Royal Duality | Game Review

With a myriad of alternate scenes, endings, and easter eggs, ‘Royal Duality’ takes you on a mysterious adventure of fairies and vampires as you work with Nol, the Guardian of Stories, to determine the fate of several protagonists in this fantastical story-within-a-story…

Game Name: Royal Duality
Developer: Hyakuten Games
Publisher: Hyakuten Games
Platform(s): itch.io, Steam
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy, Visual Novel
Age Rating: N/A
Languages: English (text + audio)
More info: Website, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr.
Price: Free!

Premise

“I haven’t seen a human for quite some time. Welcome, my name is Nol, and I am the guardian of stories...”

– Game Description (itch.io)

A band of fairies and other supernatural people embark on an adventure to find their missing wizard friend, but in order to do so, they must travel through the cursed lands of a dangerous vampire…

In Royal Duality you first meet the enigmatic ‘Guardian of Stories’, known as ‘Nol’, who introduces the premise for the game; that is, you’ll follow the lives of several protagonists as they uncover the mysteries surrounding the vampire, cursed lands, and political schemes between the different types of fairies and other magical creatures.

The story starts with Chapter 3 – an unusual beginning, for sure – and the rest of the game proceeds in a similar fashion, as you go backwards and forwards along the timeline via the in-game tome, ‘Royal Duality’, to piece together the fragmented story and reveal the full truth.

You’ll also unlock lore as you play, which is added to your ‘Compendium’. Here, you can check out the information you’ve gathered about the characters you’ve met, places you’ve encountered, and other relevant entries. Having a way to check back on names and faces and re-cap anything the player might forget is especially helpful in such a lore-rich, fantasy visual novel.

It’s worth noting that Royal Duality follows the perspectives of several characters, rather than one main character (MC). If you’re looking for a dating sim or self-insert otome game, then this isn’t the title for you. However, if you’re interested in playing a dark fantasy visual novel that gradually weaves together several characters’ stories through one, overarching narrative, then you may wish to check out Royal Duality, the free indie visual novel by Hyakuten Games.

Game Trailer

Characters

In Royal Duality, you play as a variety of protagonists, switching perspective from chapter to chapter. Since the cast is quite large for this game, I’ll just focus on the first four playable characters…

Lilly Flowerberry

Name: Lilly Flowerberry
Pronouns: She/Her
Species: Fae
Voice Actor: Dea Elizabeth

Warren Monkshood

Name: Warren Monkshood
Pronouns: He/Him
Species: Lycan
Voice Actor: Jamie Smith

Lewis Monkshood

Name: Lewis Monkshood
Pronouns: He/Him
Species: Fae
Voice Actor: Tom Entwistle

Sam Oaken

Name: Sam Oaken
Pronouns: She/Her
Species: Sprite
Voice Actor: Ezli Schmidt

Story

The developers have provided a guide for choices, unlockables, and endings to help players navigate the many consequential choices throughout Royal Duality and clear each potential ending, scene, and all unlockable content.

Within the game, there’s also a ‘Timeline’ feature, which you can access via the main menu button labelled ‘Progress’. This is where you can see how the chapters fit in together across the overarching narrative.

There are several “books” within Royal Duality, and each takes place across different points along the timeline. You’ll need to clear all of them to piece together the full story!

As I mentioned earlier, Royal Duality is a lore-rich, indie visual novel and it’s clear that the developers put a lot of love into their game. I’m always a sucker for a fairy-themed story, so I was immediately intrigued by the concept of fae and vampires at odds with one another in a multi-species, fantasy setting.

There’s a lot to unravel as you progress through the story, including an intricate world full of social and political tensions. Each character is unique, with their own troubling pasts and flawed personalities. I also liked the art style used for the character sprites and background visuals – there was a lot of variety, which added to the immersion.

There are also several CGs to collect along the way! CG scenes are also typically voiced in full, rather than partial quips.

I will say that one thing I found unusual with the writers style is the focus on dialogue-only storytelling. Rather than blending a mix of conversation and narration, the text in Royal Duality comprises solely of dialogue. This means that the player will either need to intuit the actions taking place through the visuals, or have the actions explained to them by the cast.

It reminded me a little of a play, where the audience isn’t privy to the stage directions and the characters are limited in what they can show you visually, so they may describe the scene taking place through their conversation. While it’s an interesting stylistic choice that I don’t come across often, I will say that a play has the benefit of featuring a more dynamic stage, whereas a visual novel relies on static images and therefore cannot convey as much information on its visual elements alone.

Personally, I would have enjoyed some narration mixed in with the dialogue to help me visualise what was happening in each scene. I ended up picturing them standing around talking most of the time (or talking while walking), which made it feel a little exposition-heavy, especially in the opening chapter.

However, there are other successful visual novel-based games that employ a similar style of writing. Fate: Grand Order, for example, uses all dialogue with no narration, although it does feature minigame battles between story parts to break up long passages of written text. Even so, the fact that FGO is so successful means this dialogue-only style of writing isn’t an “incorrect” way to write, persay, I just personally prefer some narration mixed in.

In the case of Royal Duality, I think adding some more action to break up the conversation could have helped. As it stands, I finished the opening chapter feeling much like I did while watching the first season of Game of Thrones – intrigued, but also a bit overwhelmed by all the names, faces, and places I couldn’t possibly hope to remember… at least, not without some sort of guide (but thankfully, there’s the Compendium to check in on!).

I have one further criticism for the script, which is that not all the sentences were ended with a full stop. I assume it’s because the glowing blue orb that bounces at the end of each sentence was meant to replace it, but this didn’t seem to be consistent, nor did it apply to other sentence-ending punctuation like question marks or exclamation marks.

This meant that I often misread lines, as I wouldn’t realise at first glance that the sentence was finished. I kept thinking more words would appear, only to realise that was meant to be the end. It’s not a deal breaker, especially as I did get used to it after a while, but I would have preferred a full stop at the end of sentences, rather than the cursor.

Final Thoughts

It takes a lot of courage to put your story out into the world, so I’d like to thank Hyakuten Games for contacting me about Royal Duality and asking for my feedback. I’m always excited to see more indie developers making their mark on the visual novel genre, and I’m happy to share these games through my reviews!

In regards to Royal Duality specifically, it features an illustrative art style that departs from the classic, anime-inspired aesthetic, with a variety of background art and character sprites. I liked the background visuals in particular, as the style lent itself well to the fantasy theme, and the number of variations emphasised the journey aspect of the story.

There’s also partial voice acting with English-speaking voice actors. CG scenes were typically fully-voiced, with ‘quips’, or partial-voicing, for the rest of the game. In that regard, I would have liked some more options in regards to audio settings, such as turning off ‘quips’ and adjusting the volume for voices, but it’s still impressive to have any voice acting at all in a free game.

All in all, Royal Duality is an intriguing fantasy visual novel that presents a rich, fictional world filled with an interesting cast of colourful characters. Plus… it’s free! So, if it catches your eye, there’s no harm in adding it to your library and giving it a go.

You’ll like Royal Duality if you like: lore-rich fantasy settings to sink your teeth into; free indie games with a lot of charm; English original games that shake up the traditional, Japanese format; fairies, vampires, and other magical beings; and narrative-driven games that don’t focus solely on the romance…

Screenshots

Game Info

Game Name: Royal Duality
Developer: Hyakuten Games
Publisher: Hyakuten Games
Platform(s): itch.io, Steam
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy, Visual Novel
Age Rating: N/A
Languages: English (text + audio)
More info: Website, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr.
Price: Free!

~ Thank you to Hyakuten Games for sharing Royal Duality with us! ~

Thank You

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