Long Live the Queen is a life-simulation/RPG game where you control a fledgling princess in a land rife with danger, and seek to train her skills and keep her alive until her coronation as Queen in 40 weeks. The characters and lore are well-written, and while at first the anime graphics and simple weekly events recap may lull you into a sense of security (no news is good news?), you soon realize, possibly after your first untimely death, that there are several hidden subplots lurking beneath the surface, and you have to account for them in future play throughs or die horribly, again.
These sorts of games differ from graphic novel games in that there is always a progression of in-game time between turns, and most game decisions, and what options you have, are strongly based upon what kind of skills you have trained up till that point.
Each game turn (which represents a full week) takes the following format:
1. You get to choose her outfit (if any) — they’re unlocked by training skills to a certain point, and boost all skill checks (but not training) in that skill group for the rest of the week.
2. You get to choose two classes for her to take, which improve two of her skills by a certain amount. That amount is modified by any bonuses/penalties to that skill group for the week, which come from her prior knowledge already invested in that skill group, as well as modifiers from her dominant mood.
3. You then get a story phase, where every week the “main plotline” of the game continues, events occur and resolve, and your character does a bunch of skill checks and often picks an option or two in order to influence the outcome of the story. They are interconnected, so many events early on will influence things later. There is no randomness in this at all – if you train the exact same skills and pick the exact same options in two separate games, events will unfold in the exact same manner both times.
4. You then get a weekend phase, where you can pick one of various activities for her to spent her weekend at, to influence her mood. This phase is VERY important because once you figure out how the moods affect the skill bonuses/penalties, you will want to carefully balance her moods, mostly done via these weekend phases, in order to give her the right dominant mood for next week’s training. There can be some story events that occur here as well, if you pick specially marked activities that may appear.
And then it repeats again, 39 more times, at the end of which you are crowned Queen (if you survive that long).
Because the game progresses in weekly instead of daily chunks, I found the game to be much shorter than others of its ilk, my first successful ending was disappointing because my initial reaction was “Nooo! That’s it?! I want to see what happens to her next! She’s just starting to come into her own and be a force to be reckoned with! I love her! Let me continue the story! Wah. :(”
A lot of the depth of the game is in its side paths, and the branches you can take to successfully reach the end, rather than the length of the story and the actual success or failure. Even now that I know how the story ends, and I am at least dimly aware of all the subplots and what they lead to, I still want to see if I can take her through them at some point to view the story from those perspectives.
On the other hand, since each iteration of the game is so short, it actually has a bit of a rogue-like aspect to it, where you learn a little bit more each time you die (or win), and although you have to start over, it doesn’t take all that long to get back to where you were before.
On a scale of 1-10, I would give it a 7.5:
Graphics (0-2): 1.5
It’s typical anime graphics and I didn’t enjoy that, though I didn’t detest it either. However, some of the outfits she gets to wear are decidedly un-queenly and unrealistic. The graphics are static cardboards too, but that is the standard in life sim games and thus acceptable. She gets a different look for each of her 9 possible dominant moods, which was a nice touch.
Music (0-2): 1.5
The music seemed repetitive, but never got annoying. Also standard for life-sim games. A few more tracks would have been nice, though.
Story (0-2): 1.5
The story is awesome, and touching, especially since you can never see the entire story at once. The secret subplots going on in the background are very interesting when you realise their existence and look at them after a couple runs. There are little lore snippets written up for all the skills, for every 10 points you gain in each. You feel very connected to your character, and you feel yourself growing with her. There are lots of little awesome moments that don’t influence the plot, but that your character can unlock by passing a skill check at a certain point anyway.
However! It is linear, comes to an abrupt end, and lacks much replayability. You can play your character a different way, to see a different path or outcome, but it still goes through the same series of events and you know how it’s going to end each time. Not all life sim games run like that. I would have liked this scripted part of the story to be the first half of the game, with a second half dealing with after you become Queen where you have to deal with politics and events and manage your kingdom.
Gameplay (0-2): 1
It really, reeeeeally needs to be longer. There are games with similar sideways depth and branching options that also go on for much longer. At the least, break the weeks up into smaller chunks, and insert minor random events and evening activities in between. Time feels like it flies by and then is over too soon. Yes that lends itself to a rogue-like feel, but I don’t think it’s the best fit. There aren’t enough opportunities to use many of the skills, and there is no reason to train many of them past a certain (unknown) point, or at all, because there are only one or two checks for that skill through the game, and often ones you can easily bypass anyway.
UI (0-2): 2
It’s mouse-based, simple to navigate, and had nothing annoying about it. There is a clean save/load system as well. Mild problems include that the button to progress time was a small button on one screen and there’s nothing on the main UI that points you to it before you know where it is. Also, the panels could be a bit more interconnected, I also often found myself wanting to look at my skills screen during the weekend phase, which is impossible.
Life sims are one of my favourite types of genres, and while I wouldn’t consider this game the best one I’ve ever played (Academagia takes that cake as of now), it definitely ranks up there. In a sense, these life sim games are a digital evolution of the gamebook genre in the 90s and early 00s, similar to Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy, Fabled Lands, Tunnels and Trolls etc.
And between them, LLTQ matches up to Fighting Fantasy the best – something you won’t complete on your first try, due to eclectic/unfair skill combinations/choices needed to complete a path, with some rather extravagant skill checks, skills that are only used once or twice anywhere in the story, and all in all a linear plot even though you have several ways to get there, but still a good read overall.
(PS: For anyone wondering about Academagia, it is here. It is awesome, long and packs such a powerful punch at the end that I hate them for not completing Year 2 as of this writing. It isn’t on Steam, though, or even Greenlight, yet, because the devs have another nice game on Greenlight that hasn’t taken off either. They unfortunately don’t really know how to market themselves very well. That other game is Scheheraraze, and is on Steam Greenlight. Also an excellent life sim/RPG. Go vote for it! More life sim games on Steam please. )