If there is one genre of games that I don’t believe gets nearly as much attention as it should, it is text adventures and visual novels. Story is of incredible importance for many gamers, and visual novels are chock-full of narrative. Poor quality of writing seems to be the limiting factor that keeps visual novels from critical stardom. Luckily, that is not the case for Loren: The Amazon Princess.
At a foundational level, Loren: The Amazon Princess is a Fantasy Visual Novel RPG. Unlike many of its brothers and sisters in the genre, Loren boasts a fantastic quality of writing. In a game where the world can only be painted so much by character sprites and background art, Loren’s world really comes to life. With vivid written details that describe all of environments, characters, and occurrences so well, you really won’t feel like you’re missing anything because of the game’s text-centric design.
To that end, the plot is both interesting and engaging. Without spoilers, the plot begins as a rather simple, small-scale quest, but soon evolves into something much larger as individual occurrences begin to come together. From there, the story becomes one heavily involved with government and politics between and among races as they try to unify against a common threat. Of course, along the way, you will encounter many obstacles and meet plenty of fascinating characters who teach you much about the tensions that divide the nation of Aravorn.
However, as complicated and convoluted politics may often feel, Loren: The Amazon Princess does not dwell on them for very long at a time. Indeed, the narrative’s pacing is expertly executed, as no single arc or situation lasts long enough so as to become boring. However, neither does it move by so quickly that you have no clue what is going on. Often enough, one arc becomes resolved so as to allow for the introduction of a new issue that revives players’ interests and attention. Because of this, players may very well find themselves playing for several hours at once, not realizing the passage of time as the game’s narrative constantly refreshes itself.
No story is complete without characters, and the primary characters of Loren: The Amazon Princess are interesting to watch develop. Unlike most teams of fantasy individuals (Amazons, dwarves, elves, mages, etc.) fighting against evil forces, the main cast tends to be a bit more stern and serious on the whole. However, having such an initially “tough” cast lends itself to some major character development, and it is this development that is satisfying to behold. In particular, the arc of Loren, and Saren/Elenor (male or female protagonist based on your own choice) is incredibly well done. While other characters do receive attention, or earn more attention (via romancing), these two are spectacularly developed, and their characters are the result of much player choice.
All of these things combine to create some great replay value. While the overall conclusion of the narrative does not change much, how players arrive there after an approximately 12-hour story can follow various branches. The game features all of diverse romance options, playing as two different protagonists, and making various decisions that can influence how one navigates through the overall story. There is a lot in Loren: The Amazon Princess to encourage a second, maybe even third or fourth playthrough. Indeed, you cannot do it all in a single playthrough. So while the game can be a bit on the expensive side (standard: $25), going through a second playthrough definitely justifies the cost.
The game’s combat system may be rather simple, but simple does not necessarily mean bad. Combat follows a standard front row/back row, turn-based RPG. But given the context of the rest of the game, this is a good thing. Having a combat system in the first place helps engage players with the war-torn narrative, augmenting the narrative experience quite well. Thankfully, the difficulty of battles can be changed so drastically as to be able to accommodate anyone’s interests in the game. For those who could care less for the combat and just want to experience the story, easy mode is so easy that you likely will not even need to look at the screen during battle. Conversely, the hard mode will definitely make you think and strategize thoroughly to progress through the game. And of course, there is an in-between difficulty mode to satisfy anybody with moderate interest in both extremes.
Naturally, no game is without its flaws, and Loren: The Amazon Princess does have a few that are a little on the frustrating side. Thankfully, none of them are technical flaws that get in the way of playing the game. The first issue that stood out to me is how many characters in your main party go almost entirely ignored in terms of development. As I mentioned above, the development of the two primary characters, Loren and Saren/Elenor are fantastic. But with a main team of about 10 characters, maybe no more than three receive enough attention to be deemed significant. Characters such as Dora and Draco, who both received interesting set-ups that could have been explored more, end up fading to the shadows for the majority of the game. And while most characters receive a moment or two to shine, these are usually brief and do not justify practically ignoring their existences for most of the game.
During dialogue, there is typically only room for three characters on screen. Because of this, the characters on screen were the ones who were actively speaking. For some frustrating reason, there happened many times when speaking characters were nowhere to be seen on screen, yet characters who were there to speak only a few lines remained visible. I do not think it is a far stretch to want to be able to see your speaking characters on screen. This often occurred to the detriment of the characters who were not shown speaking, as it is more difficult to personalize somebody by their words when players cannot even see them speak.
Similarly frustrating was the lack of variety in a character’s sprites. Each character only had a small handful of sprites that would be shown when they spoke or took action. On average, no more than about three or four each. For a visual novel, where means of conveying action and emotion are already at a premium, it is very important to have various sprites for each character to adequately cover a wide range of emotion. It wasn’t atypical to see a character speaking in an angry or distressed fashion yet see them presented with a sprite that looked calm or simply stoic. This kind of incongruence often made for confusing presentation of a character.
Despite its handful of flaws, Loren: The Amazon Princess is still a great game. A well-constructed, well-paced plot with interesting main characters allows for a great narrative experience. It is a shame the visual novel RPG is not as popular as some other genres, as this is a plot that just about anyone could enjoy. If you enjoy games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, or even just enjoy reading books, you should give this game, and its whole genre, a chance. Still, for fans of the visual novel genre, this game is a must-play.
[+Exciting, detailed story][+Pacing][+Strong main characters][+Great replay value][-Many characters ignored][-Not enough sprites][Sometimes confusing dialogue system]