I've written about the strategy RPG Long Live The Queen before, but as the game's now on Steam (and in the Steam sale), I thought I would rave about it again.
Long Live the Queen is a seemingly simple game with a simple goal: keep 14-year-old Elodie alive until her coronation in 40 weeks time. Each week, you can choose to train her in two of a wide variety of skills, from elegance to sword fighting, naval strategy to economics, and her ability to learn these subjects is affected by her moods. Her moods, in turn, are affected both by the weekend activities you choose for her (will she attend court or sneak out of the castle? Visit the treasury or play with her toys?), the weekly events that crop up, and her/your decisions.
And she will die. A lot. It isn't easy being queen, especially when the common people want one thing, the nobles want another, foreign forces are threatening your weakened shores, and assassins are hiding in the woods. If you focus on keeping your people happy at the expense of the nobles, the nobles may rebel. Accidentally insult someone's honor, and you may find yourself in a duel to the death. And let's not forget about the mystical beasts lurking in that creepy old treasure-filled forest that you've been forbidden to visit.
The game itself takes about 30-45 minutes to play through, assuming you don't die before the end. But it's completely addictive, as you try to figure out how to survive certain situations, and the replay value is amazing. Every time you play it, you'll uncover more possible options, more secrets, and probably more deaths. It's so much fun to see what different kinds of Elodies end up doing, whether they survive, and what their kingdom looks like during her rule. How does ruthless dictator Elodie fare (there's a hidden "cruelty" stat as well as the visible skill ones)? What about a book-smart Elodie who knows all the history and is also an expert in court manners and deportment, but who runs screaming from a fight? What if Elodie becomes a Sailor Moon type magical girl? Or if she decides that all magic is evil and must be wiped out? Does a spymaster fare better than a queen well-versed in military strategy? Or is well-rounded, but not particularly strong in anything, better than a one-sided queen? And that's not even touching the marriage issue.
The Steam achievements also add a new level of addiction to the game, bringing me back to it after a couple of months away. Some of them -- like dying or ordering an execution -- are fairly straightforward to get. Others are a mite more complicated. Can you find an extra magic crystal, survive a trip to the old forest, or save the day with the power of music? Have you held a hostage to ransom, ordered a human sacrifice, or been blessed by cats?
Long Live the Queen really proves that something can be cute and girly and also be incredibly badass. The characters are drawn in manga-style, dialogue boxes have frilly pink borders, and every death is illustrated with a cute chibi sticker (see if you can collect them all!). But beneath the cutesy exterior, this is a serious, fiendishly difficulty political strategy game about the difficulty of ruling. It's not a princess game; it's a queen game. And it's awesome.
It's definitely worth the less-than-$10 it costs, and you can even get a free trial at the developer's website.