The Confines of the Crown was mostly a joyride of funny characters and plot twists, but there were still many things that bugged me – things I would have done differently myself. I’ll go through the different main routes in the order I played them myself, commenting on the good and the bad.
I didn’t play the routes in the recommended order. I went straight to the “final route” with Callum when it was possible (it is not on first playthrough). Initially I also missed out some of the “normal” endings because I honestly had no idea how to get them. I’ll include them under the same chapter to avoid confusion.
With all the criticism I’m about to give, I’d like to remind that altogether this story with themes of sexuality, gender, impairments – and secrets – was an engrossing experience.
The sweet best friend
I almost always end up in the best friend route first, just because I tend to be gentle-hearted and then I’m not able to turn them down completely. This usually gets me stuck with the friend route, and I just need to accept it or face a bad ending turning them down eventually. This was a small problem to me, because I didn’t really feel that attracted to Oscar myself. But he was nice, and he eventually grew on me enough to sincerely enjoy the happy ending.
Oscar is naive and not completely dependable, but he keeps trying to prove himself during the story, he is also ready to take some shit from Madeleine: the happy route basically plays itself. Madeleine has to behave like a total ass for Oscar to give up. The bad ending is reached only by intentionally breaking his heart and refusing him after the opportunity to marry him actually presents itself.
This route is pretty nice and sweet, and probably reveals the least about the full story.
The brutish cutie
I was pretty much instantly drawn to Callum because he was cute and not at all extravagant. I was intrigued. And he is a cutie, though his brutish side could have been notched down just a little bit – his first means always seem to involve violence.
The crown pair were such douchebags… This route tries to redeem the queen – wisdom – by explaining that Cassidy was trans in the begin with, but all the things they did to their kids… Horrible people. Just horrible. No wonder Callum mostly speaks through his fists. Which are huge yaoi hands, and actually a pretty distracting part of his sprite, but luckily they’re hidden under the text most of the time.
I think Callum is sweet, especially when he becomes more smitten. But the time frame of the story is around a week or so. I feel the spark, and I think Madeleine and Callum are a nice sparring couple, but it’s just way too fast. In the end, the happy ending doesn’t really feel like true love.
This route is tied together with the Dolores route. I’m not a Dolores fan myself, she’s a bit too acerbic, I’d really want to see something other than the snarky attitude occasionally. Her happy ending is Madeleine escaping with her to start a farm – as friends. Which is kind of okay, but doesn’t really feel that happy since the player is basically taking a detour from Callum’s romance route.
Some kind of separate route for “she can do it without the help of a man” kind of friendship with Dolores would have been more to my liking. Not to mention the bad endings in both routes consist of Dolores ratting Madeleine out to guards, getting her killed. Which kind of kills the friend angle for me.
The player can be mean to Dolores, but that will result in things not working out with Callum (the normal ending). Which in a way does make sense – probably the most in this route. Callum is brutish, and Madeleine is supposed to soften him a bit by being a good example. Things won’t turn out well is she keeps promoting ugly behavior.
The flamboyant teddybear
Initially I was hoping Gaston’s route wouldn’t include hooking up with Gaston. His introduction was just so superbly obnoxious, he was most likely trying to surpass his namesake from Beauty & the Beast.
But when I got further in his route, I was actually a bit disappointed that I had guessed correctly. Gaston ended up being a truly charming and a lovable character. And his route is just pure comedy gold – also being my favourite route in the game.
Gaston is filled with love. I had already learned that the game was supposed to have a polyamorous ending, and I kept hoping it would be with Gaston and Cassidy. Gaston definitely would have enough love to spread among two partners – no one would feel left out.
But even more than that, I felt that in this route there were actually sparks between Madeleine and Cassidy. Those reddening cheeks weren’t only because of embarrassment.
In the end Madeleine doesn’t end up with Gaston or Cassidy. In the happy ending she manages to pair the couple and start a budding romance with Gaston’s servant Colette. She is a nice girl, and I really liked this romance. I felt that in this ending there were four actually very happy people.
In the normal ending Madeleine turns down the possibility of that budding romance, and heads back home feeling kind of disappointed. In the bad ending Madeleine is forced to take Cassidy’s place and become the impostor princess – and then get killed. All of these endings really portrayed well what bad, normal and happy truly are.
The icy megane
Nazagi was definitely one of the most interesting characters in the game. I admit that his pale looks with the flowing hair are very much my cup of tea, and I’m definitely not against warming up a cold personality. I also really liked how Nazagi was extremely resourceful himself, instead of relying on Madeleine to fix everything.
But in the end I was rather disappointed with this route’s endings. Callum’s route was too much of an instant love, but this was barely getting warmed up, and bang! Marriage. I really felt the potential, but the time frame just didn’t allow more development.
The happy ending is really happy – at least not yet. And it’s not poly-amorous either – at least for the amorous part. It is an arranged marriage with willing participants and it might work out.
I probably would not be complaining living in a castle basically with two, beautiful androgynous guys, one of them being super sweet and one of them being super smart. But it’s not exactly true love either. And it felt even less like love because in this route Madeleine hardly sees Cassidy. She just agrees to all of this either because of blackmail or because she thinks she can’t do better.
Nazagi is a conniving character, but actually a somewhat decent person. He might play with his poisons and death grips rather ruthlessly, but that’s because he is confident with his abilities: he knows there is no permanent harm. In the bad ending he doesn’t kill Madeleine, just sends her away with amnesia. In the normal one, Madeleine fails to bond with him and is dismissed.
I would have hoped a longer route – somewhat the same pace, but just more development in the relationship before marriage. And the poly-amorous angle would have worked too if some of the Cassidy sparks from Gaston’s route were introduced in the mix.