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Played in 2023
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I'm not sure how to feel about this game on the whole, though obviously I enjoyed it a lot. The game has far more quality of life features than Totori, a better new game + system, an improved alchemy system that's easier to make effective items with, and superior production methods that become available at an earlier time. On the other hand, the world has been downsized heavily, and while the game is technically longer at 5 years to the end instead of 4, it feels much shorter and less grand due to the lesser game world. The story progression doesn't reach quite the same highs as Totori either, taking the game back to Rorona's almost purely grounded approach. Interesting in its own way, but I did feel that Totori had a good balance between the mundane and the epic. The game is also a bit easier than Totori, with less stressful time limits and generally easier bosses. If I got stomped by a boss, it didn't take too much improvement to my loadouts to come back and return the favor, with the only one taking a bit more than that being the Wyvern. Still, if you like the series and are more interested in the time management driven games, this is definitely one of the better ones and worth checking out.
Losing the battle, better microwave the baby!
In all seriousness, this game was a pleasant surprise that popped into my Steam feed. Naturally, as a war story involving children, it can go to some dark places, but you can also minimize that through skilled play. The game also allows you to set your challenge to your ambitions, with dangerous routes that give more rewards or safer routes that make it easier to get through the level but give less long term benefit. There's a good balance of strategic gameplay, with all elements from buffs to status effects to healing support and raw damage having all their places in the game and being useful throughout. The difficulty curve is a little lopsided, with a fairly difficult early and end game and a breezy mid game. It's not the most involved or diverse RPG I've played, but I never felt bored or like the combat was played out at any point. About the only criticism I have past that is that 100% completion is very grindy, and will likely take multiple new game + runs to get everything. Give it a look if you can foot the price or if it's on sale!
Pure Ice Blue's follow up to Lily's Well, and as a game it plays much the same way (For good and for bad). I'm a bit torn on this one, there's a greater variety of fail states and it's more of an actual adventure/puzzle game than Lily's Well. On the other hand, having more present threats and actual game overs can make the game a bit more frustrating to play, and I find the body horror visuals to not rattle me as much as Lily's Well did. On the other hand, there is a lot of tension exploring the library, and the greater threat to your character's safety funnily enough makes the less dangerous situations all the more terrifying. The puppet theater in particular is a highlight of the game for me, no immediate threat to your health but the atmosphere is extremely unsettling, especially with the creepy backing track for it. This game will have content updates much like Lily's Well, so I can see myself liking it more if more additional scares and surprises make their way into the game.