So! Once again, I’ve found myself playing an eroge. There’s a long list of people to blame for why I keep getting pulled into this genre: Tao Tao, the entire team at Sugar Script, Christine Love and Tryinmorning all come to mind. But I’m here, so we might as well not linger. Today we’re talking about Seeds of Chaos: a ‘dark fantasy’ eroge apparently inspired by two of my favorite franchises: The Witcher and Berserk. Both of these series are fertile ground if you want to learn from their complicated and realistic fantasy worlds. The question is, does Seeds of Chaos actually WANT to do that?
This is a question I’ve mulled on for some time now and the answer is pretty obvious. However, we wouldn’t have a feature if I didn’t draw this out a little bit so here we go!
On paper, the story of Seeds of Chaos is familiar for the fantasy reader: a warrior is drawn back to the battlefield after finding a relatively peaceful life. Violence forces its way back into his life however and our hero, Rowan, is forced to serve the very forces of darkness he had once defeated. Credit where its due: I love narratives where you play as the villain and more of that is definitely needed in the visual novel world. My excitement is tempered by a few things though. First, from the latest demo update said forces of darkness seem to be using Rowan’s wife Alexia as a knife to his throat: do what we say or the girl gets it. So despite the synopsis, you’re NOT really the bad guy: just a good guy on a leash.
Beyond my groaning about writers taking an easy out, it’s actually much more damning than just that. A quick hop to the game’s website reveals this little aside:
Unlike most games with alignment systems that allow you to be good, evil, or morally neutral, in Seeds of Chaos you play the villain. Ethical decisions will focus on just how corrupt you character is becoming, and the consequences of that change.
Unless the actual antagonists of the game throw some mind control onto Rowan in the next update, that means what actions Rowan takes that ‘corrupts’ him are being made with his full mental and psychological consent. If, for instance, Rowan agrees to kill someone in a village that’s important to some higher noble and the player is then given the choice to massacre the entire village to ‘send a message’ or something along those lines, that’s not the player being the story’s villain. That’s just the game scratching a particularly dark fantasy of a nominally good person doing bad things simply out of a desire to do bad things.
On its face, that seems like a troublesome narrative turn, but not a fatal one. But then you’d have to remember that we’re not just playing a dark fantasy game: we’re playing a dark fantasy eroge. And here is where we finally get into the demo proper where the big event is that you can screw your wife and the game’s premise falls apart. It’s an old enemy of the budding erotica writer: the inability to actually write sex.
This has been a constant refrain of mine for some time, so let me take this moment to fully explain my issues with sex in fiction. My biggest issue is that when most people say that, it isn’t sex they’re actually talking about: it’s pornography. What’s the difference? Someone who knows how to write sex can convincingly write a scene involving intimacy and, for lack of a better word, heat between two or more people…with it getting more challenging with the more people you add, but I digress. Pornography is written with only the reader/watcher/listener in mind, so the goal is rarely to write a private act between two people, it’s to get said reader/watcher/listener off. That rule can vary, but in the EVN sphere it’s held well with most sex scenes falling completely flat; save for the scenes in Cupid and the demo for Lady-killer in a Bind which sent me running to the hills as clearly Christine Love is too kinky for my brain to comprehend.
Ultimately, the narrative bar is so low when it comes to pornography that it usually tears any potentially serious plot points asunder and that’s what happened in Seeds of Chaos. The sex scene between Rowan and Alexia is a joke. The dialogue is horrendous, the actual sex between the two is cold and the overall tone completely confused with itself. To explain, the scene begins in the kitchen where your options encourage a more ‘hands on’ approach to getting Alexia in the mood. The scene then transitions to the bedroom where he is gentler regardless of your choices. If you decide to go back to being rough though, he immediately goes back to it within a breath.
This is important because at no time during this very protracted sex scene do you get a sense of what either Rowan or Alexia feel for each other. We have no sense of them as anything other than archetypes that the writers wanted to see bang each other. Unless you either need a laugh or just like the idea of reading anyone have sex, then there is nothing really here to latch onto.
‘Got it, JP: you hate pornography. We already knew that. But that’s what this game wants to be!’
Maybe, but it mangled itself in doing so. Along with a plethora of different mechanics and event systems it boasts about including on the game’s website, the demo itself hints that the game is reliant on an emotional story arc to carry it through multiple playthroughs. That emotional arc is hinged on Rowan doing whatever he does in the game proper because of what happens to Alexia and their best chance to create that connection was sacrificed in the name of laughably bad porn. So, if the actual story is secondary to the porn and the porn is a joke, what exactly is there?
Usually this is where I list where I think the game can improve, but the answer for any improvement options come down to the main characters. I actually like the art style, though the music just doesn’t feel like it fits into the overall game. This may be improved on as the game grows, but right now it just seems a little off. So, it really comes down to the story. You want to make porn guys? Fine: ignore what I’m saying and just churn out porn. Wait, ignore MOST of what I’m saying, but then write halfway decent porn. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again here: it is not this hard to right a halfway decent sex scene. If a frigid, heartless bastard like me can manage it, people who actually enjoy eroge and pornography should be able to manage it.
On the other hand, if you want to be a dark fantasy along the lines of Berserk and The Witcher, you need to figure out how to get your audience to give a damn. The EASIEST place to start is with Rowan’s relationship with his wife. If there is nothing to their relationship but opportunities to write a not-so-steamy sex scene, ya done fucked up somewhere. We need to actually seem them be a couple that has spent some serious time together. We need to see them actually in love with one another…and no; fucking doesn’t count. That bound seems to be what the rest of the game hinges on, so it must be done correctly and since you’ve decided to start the game off with it; it must be done immediately.
That’s all I got for this round…although I’m sure this won’t be the last time I face off against an eroge. If you want to learn more about Seeds of Chaos, go here. JP3: OUT.
(EDIT: August 3rd, 2016)
I rarely add things onto my reviews or previews after the fact, but the Seeds of Chaos has managed to piss me off. I’m sure the creators will be proud considering my stance on the genre they’ve chosen to operate in, but my problem with the demo extend beyond just sex and I need an outlet. First things first; a clarification! The version of the demo I played was only about half of the actual demo. The rest of it was released in various updates over the past few weeks. This past week saw the final piece of the demo get released as Rowan confronted the demonic forces that kidnapped his wife and it was, to put it nicely, the biggest choke I have ever seen in this particular medium.
Seeds of Chaos promised one thing of any real importance: the fact that the protagonist would also be the villain. The first part of the demo set up Rowan as a hero who had no real dark urges or reason to turn against the people he once protected, so it was clear if he was going to be a convincing villain, he would have to be forced to do it. With his wife being kidnapped and his home village put to the torch, that seemed to be where the entire thing was heading and I alluded to it when I first published this feature. HOWEVER, with the conclusion of the demo, we finally get to see how Rowan turns to the darkness in its full, bloody glory. Are you ready for this one? Here it is: the main villains, for all intents and purposes, says ‘pretty please with sugar on top’.
No, I am not joking. They ask him to join them and he does. To be fair, he does spend some time in a dungeon and gets roughed up a little, but that’s it. They don’t even threaten his wife. Hell, as long as she doesn’t try to escape, she gets to live in total comfort. So she’s pretty much forgotten when the siblings give Rowan the ultimatum to join up with them. So why does he do it? Why not just stay in the dungeon and die knowing that his wife will not be harmed and the world he fought to protect will move on without him? Why do a complete 180 turn when it is completely unnecessary and unprompted?
There are so many ways to do a villain turn and those ways are increased if you are writing an eroge. Using magic to corrupt his soul or actually threatening his wife is the easiest route to bend Rowan to their will, but actually seducing him to darkness would be far more entertaining and fit into the overall tone I think the sex scenes are here for. Or even better, seduce Rowan’s wife and have her lead husband to do what he wants in hopes of saving her from herself: putting a more tragic ring onto the events of the story. Any other idea is better than just flat out asking him to do it and he accepts because ‘YOLO’.
Creating an effective villain is an art form and it gets that much harder when you show how they started on that path. I cannot buy that Rowan even considered being evil up until the game itself threw him down that path and it breaks everything this game is even thinking about doing in the feature. Even if I just wanted to play an EVN that wants to be uncompromisingly sexual, there are EVNs I can play that meet that requirement as that Christine Love knock I wrote earlier in the feature proves. I don’t have to play Seeds of Chaos just to watch a sex scene, which means it has to deliver on its premise to have any sort of pull or curiosity.
I’m sorry but there is no way to sugar coat it: the creators had the easiest known route to create a game where you play as a villain and they choked. There are several ways to repair the damage and turn Rowan’s fall to darkness into a more entertaining and credible story and one of them needs to be taken if they actually expect people to read this thing. Stack on top of that the general lack of creativity when it comes to the sex scenes and its time to go back to the lab and start from square one. Seeds of Chaos can work, but the demo doesn’t given any indication of its potential outside of being a flaming dumpster fire.
Will I return to this game? If nothing changes, there’s nothing really to come back to, in my humble opinion. So this is probably the best place to put an end to our adventure with this seedy little romp. Good luck guys…boy are you going to need it. JP3: OUT.