in this regard, which is to say that it does disappoint, but in the expected way.

The heart-shaped buttons seem to serve only to remind you that you’re playing a *girl protagonist* in this game.

The ‘Checklist’ menu item is more interesting. As far as I can tell, it keeps tally of all the noteworthy stuff the player can achieve throughout their reign. The list is split into Achievements, which details a whole bunch of stuff I can achieve, Epilogues, whose empty window arches I assume are reserved for different endings, and…

Well. Let’s see if you, reader, can intuit the context for this screen.

Don’t over-think it.

Underdressed girls, heart buttons, and a long list of gruesome possible deaths. I’m still not sure what to expect from Long Live The Queen, but it should definitely be interesting.

Initial impressions

Little bit of Indie Wonderland behind-the-scenes for you, readers: I name all my screenshots according to a simple pattern. It’s always GameNameInCamelCase, two dashes, and then SomeSillyNameSoICanRememberWhyIWantedToShowThis. Some names are more silly, some less: there’s always a Title, for instance, and almost always an Options, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit. I invite you all to peruse my earlier Indies Wonderland for examples, if you’ve never seen before: Cinders has some decent examples on the first page.

The reason I bring this up is because I’m hard-pressed to pick a single good identifier for Long Live The Queen’s very first new-game screen. I keep going back and forth between ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ and ‘Culture Shock’, with occasional outings to ‘No Seriously Is This How Japan Sees Us’.

This is the starting screen that sent my mind a-flutter.

Joslyn, King Dowager, Lord of all Shonen, Prettiest Man in All of Nova. Duke of Caloris. Hallowed be his name, and hallowed be his perfect skin and his endless blue eyes. Cinders was a thinly-veiled Cinderella, but if Long Live The Queen aims to ape any fairytale, it’s definitely not going to be Snow White. Can you imagine? “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest of them all?” “It’s your husband, oh fair queen, he’s the prettiest dude I’ve ever seen.”

Joslyn the Gorgeous is talking to his daughter, the equally blue-eyed, pink-haired Crown Princess, Elodie. Which, hey! I’ve heard that name before. Elodie is actually the default name for the Franco-Iberian faction leader in Civilization: Beyond Earth. It warms my heart to know that, whatever happens here, little Elodie will grow up to take power in Europe, finance a space expedition, and travel through space to land on a planet infested with horrible alien bug monsters.

Shit, maybe I shouldn’t have said that last part.

Joslyn the Expositor sets the scene for my adventures in Living Long And Queening. Queen Fidelia, Joshlyn’s wife and Elodie’s mother, has died. For reasons I’m not entirely sure about, this necessitates that Elodie be withdrawn from the boarding school she’s currently on — why would a princess go to boarding school? — so she can be schooled in the art of Being Queen. Elodie is fourteen years old, and she will be crowned queen when she reaches the legal age of adulthood. Which is… fifteen, I suppose?

I’m tempted to make a ‘Japan’ joke here, but Elodie’s subsequent reaction just nails the whole thing.

Perfect.

After reaching the castle, my tutorial education is further picked up by button prompts. A little less personal than King-Dad the Pretty, but eh. I’m never one to say no to free explanations.

“Tell me more, game. Tell me… *everything*.”

The mechanical gist of Long Live The Queen is the somewhat-common dating sim trope of ‘improving your numbers with an activity planner’. Flower Shop did this, too. Given a set amount of time, I-the-player can choose to improve some selection of my skills and attributes. In Flower Shop, attributes were raised through your choice of leisure activities; in Long Live The Queen, raising my Elodie skills involves tutors and taking classes.

Now, in many of these games — both Flower Shop and Hatoful Boyfriend come to mind — these skill-raising systems function as a sort of thinly-disguised path selector. You pick one or two skills to focus on, usually influenced by the beau or belle you choose to charm, and the game’s major events shift to accomodate that focus. If you’re a runner, you can participate in the school’s marathon, but if you’re a thinker, the marathon co-hosts a chess match. That sort of thing.

Long Live The Queen is giving every indication of not being that kind of game.

Pictured: fourteen skill sets, for a total of *fourty-two* skills.

Jesus Christ. They don’t offer this many classes in my actual university. Elodie is the 1% and then some.

But wait, it gets ‘worse’. See, the basic system is this: every week, I can choose one set of morning and one set of evening classes to study. Every week has five class days, and every class taken gives a +2 bonus to the skill it’s about. So if I pick, say, one class of Flattery and one class of Decoration, both of those skills would be improved by [5 classes per week]*[2 points per class] = 10 points.

That’s what would happen… if it wasn’t for this:

More hearts on a sliding scale.

What I’m looking at here, apparently, is Elodie’s mood. Or ‘moods’, rather. Elodie affective state is balanced on four axes: angry versus afraid, cheerful versus depressed, willful versus yielding, and pressured versus lonely. Not all of these dichotomies make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever. Whichever of the four sliders currently has the most extreme value in any direction determines Elodie’s current active mood. Right now, following her mother’s unexpected death and her being withdrawn from the boarding school all her friends and peers are on has made Elodie quite Depressed.

And wouldn’t you know it: mood influences learning success! A Depressed Elodie is better at learning the skills of Expression and Animal Handling, but worse at learning Royal Demeanor, Conversation and Athletics. This influence is expressed by way of a numerical bonus or penalty to the effect of each individual class. So, resuming the previous example classes: a Depressed Elodie would be much better at learning Decoration, learning 3 points per class day for a total of 15 points for a full week. But that same Elodie would be absolutely atrocious at learning Flattery: at a -2 penatly, each individual class’ effect would be… 0. Depressed Elodie can’t learn any Conversation-related skills, basically.

In summary:

‘Learning while sad is bad.’

Moods can change over time, as a result of events and/or my actions. Events, in turn, can be influenced by skills: I’m not entirely sure, but it seems as though Long Live The Queen has a system of visible New Vegas-esque pass-or-fail skill checks. I’ll probably run into these sooner than I’d like.

The tutorial breaks off there. I briefly click through the remaining, un-explained buttons. ‘Outfit’ seems like it lets me choose Elodie’s clothes… for some reason? She only has one boarding school uniform right now, which I think is weird for a literal princess, but eh. The menu allows for loading and saving, so no surprise there. And finally, the Log button opens a marvelous plain-text log of all previously spoken dialogue. In a web browser.

Gaze on it.

Beyond that, there’s very little surprises. The tutorial seems to have covered the basics pretty well! So… let’s begin, I suppose.

Week 1. What to do? Let’s see…

Wow, it’s… it’s difficult to sort forty-two classes without any foreknowledge of what matters when. Or are there thirty-nine, now? Well, regardless: I’m gonna have to pick something to study. Hmm…

For morning classes in Week 1, I pick Expression-Voice. Depressed Elodie gets a bonus to Expression learning, so I figure I might as well channel Elodie’s sadness into song. And for evening classes, I opt for Faith-Meditation. Maybe learning to calm herself will get Elodie out of this depressed state; I would actually like for her to learn Royal Demeanor skills, given that she’s about to be queen and all that, but being sad makes that all but impossible.

“Guess I’ll go singing and thinking, or whatever.”

Classes are picked, lessons are taken. Voice increases to 15, as expected, while Meditation raises to 10. In both cases, I’m given a little text vignette associated with ’10’, detailing what Elodie actually learned: breathing exercises for singing, tranquil sitting for Meditation.

Good breathing, Depressed Elodie! All that mourning over your dead mother and your uprooted life is *really* paying off!

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, five days pass.

It is now the weekend. Visitors arrive at the castle! Uncle Laurent and Aunt Lucille come to visit, bringing their three young children with them. All of them are exceptionally pretty, as all people I’ve seen in this universe are.

Also, Uncle and Auntie are, respectively, a guy with a goatee and a mean-looking woman with pale skin and black hair.

Their visit cheers Elodie up! +1 Cheerful. Maybe we’ll have time to talk later. Maybe.

Elodie’s weekend, it turns out, is as meticulously planned as her weekdays. Just… differently. I get to pick one activity from a castle map: talking to visitors, attending court, playing with toys… Most activities serve to change Elodie’s moods by certain pre-set amounts; only ‘talking to various people’, in this case either Dad or the recent cousin pack, is a little more uncertain.

On the one hand, playing with toys is not a very regal thing to do. On the other hand, I’ll be the queen in twenty-odd weeks, so any nay-sayers better reconsider their attachment to their *necks*.

I take a walk in the garden. Doing so makes Elodie a little more cheerful, combating her depression, but also a little more lonely. Nevertheless, after the walk, Elodie’s ruling emotion is… fear, apparently. Sad Elodie is replaced with frightened Elodie, who perpetually looks as if the monsters in the closet are just waiting for me to close the door.

Fear is not as good a catalyst for singing as depression is, apparently, though it does boost Meditation practice. I throw in some economics learning for good measure. Queen’s gotta know trade.

Oddly, after one normal and one boosted week of learning, Meditation is not at the expected 25, but at the much more baffling 25.55. I… didn’t know this game works in two-decimal fractions? I’m not sure where this additional learning is coming from, either. Compound interest?

Pictured: scared Elodie. It was probably my mentioning ‘compound interest’ that spooked her.

Another weekend, another ridiculously flawless visitor. This time, the honour of my acquaintance belongs to Julianna, Duchess of Ursul, Patron Saint of The Colour Blue. Dad is opposed to her staying at the castle, because…

…wait, hold on. Julianna is a wizard? ‘Lumen’, whatever. She’s a wizard? And so was my mother? And so am I? And if I let her stay at the castle, she maybe possibly could teach me how to access my own magical wizard powers? I… Dad wants me to throw her out, because something something corruption danger evil magic your mother, but Dad, listen: I already gave her your room. You sleep with the stablehands now, okay?

Wow. Dad’s kind of a pushover. Aren’t you technically still *king*?

For my weekend activity, surprisingly, I talk to Julianna. Long story short: the path to magical wizard powers lies in my mother’s old crystal. Which my dad might still have, maybe.

What follows is a rapid-fire couple of weeks. I take more classes, meditation and divination and court manners and singing and a whole bunch of other stuff. Stuff happens at the castle: I think my cousin Charlotte got bit by a poison snake? And she might die, or not, or something? Part of the snake event was a skill test for Composure, which I failed. So maybe I’d have been able to avoid the whole thing if I’d studied that a little bit more?

Blah, blah, poison snakes.

Listen, I don’t care. It goes: some classes, then talk to dad in the weekend. He doesn’t have the crystal, it’s in the royal treasury. Some classes, talk to Julianna. ‘You should probably get into that treasury, then, otherwise we’ll have to take drastic action. Some classes, try to enter the treasury. Where I learn…

…that it’s not going to be *that* easy.

Access to the treasury is barred. Two failed skill tests lie before me: either regal Presence, which I haven’t done anything with yet, or… Accounting. One of the Economics skills I’ve already studied.

I’m going to have to become an economist before I get to be a wizard, huh. That’s how it’s going to be? Well, if that’s what it takes. Elodie’s got her heart set on unlimited magical power, now, and I can tell from the look on her face that no force on this Earth is going to want to get in her way.

She knows what she wants, and she wants what she knows.

Be back after I MBA myself into Hogwarts!

Onto page 2. >>

7 comments

  1. I was really keen to try this game especially after running across the trailer before it came out, it was just so well presented with all the various possible deaths and the effective challenge of “Can you guide Elodie to victory?” I even purchased it and started it but… I don’t know the visual novel style of game is so slow and the skill system complicated I never even made it to the first death.

    It also sounds like it would really benefit from the ability to rewind to previous weeks and make new choices rather than having to remember to save frequently.

  2. The partial success on chocolates allows you to save your life if other conditions have been met I believe.

    With the singing, you can try to persuade the evil Wizard dude that he doesn’t need to rule your country. With high enough skills you manage to make him start to reconsider and think about the things he loves in life and then you sing him a song to push him over the edge further

    …and then you forgot to train singing and he kills you for mutilating the song.
    ———
    I think the real game in Long Live the Queen is trying to figure out training plans that will get you past the skill checks you’ve already memorised in order to push the story down certain branches. I never managed to figure out how to defeat the tentacle monster thing and I never managed the economic victory where Elodie basically just kickstarts an industrial revolution

    1. See, that last thing amuses me. Because if you’re talking about the economic thing I think you’re talking about, I got that twice without even really trying. That’s like, the one thing Magical CEO Elodie was really good for.

    2. Hey, aren’t you that one Thomas from Twentysided’s comments? The one that once made a joke “I’m not a fan of the name” about Thomas Was Alone?

      ___
      Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and say that what you call “the real game” is what made me abandon Long Live the Queen after two hours of total playtime. I appreciate LOTS of things about this game (particularly Elodie’s lines when she’s being an idiot – it’s like top-notch “roleplaying to bad Knowledge rolls”), but this sort of gameplay – one where you actually have to sit down and make an elaborate write-up to get anywhere – is as far from my cup of tea as it gets.

      1. I am that Thomas =D (and one of the two Thomas’ and one Tom that post on Twentysided. Seriously, everyone seems to have this name)

  3. I probably went a little overboard with the amount of work I put into the game. I wrote down on paper extensive notes on all the various things you learn about your kingdom and its inhabitants and such when you level up history, espionage and so on. I can’t recall if it actually helped me in the end, but the game sure managed to convince me it would be necessary. Even if it was all for nothing, I sort of enjoyed doing it in a weird way… I need help, I think.

    Keep those Indie Wonderland posts rolling!

  4. I wish to point out that your guess of ‘compound interest’ isn’t actually all that far off, if I remember how the game works correctly!

    Anyways, it looks like you had a lot less trouble beating it than I did (I tried maybe half a dozen times and never did win). Maybe I’ll just go through it with a guide at some point…

    Personally, I thought the emotions-affecting-skill-gains was kind of neat. Made it a lot more complicated than just picking what you needed to learn, and it wasn’t *that* hard for me to wrap my head around. (The trick is to keep them all as close to equilibrium as you can so you can shift easily)

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