Welcome to our look here at Queen at Arms, a recently released visual novel on Steam. Let's clear a couple quick facts out of the way here just for everyone to know:
- Queen at Arms is a visual novel
- Queen at Arms does not include any explicit scene
So, if you aren't interested in games that are not action or platformers or require manual dexterity this is probably one you want to skip. We're also going to be diving lightly into spoiler territory here for the first chapter of the game, which is available as free demo, although I will be doing my best to minimize that and I don't think it will take anything away from your experience with the game. So if you're interested in a coming to age story with choices, consequences, war, politics and some romance stay with me as we dive into Queen At Arms, a game I've been following since I saw it back on Steam Greenlight.
Queen At Arms has you playing as one of the Cordale "brothers," the younger one. Canonically using the name "Marcus," it is quickly revealed to the player that you aren't playing as a man but instead as a women who was raised by her adoptive father and brother as a man. Thomas Cordale, the adoptive father, was a revered knight who retired after a while to become a farmer raising Marcus and your brother Nikolas. He recently died, however, and Marcus decided to go to the capital to join the army that Nikolas was drafted to.
As you arrive you quickly are placed into the role of Aide as the son of a famous knight and find yourself caught up in a cast of personalities and people who are introduced quickly and effectively for the most part. The cast is diverse and full of different characters who largely manage to be more deep than the archetypes they are based off of. You have the playful prince, the caring priest, the mysterious foreign wizard, the excitable engineer, the enigmatic spy, the aristocratic women, the fiery warleader, and that's just among the characters you can romance.
One of the most interesting things though about how Queen At Arms handles its character interactions is how much who you interact with matters, because if you don't interact with them, you won't see much more than the surface. Who you spend time with, who you talk to, what you ask, all this figures into what you learn about the people around you. That's because people don't just give their life story to strangers, instead only to people they consistently interact with.
The plot for the game follows a somewhat standard theme of a coming of age story where your character is trying to find her place in the world. As you are introduced to the characters referenced above, you are also shown a quick sketch of the situation—the king of the nation you are now in is considered mad, and there are a lot of international tensions resulting from that. He's been building up his army, including drawing from one of his allies who he has an agreement regarding troop exchange. As the Aide you are sent around to do small tasks—passing out invites, getting drinks and the like—and your choices begin to open up after a little bit, as where you choose to spend time matters. Who you talk with influences how the story unfolds because of what Marcus knows and what options are available to you and Marcus to make.
Early on in the first chapter, there is an opportunity, to give one example, to learn a little bit of magic from the Archmage, and that appears as an option later to staunch a wound of a fellow soldier when in the first chapter's battle. Another option is that if you choose to talk with the engineer, you'd have an option to use a crossbow at a different point. Little things like that pepper this section of the game. While there are a lot of important choices throughout the game, I did find it somewhat disappointing that there wasn't more building along this path in the future. While your choices are opened or constrained sometimes, generally speaking you see less of characters teaching you skills that open up routes and more of dialogue trees for personal stories or for some branching routes at parts of the story. The learning of magic in the first chapter was one of the things that really caught my eye back when it was on Greenlight as unlike the other options which are all about discussion this is a more active role in ways as you can choose what you learn which opens or closes different particular flags in events. Sadly in the full game this wasn't really expanded on and is just used here with a few things early on although it is satisfying in those sections, it would have been nice to see more of it and have those flag things further on as well.
The music, art, and animations in the game form a cohesive and solid but not spectacular aesthetic. On occasion you might find yourself frowning at one thing or another, but generally they work quite well and help set the tone. The voice acting is minimal in the game but helps give the characters a bit of voice.
While we've discussed around it some, one thing to know about Queen At Arms is that it is a game that deals heavily with self-identity and sexuality on a personal level. It is very much about letting the character express themselves in that way (or the player through the character) and different characters have their feelings on matters depending on how you identify. Generally speaking it's treated very respectfully without any heavy-handedness, with most of the drama around it being more of a coming of age sort as Marcus has to decide who to be going forward, especially with the pressures the situation demand.
Queen At Arms offers some solid replayability as well. While your first playthrough will take you only four to five hours, there are a lot of different choices to see and experience. Thankfully, unlike in Telltale games, Queen at Arms includes the ability to skip scenes you've already seen, making it much easier to go through and avoid the tedium that can occur at times with experiences like that if you can't skip repetitiveness. Overall, I spent about seventeen and a half hours unlocking all the achievements and witnessing all the endings I could find.
On the whole, I enjoyed my time with Queen At Arms. I wish there were a few more scenes like in the demo, but the character focus of the game works quite well with such a rich cast, and it is generally well written. It doesn't transcend its genre in any way, but it respectfully and intelligently handles its subject matter while presenting a good story.
Queen At Arms Deluxe Edition currently available on Steam for $24.99 and there is a free demo available that covers the first chapter of the game.
Queen At Arms was reviewed with a key provided by the developer
Queen At Arms is a good visual novel that addresses some ideas intelligently with a good story and characters.(Review Policy)