"The beauty of its presentation in both visuals and storytelling is already outstanding, so the full game should be a delight."
As someone who enjoys cold weather, I quite like the idea of setting off on an adventure for a magical, frozen city in the north. I'm not so sure I'd enjoy being trapped there by the weather and stuck living with a small group of suspicious, unusual and paranoid people. Somehow, Solstice manages to be a fun and intriguing game, even in such a setting. Not only is the upcoming visual novel from MoaCube beautiful to look at, but it's filled to the brim with potential villains and intriguing characters.
Though the preview build I played was only short, there was enough time to gain insight into the world of Solstice and its leading cast. The two main characters, Yani and Galen, are a curious couple. They arrive in the north as an investigator and doctor respectively, but I didn't have a chance to learn much about them during the preview. Rather than choose to play as one or the other, as many games allow you to do, Solstice has you swap back and forth between the two, but your choices determine whether they work together or not. Galen's friendly, personable nature in a hostile environment is intriguing, but I didn't grow particularly attached to him in my time with the game. I hope this is just a reflection of the demo's length.
The secondary cast is filled with suspicious characters, most of whom seem to be bound in contracts administered and controlled by higher-ups. Their contracts appear to require them to perform particular jobs and, when they're no longer useful, people have been known to disappear. After the local, and insane, archaeologist Lev goes missing, Galen and Yani start asking, perhaps too many, questions. Whether it's the cocky guard captain Kasiya, solitary innkeeper Slava, or the alluring bathhouse owner Constance, it seems all characters have dark pasts with something to hide. This helped to build an interesting and deep relationship between them, but, due to my ongoing suspicion of them, I never grew fond of any particular individual. As a result, I never felt invested in the plight of any characters, though, like I mentioned before, this is less likely to be an issue in the full-length game.
Solstice plays like a typical visual novel, but there are plenty of dialogue options to choose as play progresses. It was clear that the decisions I made affected how people treated me and which scenes I viewed. This is a great plus for any game in the genre as, not only does it add to the replay value, but it makes you feel important to the story's outcome. Solstice even uses an icon to indicate when a choice you make comes into play. I felt like I was both reading and
playing, which is something not enough games in the genre succeed with.
More than anything, the visuals had me captivated. The environments are mind-boggling gorgeous, and the detail included in each scene is unbelievable. If you take a look at the screenshots to the right, you'll see what I mean. Whether it's the falling snow, glowing lights or the starry sky, I often halted play just to enjoy the scenery. Each character is drawn just as beautifully, and the same level of detail shown in the environments is seen in their clothes and the animation of their faces. Some of the music was just a placeholder, so I'm unable to report accurately on it at this time.
In short, Solstice is definitely a game to keep your eye on if you're a fan of the genre. The beauty of its presentation in both visuals and storytelling is already outstanding, so the full game should be a delight. Even though I struggled to connect with the characters in the short time I had with the game, this should be less of an issue in the full-length release. If you're intrigued by a mystery story set in a frozen, magical world, then look forward to Solstice. Pre-order, and you'll be able to try out the demo too.