As the nation was watching an old man get a new hat, Tom was busy slaying demons in Devil May Cry 3, while Joe witnessed Westminster falling into a cavern under the earth in Mask of the Rose. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Here’s what we’re playing this week:
Joe – Editor
- Playing on PC via Steam
This week, I’ve been stuffing my face with all the free demos on offer at LudoNarraCon 2023 – a digital festival on Steam that celebrates narrative-driven games. Sadly, with over 36 demos on offer, I couldn’t get to play them all, but here are some of my personal highlights.
Slay the Princess
Perhaps the strangest and shortest demo I had the pleasure of playing, Slay the Princess is a visual novel style dating sim with elements of psychological horror and dark comedy. In my brief preview, a suspicious narrator tells me that I have to find and slay the titular princess to prevent the world from ending.
After arguing with the narrator through a series of dialogue options, I reluctantly set off into the woods and find the princess imprisoned in the basement of a log cabin. I’m still not entirely sure what happened next, but it seems the princess managed to persuade me not to kill her, which resulted in her stabbing me to death once I unlocked her shackles. The demo ends here, promising multiple endings to uncover in the full release.
The Invincible has been on my radar for a while now so I was over the moon to get my mitts on its debut demo. The game itself is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel of the same name – a hard sci-fi world that follows the story of scientist Yasna as she explores the strange planet of Regis III.
First off, the visuals here are stunning – ringed planets hang in the sky, cutting chasms of light through the dusty, red atmosphere that dazzle and refract off your space helmet visor. There’s a big Atompunk vibe here, too, as you turn dials on bulky, pre-transistor gadgets clad in 60s’ orange Bakelite.
Again, the demo was quite brief (and a little light on gameplay) but the world-building and storytelling alone made The Invincible a no-brainer for my Steam Wishlist.
Mask of the Rose
I first came across Mask of the Rose in a recent Edge article, but the developers, Failbetter Games, have been creating their alternative version of Victorian London for over 13 years through the highly-acclaimed text-based RPG Fallen London.
As the name suggests, the whole of London literally falls into a vast cavern under the earth, becoming a darkly comic Gothic underworld where demons walk the streets and Parliament has sunk into the Thames. Mask of the Rose takes place in the immediate aftermath of the fall, as your player character adjusts to their new life beneath the ground.
Part visual-novel, part dating sim, Mask of the Rose offers a plethora of choices to the player, not only through dialogue options but also through the clothes you wear, your past decisions, and the secrets you’ve already uncovered. The result is a dynamic, darkly comic story with a pinch of murder and romance for good measure. One to watch.
Tom – Lead Writer
Devil May Cry 3
- Playing on PlayStation 5 via backwards compatibility
Ahhhhh. Now, that’s more like it! After enduring the mind-numbing misery of Devil May Cry 2 for the first (and last) time, replaying DMC3 was a breath of fresh air. In fact, it was more than that. It was a tornado of fresh air, a tornado that blasted the bad stank of DMC2 from my memory and left me feeling reborn.
That might sound overly dramatic but I really, really hated DMC2. On the other hand, DMC3 was one of my very favourite games from my childhood, but I hadn’t replayed it since it first came out. I’m so glad, then, that it more than stands the test of time.
DMC3 succeeds in essentially every area where DMC2 fails. It takes the template established by the first game and improves upon it, blending stylish sword combat with a light smattering of gunplay. There’s a lot more customisability, with a wide range of weapons and play styles to use and upgrade. And most importantly, it’s fun. Dante has his brash, jocular personality back; in fact, this being a prequel, he’s more gratingly youthful than ever. And he’s surrounded by a supporting cast of memorable characters like the enigmatic Lady, the sinister Arkham, and Dante’s dipshit brother Vergil.
And this story is set once again against grand, gothic environments which look better than ever thanks to loving remaster work. I’m something of a completionist but if you want to get into the Devil May Cry series, heed my advice: skip Devil May Cry 2. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go straight from Devil May Cry to DMC3, and you’re guaranteed a fantastic time.