- Developer: Studio Namaapa
- Publisher: PQube
- Release date: 21/2/2020
- Price: £17.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by Pqube
I Am Not a Dad
Funnily Enough, despite working for Nintendad, I’m not a parent myself. I don’t intend to be at the moment anyway, thanks to being painfully single and not in a stable enough place in my life to even dream that it would be a good idea for me. Not to mention, having a kid would mean that I don’t have as much time to play all my video games!
I’m not being serious, of course. I think that parents have a big responsibility and I will always applaud them for taking that on, but that doesn’t mean that I am going to be doing it just yet. But a digital daughter? Well, I could do that, I suppose! So, I grabbed my switch and got cracking on playing Ciel Fledge.
The Sci-fi Situation
I was actually really excited to see a game in this vein come out. Games where you raise a child had a moment a while ago, but they were always a niche thing. Unfortunately, they were a niche thing in Japan, so we were always lucky if we managed to get one over here in the states that was translated and easily playable. While I don’t think this genre is really going to be having a huge comeback or renaissance, it’s nice to know that someone is keeping the lights on and keeping this going. I’d always rather have more options than less.
Ciel Fledge takes place in a world where the earth has been ravaged by an alien force, and thus humanity lives on aboard great flying ships that are a city of their own. There are not that many, though, which is why it is a great tragedy when one of the ships is attacked and nearly everyone who was there is lost. As the player, you get to design what your background is, ranging from someone who has lived on the surface, to someone who was grown in a vat on the ship. Once that has all been decided, you are given the custody of a little girl. While you can give her a new name, I stuck with the default of Ciel so that’s what I’ll call her in this review. It’s then your job to raise Ciel for the next ten years until she reaches adulthood and is ready to strike out on her own.
It’s fairly typical sci-fi and daughter raising game stuff, but it works just fine to facilitate what’s going on and get things moving. There is more plot and a handful of side characters to round things out a little more and bring some life into the world and story. At first, I expected that the whole living on sky ships thing would just kind of be forgotten along with the alien threat and was just there as window dressing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that that was not the case and the setting is worked into the game in a lot of ways and while it does not constantly make itself known, it is still there like a soft constant hum in the background.
How Do I Look?
The presentation of the game is the place where I think I was perhaps the most let down by this game. While the character images are cutely drawn and get their point across very well, I found that they tended to lack many expressions. Most characters only had a handful of poses at the most and a few more facial expressions. As a result, I found a lot of the characters could come off as rather stiff. There were a few where their secondary poses looked a little off in terms of proportions as well, which didn’t help matters. There’s nothing wrong with having only a few sprites in your game, but they had better be good sprites if that is the case.
In Ciel Fledge, a lot of the characters look like they’re out of one of the “Drawing My First Manga” books that I was really into when I was in middle school. They’re fairly simple and static. Most of the characters are just standing with their arms at their sides in their default pose, so they don’t exactly show off their personality the first time that you see them. (The exception being the Splash images that you get once in a while.) There are some genres of game that I would not mind this in, but one as text heavy as this, it does bother me a bit. The movement of characters was also really slow when they went in and out of frame in some of the Visual Novel like story scenes, which really dragged and killed the pacing. I don’t think I should have been slamming the speed up button on these as much as I was.
I try not to mute games unless I really have to. There are a few games that I podcast to, like The Binding of Issac for example, but most of the time I like to keep with the sounds that a game provides me. Ciel Fledge had me mute it after the first hour. There are not a lot of tracks in this title so you’re going to hear the same ones over and over again. That’s the case for a lot of games, but the sounds in this one are just kind of obnoxious. Not to mention, with how much I was shuffling around in menus for this one, I got tired of the sounds of that too. It was just for the best that I wack on my own music or a podcast while I was playing.
That’s not to say that it was all terrible, since there were some elements that I did like. I liked the simplified characters at unimportant moments, such as when shown on the map. They looked like little pudding drops and made me smile the first time that I saw them. These are used in battle as well, and while I initially didn’t like this, I realized that it might not be best to show my 11 year old daughter fighting a mugger or robber, so I grew to appreciate it. I also liked that as my daughter got taller and grew up more, it happened gradually. It wasn’t like a week passed and then all of the sudden it was an entirely different image. Comparing screenshots really made me realize the changes that had happened and I appreciated that naturalistic approach to Ciel’s growth.
Here’s the Plan
If you’ve ever played a game in the vein of Princess Maker, you know what you’re getting into here. You choose what you’re going to do for the week (such as work, work overtime, monitor Ciel, or spoil her with treats) and what Ciel will be eating and then what activities that she will be doing each day that week. Ciel then executes the routine laid out for her and gains stats, money, or other goodies as a result. Depending on other factors, she might also have a little cutscene related to the story or fleshing out one of the other characters. It’s a lot of menu management, so if you don’t like that kind of stuff, you’re not going to like this game.
I personally felt the week by week management could be really slow and often found myself wishing I could plan an entire month at once or even just two weeks in order to see results quicker and not spend so much time staring at the results screen between each week. The moment that I realized that I could speed up Ciel’s execution on the menu was a godsend. It took her bumping into friends at class from taking five seconds to around one which greatly helped with the feeling of slowness.
Slow is really the word that I feel when I think about this game. The only place that does not feel slow is in the battle system. Ciel has a chance to have encounters while she is out and about doing the tasks you have set out for her. These utilize the battle system which has you matching colored tiles from a deck to get tokens to use to make your skills happen or attack. There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the simplest way to put it. When you’re on the ship, these battles come in various forms with different types of instructions based on the activity that they are relating to. Where they become real battles is when Ciel takes trips down to the surface of the earth to explore and scavenge. This is where the battle system comes to life as you face off against monsters for the chance of finding interesting items and growing Ciel stronger. It’s a nice change of pace from all the menu management.
There is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to the stats as well. It’s frustrating that Ciel’s stats will just drop a little bit at the start of every month. I assume this was for some sort of balancing, but it just came off as irritating to see the numbers that I had worked hard to make go up, just go down again. Some of the stats are not precise either. Giving Ciel certain foods will raise her affection towards you, but it is never clear how much. In fact, the affection stat is one that I always had to go out of the way to look at because it is one of the few stats that is not accounted for in the results screen at the end of every week or in Ciel’s meters in the upper left. Which meant that I often forgot about entirely until my dialog options would be limited because I did not have enough affection with her to say a certain thing. It’s how I ended up finding out after two years, my daughter had only 1% affection for me, because I had not paid attention to the stat thanks to it not showing up alongside the others in many places.
More Than Just a Problem
I’m disappointed to say that this game is not very technically steady, though. While there are not really frames to drop or anything like that, there are a few problems. In fights, you have to press two buttons at the same time in order to activate your skills. This is something common to games based around a controller, so I was not too fussed about it. That was until I realized that the game was really fidgety about if it would count these presses or not. They needed to be at the exact same time so, until I found my rhythm with this, I would sometimes have to press the pair of buttons multiple times in order to get it to register. If you have poor coordination this can be mitigated by using the touchscreen controls, but that will mean not playing on a TV, at least for these segments. Text laying over other text could be hard to read when docked and there were some places where I felt that the text was just a little too small for me, even though I feel I was sitting an average distance away from the TV that I was playing on.
I think it would be remiss of me not to mention what happened in one of my sessions of playing the game, as well. While most of the nights that I played this game everything ran just fine, there was one night where in the course of playing for just two hours, the game crashed three times. I am usually willing to forgive a game a crash, maybe even two if it is a very long game, but I find three crashes in such a short period of time to be completely unacceptable. The game does have autosave, but each time it crashed I always had the fear that my progress would be lost.
An Honest Effort
Ciel Fledge is a game that I enjoy and I am looking forward to raising another orphaned child with a new parenting style where she doesn’t have minimum affection for me two years into our relationship. However, this game has some serious problems. A lot of this comes from it being an indie from a relatively new team. I’m interested to see the ways that they are going to grow from this experience, even if it does mean that Ciel Fledge is kind of rough around the edges. I’m sure that their next try at a game of this type will see improvements.
- Breathes new life into a niche genre
- Some charming elements
- Battle system provides a nice change of pace
- Serious technical problems
- Feels very very slow
- Presentations leaves something to be desired in places
Ciel Fledge misses the mark in several spots and has some frustrations, but delivers an enjoyable experience if you can overlook the problems.