Loren The Amazon Princess

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Score: 7.5
2012

I got Loren The Amazon Princess from one of those cheap indie game bundles. My version of the game is for Steam and it includes the expansion The Castle of N’Mar. The game is a visual novel/RPG hybrid. When you are not fighting the turn based combat or gearing and leveling up your party, you advance the story as any visual novel. After one playthrough it’s also possible to enable a ‘story mode’ which makes your party win every combat in one hit and removes the experience. In this mode the game is a rather pure visual novel. The option is very welcome so players don’t necessarily have to crawl through every fight just to see the different outcomes of the story.

The story of the game is a rather generic high fantasy tale about uniting the different races against a greater evil. It’s not especially great but not bad by any means. But what I found the most enchanting about the story was the different characters and the interaction between them – and I’m not only talking about the romances, which were very sweet. The game doesn’t seem to have any kind of age limit but I don’t think it’s really a family game either. In the story there’s frequently quite mature issues like war, slavery and sexual innuendo.

The options for protagonist are a human male and an elf female. You start your journey together with Loren, but soon start getting more and more people into your party of adventurers (in combat your party size is always something from one to six). The expansion also gives you four optional characters to pick up. The game also offers plenty of other choices that at least seem like they actually matter, I did not test every possible thing to see if you eventually default into the same path. But the player is even choosing whether to kill central characters or not, so the choices definitely are not completely redundant.

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From the protagonists, I obviously chose the cute and hot male. The Steam version is apparently automatically the “censored” one that gives the characters a little bit more clothing. Honestly I am not a least bit bothered about this, though in all fairness, giving an option would still be better. Anyway, I’m happy since I can still see Saren’s lovely abs and I consider most of the characters looking better without excess nudity in their everyday form.

All the characters have dual classes, with separate skill trees for both. One of the classes always defaults to a warrior, a thief or a mage, and the second class is unique to each character. The protagonist for some reason can only choose from the first two basic classes, and his/her unique class is of healer type. The three basic classes each have their own favoured stat that can be risen when leveling up.

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I thought the fighting and character advancing was pretty fun. In some parts of the game you had to separate your party into smaller groups so going all out on a specific six member team is probably not advised. I always enjoyed these branching moments in RPGs, even when I was stuck with the characters I wasn’t that fond of. There’s no real dungeon crawling here because of the VN play style, and gearing up the party is not exactly fun (requires gathering money from extra quests and buying stuff from towns).

The heart of the game totally resides in camping. There you can chat and try to romance the characters (it’s not hard – more like it’s completely obvious –  but you can choose not to, and not all of your party members are interested in the first place). It’s also possible to watch another couple forming within the party of heroes, and even help those guys out. Obviously I tried all the three shounen ai/BL options, though I admit Chambara was pretty bad ass and I contemplated throwing her into the bunch too, but eventually decided that going after three people was already lecherous enough. (Well, nothing serious really happened before I actually make a choice towards the end of the game, so there doesn’t seem to be real harem routes.) And while I kept my man straightly unstraight, I did form a strong friendship with Loren, which was also lovely.

I was really pleasantly surprised by those romances. All the three romances I tried were very different and actually pretty believable. If I had gone after the women they’d probably been yet again different, for their personalities and statuses varied greatly. Most of the characters you could romance with a protagonist of either gender, and I just might be interested enough to see how differently they react towards another love interest (plus check out the fourth male option who apparently didn’t swing that way).

In addition to the romancing routes and other story altering options, the game also has side quests, achievements, several difficulty settings and other stuff to improve re-playability. I think it took me around 25 hours to finish the game, but I was doing some optional stuff and using the slower combat most of the time – and probably afking a few hours of that too. I gather it’s like half of that if you want to rush things. Even though the RPG stuff isn’t bad, I think I will still most likely do my possible replays mainly in the story mode.

I liked the art, though I wish there was a bit more variety, mostly it was just the one standing sprite per character that changed their expression here and there, and the surrounding sceneries. Unfortunately there wasn’t much voice acting, just some one-liners during fights. Very attractive game with its low production values though.

I did like this game quite a bit and I am very much interested in buying the spinoff Tales of Aravorn – Season of the Wolves and the sequel that’s coming in the future. I still defaulted the score at 7.5 and not higher since I compare this to both RPGs and visual novels now and while the combination worked pretty well, I’m not completely amazed by either of the main story or the RPG elements. Really nice game nevertheless.

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