Well kids, I think this is what my brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith would call a mea culpa.
Circle Pegasi isn’t new to the EVN scene. In fact their first kinetic novel, Firefly, was released three years ago. So, why is this the first time your humble host has ever discussed the label? Two reasons: first you should probably take a long look at their web address because you’ve seen two-thirds of it before. The second reason is that their last release before today’s subject, Nanolife, bored me.
Yeah it’s probably shallow but I had no intention of playing through something where my biggest complaint would be, ‘Yeah I barely paid attention because I was bored, so 5/10’. I’m not sure how other critics address the issue and I’m sure I will have to adjust my view at some point. But, the plus of not talking about what bores me means that when I do go negative, I really do think it’s a negative that has to be taken seriously if the writer wants to improve. At the very least, it means that even if I’m talking about an EVN that’s outside of my interest, I’m usually not bored by it.
But that’s not what you want to hear is it? Fine: Confiteor Deo, Omnipotenti et vobis, fratres quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, opere et ommissione: Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa. There; happy? I should have talked about Circle Pegasi WAY before now and Days of the Divine gives me an opportunity to correct that. So let’s talk about this great game shall we?
Days of the Divine takes place in a town covered by a sinister fog that steals the memory of anyone foolish enough to wander through it. The townspeople do what they can for the afflicted while waiting for the gods to deliver them from their plight. When the friend of a young priestess named Biyu becomes a victim of the fog, she finds herself in the middle of a centuries old conflict that holds her fate and the fate of the gods in the balance.
What I like about DotD is that it would have been so easy just to leave the story as ‘a bunch of gods get hot and bothered over a human girl’ and what we get instead is a pretty thorough look at just how faith works and humanity’s relationship to the divine. It’s a delicate move that examines some pretty tough questions that the faithful often stumble on such as, ‘Why do disasters and tragedies happen if –insert god’s name here– is actually good?’ and the philosophy that the divine is a manifestation of our own desires. Here again they avoid the easy routes and not only tells a three-dimensional story about faith but about the nature being divine and what that could mean. It is a very contextual story, not always original but VERY contextual, and without it as the backbone of the game, it would have fallen apart.
Why? Because while the main storyline is strong, the actual ‘otome’ parts of this ‘otome’ game varies. None of the routes are weak and I enjoyed all of the stories, but the best route by far is Senrai: the local god who is either villain or fallen hero depending on the routes of the game. Not only does his route make the best use of the spirituals themes of the game, but it also has the most complete story arc. The audience gets a full sense of Senrai’s past and present motivations and just why anyone would want to worship him. It also gives Biyu the most to do as a main character and as a romantic lead its resolution is the most fulfilling. I should probably note here that the team for DotD admits that Senrai’s path had the most work put into it and is longer than the other two.
The other two romance paths, Liufan and Maru, are not terrible by any degree. Both just lack the polish that is evident in Senrai’s path. As the childhood friend, Liufan’s development is better than the otome average as he has his own goals that form the emotional heart of his story; most of which centers on the fact that he loses his memory…which is strange in and of itself. It is MUCH more of a balancing act that examines what happens when people rely too much on faith.
Maru’s path is also good, but clearly had more potential to it than time allowed. I didn’t hate it or the character, but I do feel that with the revelations that came from Senrai’s path, it was more of a missed opportunity than anything. The character fills the suddenly popular role of ‘little sibling/unstoppable badass’ that has infected everything from visual novels to RWBY…and yes, you will be seeing many more RWBY jokes in the future. However, by the end it was probably the most obviously romantic and appealing to the otome faithful looking for that whole ‘gods hot for humans’ thing we talked about earlier.
As for Biyu herself, I was honestly surprised at how much I liked her. Sure she had plenty of bratty moments, but in all paths she develops very well and serves as a great foil to the cast around her; even her comedic relief grandfather. Like another game that will be discussed here, the immediately obvious choices for her was skipped over for a much more interesting story involving heavy themes that would, in other circumstances, break the main character. But she stands up well considering everything that gets thrown at her during the story and, at the end, it always felt well-earned.
I cannot overstate that I did not know what I was getting into with Days of the Divine. My expectations were turned on their head the minute I started playing the game proper. The themes are all well-handled and despite my preferences, the romances all hit the right notes when necessary with Senrai standing over his brothers as the clear developmental winner. It boggles the mind that this was prepared in a month for NaNoRenO back in March, but it was and it is awesome.
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
The Presentation here is very good. The character art and backgrounds blend together in a painted style that mixes Eastern aesthetics and cultures to form its own presence. It isn’t groundbreaking completely because with anime-style you’re always going to run into those who can take it and make it 100% unique, but it is very good all on its own. There are also very few CGs to this project, but the ones that are there are usually action-oriented and are all very nicely handled.
Days of the Divine uses a different engine than Ren’py called NVList. The engine feels closer to the old DOS and Windows 95 computer games as most of the controls are in the overhead bar. The user interface functions as you would expect otherwise with the Save and Load options both requiring two commands to ensure there are no accidental overwrites. What I liked about this feature is that the last save is noted with a NEW subtitle so that you won’t get lost from your previous game. And no bugs or other glitches in the game to report, although there may have been some grammar issues I simply overlooked because I’m Southern.
Along with being absolutely free, each path of Days of the Divine clocks in roughly over an hour in length. So that would be around three hours to knock out the entire game. I found it easy and enjoyable to sit through all of the routes despite my unwelcome reputation with otome, so if you’re a fangirl this is definitely up your alley. Just don’t expect it to be 100% fanservice. If you’re not an otome fangirl, give Senrai’s route a try at the very least. As I said, it is the best of the three and I still go back to play that one over from time to time.
Days of the Divine was originally released earlier this year during NaNoRenO. I specifically didn’t talk about it then because I was very skeptical of CP and did several playthroughs of the game before I started to write the review. And despite my skepticism, I am very impressed by what they were able to do in a limited amount of time. The group took what, in every right, should’ve been a quick, fluffy otome piece and instead delivered a strong tale of human faith.
Ultimately a lot of routes and other smaller issues like the lack of Event CGs could have been better fleshed out with time and shows the limitations of the NaNoRenO period. But hopefully it’ll just serve as a sign to the group that they need to invest more time than a month to create, and then they will most likely put out something that will captivate us all.
Congratulations Circle Pegasi. At one time you had my curiosity, but now you have my full attention.