Beauty and the War (X Playing Pieces)-Demo Review

If ya’ll will remember back to my doomed Summer Blogging Plans post, I was supposed to play another game by Poison Apple Tales called, War: Valentines Edition, but like all things, I got distracted and that game kind fell through the cracks. So, when Dreamgazer contacted me a little while ago about the beta demo for their new and improved title, Beauty and the War (X Playing Pieces), I knew I had to find a way to fit it into my schedule!

It took me a month, but I finally got around to playing this game and I must say, I am impressed with the sheer scope of this demo! Upon it’s release, Beauty and the War will be available for PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and will be completely free!

Story

On the island of legends and fairytales, you are a Phoenix, a healer of peace and blood…but can you mend the age-old scars of war? Especially when you are desire, with hair as dark as a raven’s wing and skin as white as snow.
Your choices will determine the reign of Virgo Island.
Will you remain loyal to your guardians, the mysterious clan of the Vi, who now rule with an iron fist? Or will you side with the conquered, who once hunted you without mercy?
There are the Hulder, beautiful yet devious creatures. Then, there’s the Imugi, your childhood friend among them, and many more clans you may recognize from ancient myths.
Make alliances. Uncover murder plots. Fall in love.
Just remember that men have gone to war because of a woman.

-Synopsis

The rich history surrounding the Island of Virgo and it’s inhabitants blends together traditional fairytales with the developers own original ideas to create something truly unique!

The events of the demo are recounted to the player through a series of interconnected flashbacks by an unnamed captive, through her story, we are introduced to the island of Virgo and its inhabitants.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a bit to fully grasp the story presented in Beauty and the War, because the premise is just so dense! There are so many moving parts in the game, from the character introductions, to the history of the various tribes, to the overarching narrative about the war, and it all unfolds at roughly the same time. Which can be a bit daunting, for players during their first run through of the game. But, I get it, the developers are trying to set the stage for this massively complex world in a relatively short amount of time. In total the demo is only one hour long, which given the hefty subject matter isn’t really a lot of time, so I can forgive the slightly confusing intro. There is even a guide to help players get acclimated to the world of Beauty and the War, which can be found, HERE (it’s super helpful and I highly recommend giving it a read)!

On the other hand, the second half of the demo is much easier to follow, since it focuses primarily on character introductions and not so much on the world building aspects of the story. This is really where the demo shines, early on we learn that every choice and every interaction Ambrosia has with the other characters, be they potential love interests or enemies, is integral to the progression of the story. The alliances she makes and the activities she participates in through out the game are key to determining the outcome of the the titular war. And as a whole the demo did a great job of showcasing the various character related story elements, while still leaving some things open ended, especially where the war is concerned.


Characters

So, for a game with such a large scope, it would only make sense that it would also have an equally large and interconnected cast of characters. As I mentioned earlier, each of the characters in the game belong to various tribes and clans, each with their own specific traits, social networks, and motivations. I am still blown away by the amount of detail the developers put into conceptualizing the various characters and their relationships with one another. It kind of reminds me of the expansive world building present in fantasy literary epics.

beauty-and-the-war-relationship-chart
Relationship chart for the main characters of Beauty and the War. The romance in the game is similar to that of D3Publisher’s Storm Lover series. Players can choose to play the field or remain monogamous. 

It’s not easy to have so many key players in one game, but Poison Apple Tales does an excellent job of tying everything together while still keeping the player interested in each of the various character narratives. I wish I could talk about all of the characters at length, but there are a ton, so for now I’ll just stick to the protagonist, Ambrosia, and the potential love interests.

2016-12-08 (17).png

The primary perspective is that of a young Phoenix woman, named Ambrosia. We follow her as she carries out various activities around her encampment and interacts with friends and allies from each of the various clans on the island. Ambrosia is one of the most altruistic protagonists I’ve seen in a long time and at first this aspect of her personality made it very hard for me to relate to her. She spends the majority of the demo running around fixing problems for her friends/cousins, Rosemary and Jasmine, while also dealing with the care of soldiers wounded during battle… She is selfless to a fault; going so far as to giving up her own clothes so that others can keep warm, leaving her with nothing but ribbons and thin silks to wear (a fact that all of the other characters take note of).

The love interests are a dynamic bunch representing each of the various ally clans, though due to the nature of the demo we really only interact directly with two of them (Arsenik and Chase).

  • Arsenik is a member of the Hulder, a clan with deep ties to nature. Every woman has her eye on the handsome and gentlemanly, Arsenik, but it seems he has his eye on our sweet protagonist! Contrary to his usually refined nature, Arsenik becomes an awkward mess whenever he’s around Ambrosia! I loved Arsenik!
  • Chase is a young Trold soldier with an obvious crush on Ambrosia. He’s like a cute puppy dog, following Ambrosia around the camp like a little shadow… I think I hurt his feelings when I snubbed him in the demo, because after throwing a tantrum, I didn’t see him again for the remainder of the game.
  • Onyx is the mysterious chief of the Vi clan and their main executioner. We don’t really see much of him in the demo save for a brief cameo towards the end, so I don’t really have much of an opinion about him….
  • Wind is a member of the barbaric Imugi  clan. He is brutal and animalistic, attacking Ambrosia when they first meet in the demo. Wind hates Ambrosia, and all of the Phoenix for that matter,  going so far as to refuse her treatment altogether. However, demo hints that there is a bit of history between the pair….
  • Night, like Onyx is a member of the Vi clan. But unlike his more ruthless clan members, Night is known as a bit of a heartbreaker. We don’t really see much of him in the demo, but he is probably the character I am most looking forward to meeting in the full version of the game (I kinda have a thing for tall dark and handsome guys).

Features

I kind of ran long with the other section so, I’ll try to keep this short, but I am very pleased with the quality of this game! The PA team has seen some significant growth from the early days of Death Room and War: 13th Day, from the updated artistic style which now features more detailed character designs and even animated sprites to the depth of the story and it’s content.

At it’s core Beauty is a political romance drama, so character interactions play a huge role in the course that the story takes, and the demo only scratches the surface of the inter-clan political structure. Each choice has far reaching implications that effect everyone on the island of Virgo, not just Ambrosia and her immediate circle.

final thoughts

I have been following the works of Poison Apple Tales for a little while now, so I have had the pleasure of watching their growth as a group, and Beauty and the War promises to be their most impressive undertaking to date! I was expecting this to be a short, cute fairytale themed game, but what I got was compelling romance in the midst of a terrible war. Everything about this game is bigger and better, from the artwork to the premise, this is going to be a very intriguing title!

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Are you as hyped for the game as I am? Let me know what you think of Beauty and the War (X Playing Pieces) and the demo in the comments section. Don’t forget to let the developer know what you think about the game as well! As always THANK YOU for reading!!!

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