Every now and again, you stumble across a game that does something new and interesting. Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator is exactly that kind of game. Set more than a thousand years in the future, authorities discover a young girl in the remnants of a destroyed city — and it’s up to you to raise her.
The early build I played kicked off with a short montage of CGs establishing the world. Terrible alien creatures called GIGANT roam the surface of the planet (inferred to be Earth, but not explicitly stated as such as far as I can recall). Humanity’s sole refuge is a number of floating cities called Arks, and that’s where you and many other people live. Unfortunately, the aliens attack and destroy one of these Arks, leaving countless survivors to see refuge elsewhere. One of these refugees is Ciel, a 10-year-old, green-eyed girl with no memory of her life before the Ark’s destruction and no explanation for how she survived the brutal alien attack.
Who Are You?
One of the first things Ciel Fledge does is bring up the configuration screen. I can’t recall the last time I saw a game automatically bring up the options screen at the beginning of the game and I wonder why more titles don’t do it. It gave me a chance to check over the settings and see what the controls are before actually playing the game.
Once you have finished reading the establishing story and setting up the game, a government official arrives at your apartment. Before she introduces you to Ciel, she needs to collect some information about you. I, of course, introduced myself as Mr. Rob Raptorsonheimerberg, something that encapsulated my family’s generations-long tradition of testing how long a name field will go.
I then chose from a selection of one of three backgrounds: Surface Dweller, Ark Born, and Vatgrown Baby. Each gives you one bonus and one penalty which passes along to Ciel. Ark Born, for example, gives you the "Solidarity" boon which increases Friendship Encounter Rate by 25% and the "Danger Below" penalty which restricts Exploration to 5 days.
I ended up going with “Surface Dweller”, as I feel my luck would have been terrible enough that I would grow up in the ruined wastes of what was once humanity’s great cities. From there, I had to choose a skill focus from one of the game’s five stats: Strength, Intelligence, Charm, Imagination, and Spiritual. These five skill focuses had three different career paths apiece, each of which will add two bonuses and one penalty to Ciel’s abilities.
In short, I had the choice of 45 different builds for myself — I hadn’t even begun the game yet! I had the sense that there was a lot of potential for replayability on this alone, a notion which was later proven true upon exploring the game’s main menu. If things stay as planned in this early version, there should be 23 different endings, a New Game+, and a whole bunch of achievements encouraging different ways to play.
Ciel Fledge: A Week at a Time
After you're all set up, you are now responsible for Ciel. Firstly, you'll need to plan what she's going to be doing.
Gameplay consists of weeks split into seven days apiece, each of which has one day of rest. Holidays will occasionally come up and throw a wrench into your plans.
Ciel has four stats that you must manage: Stamina, Discipline, Mood, and Stress. Discipline, Mood, and Stress will affect how well she performs various activities and how much benefit she gains from them, but the real backbone of her health is Stamina. Should it run out during an event, she'll collapse, the week will end, and you'll get a stern lecture from the authorities. I didn't experience any further failure myself, but I presume that this will be one of the many ways you can fail.
There are some challenges in juggling these many types of events. I had wanted to built up Ciel's Spiritual stat. Unfortunately, there was only one activity which boosted it and it cost 2.5x the Stamina when compared to other kinds of activities.
The events that you plan out for Ciel will usually boost one of her five core stats or any number of sub-stats. Typically, she'll lose some Stamina, gain one or two points in a primary stat, and gain 4–5 points in a sub stat. Gymnastics class, for example, costs around 15 Stamina at the beginning of the game, increases her Strength by one, and increases her Athletics by 5.
As Ciel's training continues, she'll also grow up. This means that her Stamina pool increases, but so do the cost of attending classes and performing other actions. That's why you also have to allocate Rest days as needed to keep her healthy and energized. The current game balance makes a five-day workweek is a fantasy for the adorable little protagonist of Ciel Fledge.
Socializing, Chores, and More
There's more to raising a little girl than just sending her off to school, of course! Part of Ciel Fledge is making friends, and that's something that happens both passively and actively, She'll chat with people after activities and gain a small boost in friendship and you can also dedicate Sunday to having her visit a friend and get a massive boost to their relationship. The benefit of these relationships wasn't entirely clear, but I'd wager that they pay off later in the game somehow.
I also had an issue with building up Ciel's Spiritual in the early game. Suppose than an activity takes up 15 Stamina. The only way to build Spiritual takes something closer to 40 Stamina, and there are no other alternatives in the early game. I specifically wanted to focus on it to earn a healing ability, and I feel like it might have been a mistake not picking a spiritual focus at the outset to compensate for this challenge.
Along with a growth in skills (and stature — kids grow up fast!), Ciel will also gain the ability to take on jobs. In a future where humanity is fighting for survival, there's apparently no cultural problem with sending her off to do housekeeping jobs or become a kitchen assistant at the age of 10.
You'll work too, of course. You need to make sure there's enough money coming in to keep Ciel fed and pay for all of her classes. (Strangely, rent doesn't seem to be a factor on the Ark, nor are any costs for your own survival like food, clothing, and the like.) You can choose to work overtime and lose affection with your daughter, pull some part-time jobs for a balance, or choose between supervising or spoiling her and focusing on raising her while also burning through your savings.
One of my biggest bugbears encountered in my six or so hours of play is the complete and total lack of information in some situations. As an example, you can go shopping on the rest day (and only on the rest day). You're able to visit up to three stores. Once there, you can see the items in the shop, but you have no idea what some of these do. What does "Expression-Ready" mean on the Kitchen Pants? There's an icon that seems to indicate there's more information about the item, but I've no idea how to activate it. I only discovered what the item does after buying and equipping it. In a game where information is paramount and money is short, that's a big problem.
My experience with Ciel Fledge leads me to believe that it's all about aiming for the right stats and striking a balance. If you think this is going to be nothing but a life sim, you'll be in for a wonderful surprise.
Draw a Card and Battle
There is indeed combat in Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator — and it might be the most adorable turn-based battle I've ever seen.
As you progress through the first few weeks, you learn about the different kinds of combat in Ciel Fledge. These include Quiz battles, which have you accomplishing specific tasks like making matching sets of cards with no mistakes. There are also battles to attain a certain score and standard RPG battles featuring hit points, special abilities, and all that jazz.
Each of these battles in Ciel Fledge may involve assistance from allies or the use of one or more of Ciel's three special abilities. While you only have three at the beginning of the game, you'll learn more as you develop her skills.
Sometimes, an "Encounter" will pop during a class or job. Completing these successfully will gain bonus stats at the cost of a little more Stamina and they're almost always worth it if you can pull them off.
These early encounters in Ciel Fledge are also downright hilarious. Seeing a ten-year-old girl fight against a cockroach with a massive 1HP during Housekeeping and set to intense RPG battle music is simultaneously funny and adorable. It teaches you the battle system in an entertaining fashion, something that will surely come to better use later in the game.
Ciel Fledge Preview | Ups and Downs
I've been practically gushing about Ciel Fledge, and that's probably because I really liked what I've seen so far. It does many things right and has a lot of variety. There were some minor issues here or there, though, like a few instances where spelling or information was incorrectly or not clearly presented. The most notable one was when pop-ups said Ciel's stats had decreased, but they appeared to increase instead.
These few issues aside, Ciel Fledge was wonderful. It has a crisp art style that's on par with most visual novels, an adorable "meeple" art style for the overworld and battles, and some truly excellent music.
I'm very much looking forward to the finished version of Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator. It takes the best parts of life simulators, visual novels, and turn-based games alike and combines them into something truly new and wonderful. If you're a fan of one or more of those three genres, then Ciel Fledge is absolutely something that you need to keep on your radar.
TechRaptor conducted our preview of Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.