Well, when I sat down to write this week’s free game review on Friday, I found myself in a strange position: the only game that had been released (Smite, if you’re curious) was a game that had actually been around for a good while, but was new to Steam.
Needless to say, covering a game that had been released off Steam a good while ago (specifically, about two years ago) was kind of pointless, as the vast majority of people who want to play it will have already played it and those who haven’t will likely have already heard of it. So I had to look through my library of games to find a free game to cover.
It wasn’t as tough a choice as you’d expect this to be, though. I’d already decided on the Wednesday to review a game that happened to be free, despite it not being new, so this felt like a case of excellent timing and took out two birds with one stone: I had my free game decided for reviewing and it gave me an opportunity to talk about a game that I had wanted to talk about.
So, with that said, let’s look at Rising Angels: Reborn. While it is the first game by developer IDHAS Studios to make it onto Steam so far, it is worth noting that the studio has created several other visual novels which can be found on their website here if you want to look into it and they’re currently in the last stages of a Kickstarter for the sequel (titled Rising Angels: Fates, if you’re interested in it), so, despite their limited appearance on Steam, they’re not really a new company by any stretch of the imagination. The guy in charge of the company (Anthony Lindsey) very kindly informing me via email that they’re basically him and a few other freelancers who make up the company and that he has over a decade’s worth of experience in creating visual novels, so it’s fair to say that he definitely knows what he’s doing with regards to the behind-the-scenes aspect of making visual novels, and they’re currently working on three visual novels: the earlier mentioned Rising Angels: Fates (which, according to the email, is finishing off the last bits of voice acting for it and the last few bits of art and the script at the time of writing, so is mostly finished), a remake of their prequel to Rising Angels: Reborn (originally titled Rising Angels: The Red Rose, with the remake being titled Rising Angels: Hope and is only needing a bit of art to come in before being ready for release) and a fantasy fanservice game titled Order of Ataxia: Initial Effects (which is about two thirds done and aiming for a December release), so they should become a slightly better known name over the next few months among visual novel fans.
However, that is not the important question at the moment. The big question is what I think of Rising Angels: Reborn. Well, as weird a comparison as this might sound on paper, my best point of reference is actually the Mass Effect series, as both involve playing as a human who is part of a special part of the military working with a crew comprising of various aliens and humans to investigate strange events only to stumble across something that requires them to save the galaxy from being destroyed. There are a few key differences between the two (aside from the obvious one of Mass Effect being a third person shooter and Rising Angels: Reborn being a visual novel) but, when you boil it down to the essentials, you can spot that both games are cut from the same cloth. Whether this is a good thing or not will depend on your thoughts on Mass Effect, but, speaking as someone who is fond of the Mass Effect games (despite my infrequent playthroughs of them), I really enjoyed seeing a visual novel like this, as it’s surprisingly rare among visual novels to take this particular route.
I also have to give praise for the artwork, which is very good, for the most part (a few minor issues which I think could have been tidied up can be found across the visual novel, but none of them are particularly problematic). I don’t think it’s the best artwork I’ve seen in a visual novel to date and the anime influences might make the game off putting for those who are tired of visual novels relying on this choice of art style, but it has an interesting aesthetic to it that I liked and which worked perfectly for showing a run down starship.
I must also commend the game for being one of the few visual novels which actually has characters who are homosexual in it and are NOT romantic options. This might seem like a really minor thing on first glance, but, if you’ve played any visual novel with romance options, you’ve almost certainly played one where you can romance any character in the game, regardless of their gender, so a visual novel actually having a character who is genuinely unable to be romanced due to their sexuality is actually kind of interesting. This doesn’t necessarily make it a good visual novel, obviously, but it’s an interesting bucking of the stereotype connected to most visual novels with romantic options and one which I feel should be the sign of a good visual novel (I don’t mean that as an insult to visual novels which don’t do this, obviously, I just feel that a visual novel involving romance not being afraid to make a character who is uninterested in the player character is a good reason to write a character who is just a good character as opposed to glorified fanservice, so it encourages better writing on an overall level).
On top of that, I must say that the soundtrack of the game is just awesome. There are a few cases where it doesn’t QUITE work for the scene and you can hear it loop if you listen carefully, but the soundtrack itself is legitimately impressive and mostly enhances the game wonderfully. Combine that with a truly awesome song for the main menu of the game (Lights Out Dancing’s ‘Broken Compass’, if you’re really curious) and I would honestly struggle to fault the soundtrack much!
With that said, I do have a few criticisms of the game. I think the big one I have is that there’s not really enough options that have a huge impact on the plot: the vast majority of the game goes in the same direction regardless of the choices you make, with only a few decisions making a major change on the progress of the game (and most of which are the difference between a game over and continuing the story). This wouldn’t be a big problem if there was a major decision early in the game, but it really takes a while before you have to make a major decision in the game, which kind of makes the early game a slog to replay if you’ve already played through the game.
I also feel that making Sol as unpleasant to non-humans as he is in the game, while making sense when you know the character’s bio, is uncomfortably stronger than it should be. I do accept that the protagonist calls him out on his attitude multiple times, so there’s a good chance that this was intentional, but he unfortunately has it played up to such an extent that I found it really difficult to like the guy, even considering that it was deliberate. Even when he dials it back later in the game and shows his more caring side to non-humans, it still felt a bit stronger than I felt was necessary and damaged his character more than it enhanced it.
I also must say that Stan’s status in the game (I can’t reveal it to avoid spoilers) was so obvious that I actually thought it was going to turn out to be a red herring simply because I was thinking “Oh, come on, they can’t seriously be making him be like that, can they?” I will give credit that the person working with him was not who I expected it to be, but I still feel that the game should have tried to wrongfoot everyone rather than building him up so obviously from the start that it didn’t even surprise me when they had the reveal. It’s not necessarily bad writing to have someone who is obviously trouble turn out to be trouble, but I think having the suspicious person look like a devil is kind of lacking in subtlety a bit!
Still, I have to say that, overall, Rising Angels: Reborn is a very enjoyable visual novel for those who like visual novels. I think it might be a bit too wordy to really appeal to those who aren’t interested in visual novels in general, but, if you like visual novels, then this certainly is worth checking out. I personally can’t wait to see IDHAS Studios’ next visual novel and where Natalie’s story goes from here, so who knows, maybe this won’t be the only time we follow the adventures of the crew of the KSS Nimross…