PEGBRJE: Blue Rose and Interstellaria
I don’t have a funny quip today. Sorry.
Blue Rose is an interactive visual novel made by White Cat, an indie dev that has visual novel credits dating back to 2009. In this, the first commercial title for the studio, players follow a knight Templar named Lena tasked with escorting a noble home with her troupe and leader Simon. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes the convoy in the form of a fierce dragon that attacks the convoy, destroying everything and throwing Lena to her quite certain death.
Well, not entirely certain, as she awakens in a cottage in a strange place in the mountains to begin her recovery.
Blue Rose starts relatively linearly to set up the situation that Lena has found herself in; the cold individual who rescues her helps to get her back on to her feet so that they can both be on their respective ways. Upon her stumbling into the mysterious village within the mountains, however, the game opens up to introducing the rest of the cast that players can look to bond with. Along with making some decisions to gain favour (or disdain) from these specific individuals, the player will also be selecting where they go after each conversation on a map. Normally these styles of decisions are done on just a decision tree, but with a map players know where the character they wish to interact with will be so there’s no worry about chance.
Let’s talk about those interactions a little bit, as visual novels thrive on how their characters feel. In Blue Rose, the general ‘theme’ of each character is that they fall within a relative trope while harboring a secret as to why they may be within the village. Lena is our protagonist, a no-nonsense Templar knight whose pride gets the better for her to the point where she doesn’t enjoying needing help from anyone, especially cold individuals who argue with her incessantly. Said individual is Tobias, a loner who seemingly fits the cold aloof archetype of VN characters. While he does assist her, Tobias does so with a bitter tone to protect the village that Lena wasn’t even aware of. Gavin, the first person met within the village is the typical easy-going womanizer who also is from outside of the village but rarely acts as if that matters to him. Erin, the only female pairing option within the title, runs the inn with her sister while dreaming of making it into something greater; until then, she is content with being a ball of joy to anyone she meets. The mysterious character trope is filled by Aran, an emotionless individual who doesn’t belong to the village, nor does he appear to be from anywhere in particular. The final option is actually the first person ‘met’ by Lena in her commander Simon, being the more mature and collected type to round out the cast. The only other member to appear on screen is Erin’s sister Mary, who (as far as I’m aware) is not a romance path.
What Blue Rose is able to achieve is fantastic world building without resorting to a wall of text to explain who or what is going on. Much of the world isn’t fully explained from the beginning, and is rather told through interactions to give context to their feelings. Flash backs that occur are done not to dump constant lore, but instead to build up characters from the caravan at the beginning that helps to give understanding to how Lena feels about certain aspects of the world such as the Templars and her duty. This does lead to longer periods where players don’t know information they may feel is critical, but I found it created a sense of tension and mystery in a game that relied on secrets for much of its narrative drive. My only concern was that it was a little difficult to discern what certain characters were aware of, with interactions in which I scratched my head wondering how it was possible for them to know a certain detail.
Blue Rose is a solid visual novel for exploring world building and how well it can be done, even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of certain characters that lived within said world. There’s much to be discovered within for those that are looking for a new visual novel to try out from back in the 2010s, and to see what may be in store for our protagonist.
Interstellaria is a real time management and exploration title in space by coldrice, indie dev of dozens of titles and asset packs. In this one particularly, players are a collection of space entrepreneurs who fly the galaxy doing odd jobs for money and seeking new civilizations and stars to see. This quickly expands into fleets all wrapped in the Trade Co. banner, and the galaxy becomes one giant management simulation.
Normally I do a bit here where I talk about the game mechanics that are relatively obvious from the surface while delving into what makes them tick so that players can get a better sense of what the game is. The issue with this approach for Interstellaria is the sheer number of mechanics within would mean I’m here all day, so I’m going to shave a bit off using references. First off, the FTL-similar style of crew management is present, as players assign crew to terminals to operate the parts of the ship. Crew can be recruited on different planets, and if enough cash is acquired players can even purchase more ships to add to their trading fleet. Crew members are also upgradable and can gain unique traits that may disrupt or assist in missions. The fleet ships are something I don’t have a reference to, as players can control multiple ships for combat, which is expansive. Space exploration has hints of FTL but is more reminiscent of Starbound and Elite Dangerous as players can pick their own path and travel, landing on planets to explore them and interacting with inhabitants of space stations.
It’s hard to come up with enough words to describe what exactly is going on with Interstellaria to the point that I feel like I don’t have much to say. There are so many different mechanics going on that it was extremely overwhelming to start, from needing to place my ship’s terminals at the beginning to understanding combat and planet exploration. Even with those references from above, I feel that I hadn’t covered everything that this game can offer, which makes this overview a bit awkward. How can I talk about something if I’m constantly feeling like I missed a feature? Ambitious is a word that comes to mind for the sheer amount of things going on, as I never truly felt I was able to get the hang of just one system before jumping to another in recognition that it was important. There’s just so much going on that when there was lull periods in flight, I was completely sure I had missed something.
Regardless, it’s a really pretty title with an ambitious path to take and dozens of features to test out and try. If you are a fan of space simulation and exploration titles, this might be one to give a whirl for a bit and see if you enjoy it.
Blue Rose is an interactive 'visual novel', following the viewpoint of the female knight Lena as she enters an unknown…