You should really play this game.
It was one of those things that just stays with you, and you keep thinking about it the rest of the day after you’ve played it. It’s also not that long– I got 98% completion in, according to Steam, 2.8 hours. So it’s more than worth the investment.
There are two stories here. The frame story is that you are sent as part of your job to go through the records of a recently rediscovered lost ship/space colony that has been gone for hundreds of years. You head over and start sifting through the log files with the help of the ship’s AI. The second story is what actually happened on the ship. The setting is simultaneously a future dystopia and a past dystopia– the frame story takes place more than a thousand years in the future, while the secondary plot takes place six hundred years before that.
It’s hard to describe the game without getting into spoiler territory, but I’ll do my best: the gist of the secondary plot is that on this space colony, some unspecified disaster caused major social and educational regression and an extreme population reduction that ultimately resulted in the establishment of an extremely oppressive patriarchal society in which women rarely are allowed to leave the home and are often married off as young as 12 or 13. A young girl put in stasis before the disaster due to an illness wakes up hoping that a cure has been developed, only to find the world has gone to hell.
The game is simultaneously a reflection on the horrors of the past– a particularly disturbing post-game author’s note lets you know the circumstances are based very heavily on actual customs of Feudal Korea– as well as a warning about where we could head in the future. The girl wakes up and tries to tell her new “family” about her illness by emphasizing how thin and pale she is, but all the men hear is a woman’s whine and all the women hear is bragging about good looks, which would sound extreme if the exact same thing hadn’t happened to me in the past. It’s an examination of the ways women survive in such an oppressive society, and what happens to those who don’t fit the mold.
The final reveal of the girl’s storyline was something I saw coming by the time I got there but was hoping wouldn’t happen all the same.
The gameplay itself was clever, if simple. The navigation was freer than you usually get in a VN, as the interface is of a computer system you can explore more or less however you see fit– as the AI offers commentary– though the AI will dole out information based on how you interact with them so the story itself it ultimately nonlinear. In addition to reading snippets of the ship’s logs and chatting with the AI, there’s also a command input console where you can type in whatever you please to the ship’s computer. I thought the puzzles involving the commands were interesting enough to require some good thought while also logical enough to be solvable on your own.
The weakest part of the game to me was the ending of the frame story. The story itself is somber, serious, and tragic, but the AIs end up flighty, silly, and almost like caricatures. Like, after everything that’s gone on, Hyun-ae suddenly turns into terrible tsundere and decides she’s in love with you and wants to get married? What? The LAST thing she should be interested in after what she’s seen is some kind of weird relationship with a stranger. The tone shifts from torture and oppression to some kind of parody with no warning whatsoever, and it’s like she just forgets what you were looking at. It’s jarring, but also comes off as though the game doesn’t take its very, very serious subject matter seriously at all. “Oprression and mutilation destroy lives. CAN I BE UR WAIFU????” Just wat.
In the same vein, I thought calling the “best” ending a “harem” ending was ridiculously tacky. In a story where women are literally being forced into harems, just what the hell. Is it supposed to be a joke? Why is that something to joke about? Is it some weird attempt at meta-commentary on VNs? Wrong place, wrong time.
So yeah, the last five minutes or so of the game are… bad. They’re just bad, there’s no way around it. But overall? This is an engaging, emotional, tragic story with a message that hits close to home, and I really recommend it.