To The Green is a weekly look at one game on Steam Greenlight trying to get onto Steam. Many games get mired in the process trying to get there, caught up with abandoned projects, shovelware, and other things. With To The Green we hope to highlight one worthy game each week that is struggling to get on Steam and let you decide if it is something you’d be interested in buying.
Queen at Arms is the latest game to come into our spotlight and get a little coverage here. We’ve covered some more strategy games lately, so this week we’re going to the other side – a Visual Novel. But to help cushion the blow, it’s a Visual Novel about a war story so it should make some more strategic sense in that way!
In Queen At Arms you play a young women who has disguised herself as a man. Marcus Cordale (first name customizable), is the name she has gone by her whole life, to protect herself as she is believed dead in her country of birth by a violent political coup. Raised by a respected soldier in Orthera, she stayed mostly close to home until her 18th birthday, after her father died. Searching for her older brother, she joins the Ortheran Army and finds that Nicolas has become a cleric – a medical assistant in the army and no longer the same person she once knew.
Army life makes it harder for her to protect her secret though she struggles to despite it all. Her father’s name gets her drafted as an Aide to the general in charge of the army, where she finds herself more and more drawn into the intrigues of the situation. What is the Mad King up to, what about the spymaster, and what does that odd Archmage really care about one low ranking soldier?
In Queen At Arms though, player agency is at the heart of everything. Even in the short demo that is available setting things up, the choices you make open and close options for what you can do, and who may trust you. Which door you open, who you talk with, what you say, and your understanding of the situation affect future options, people’s personal opinion of you, and the army’s overall respect for you.
The army’s respect does matter because as the game goes on Marcus will find herself leading the Mad King’s army in a time of war. At the heart of it all, trying to figure out who people really are, using new found skills to lead, and stepping up in a time when no one else can or will… in a society that doesn’t necessarily make it safe to do so.
To give an example of player agency from the demo, there is a point in the demo that you are at the inn with Nicolas, Prince Alastor and James. They are all drinking and talking, when James suggests playing cards some – and Alastor suggests that the stake be winner gets a drink. Here you have the choice – play cards despite Nicolas warning you off slightly, or not to play cards and potentially listen in on another conversation nearby.
If you play cards you find out what is going on with James, Nicolas, and Alastor, learning more about the characters and opening up opportunities for dialogue down the line one would imagine. It can also affect your relation stat with all of the bunch at the card table. On the other hand, if you choose not to play, and then listen in to the Prelate and Archmage talking – you can learn a bit of fire magic and learn a bit more about them and the Archmage’s view on magic.
The fire magic in fact is a basic simple one and later on it comes up again as an option during a fight. No, you don’t get to toss fire at your enemy’s, however a soldier gets injured during it, taking an arrow. If you don’t have the fire skill – or perhaps some healing training – you can’t help him any. However, if you know the simple fire spell, you can pull the arrow and use the fire spell through your weapon to cauterize the wound.
The game also tackles romance and the ideas of gender identity and different sexualities within. There are 8 possible characters that Marcus can have a romance with, depending on the choices you make and what you talk to them. As a female who has been raised as a male and spent most of her life acting as one, the ideas of gender identity are already sown right into the basis of the concept stage. Beyond romance, each character has secrets of their own, ideas, and dreams that make up them that depending on how Marcus interacts with them may or may not be seen in any given playthrough.
I’ve played the short demo a couple of times and even through act 1 there are numerous little things, and bigger ones that add up to make the game a very reactive Visual Novel. It’s clear that the talk of player agency here is not just at the surface level of choice and consequences, as the narrative reshapes itself around who you’ve talked to, what you’ve done and what you’ve said. It has over 10 hours of playtime in it, and more than a dozen different endings.
Queen At Arms is currently, of course, on Steam Greenlight and is coming out in January 2015. It has a demo available on its website for free that you can try out and see if it is a game you would be interested in.
You can see the Greenlight trailer for it below:
Do you know a game that’s in Greenlight that you think we should take a look at? If so, send an email to [email protected] or share your thoughts in the comments below!