The Rising Angels series has had its fits and starts over the past few years. However, it seemed to find some footing with Reborn in 2014 (check out my review of Reborn here). The game had its issues, but it also managed to put together a strong sci-fi thriller and even squeaked out a reasonable romance between Natalie (the lead) and Zuri: a female alien-dragon warrior-monk. It was shaky, but it was enough to build on in a sequel: especially since we knew so little about the characters that didn’t carry over from Red Rose in 2013 or its recent revamp Hope.
And yet, after completing Fates Allegiance, the canonical sequel to Reborn, I can’t help but feel that something, somewhere went off track. Per usual, I’ll explain. Caution: some mild spoilers ahead!
- Genre: Science Fiction, Yuri
- Date: February 15, 2017
- Developed: IDHAS Studios
- Language: English
- Platform: PC
- Website: Itch.Io
After the events of Reborn, the crew of the Nimross are in turmoil. Natalie Puccile may have brought the Protectorate something of incredible value, but it cost her the affection of Zuri who has requested a transfer to get away from her. Meanwhile, her teammates are reeling from the criminal activity and attempted mutiny from the previous game. Sol Hackett has been put in charge of the ship on, potentially, its finally mission as their commanders figure out what to do with the clearly unprofessional crew. And in this sea of troubles, a mysterious alien girl approaches Natalie with news about Faye Moonfallow’s father.
To understand my issues with Fates Allegiance, you have to understand what worked in Reborn. The first were the narrative stakes. What started as a simple mission spiraled out of control with a very powerful artifact at the center. Whoever maintained control of the Nimross had that to gain and use as they wished, so keeping control of the ship and minimizing casualties is vital. This allowed for the separate storylines, while often chaotic, to have a purpose in the larger narrative that dealt with Natalie’s philosophical alignment and personal growth. She is laser-focused on her career and all of her choices reflect the growing tension between his logical self that wants the advancement that comes with a job well done and her emotional self that is starting to form bonds with this crew that she wasn’t able to get on her previous assignments: most of which saw her working alone.
Ultimately, Reborn was not a revolutionary story and had its trope-worthy moments. But its overall focus on Natalie and her choices kept everything in check. This brings us to the first big problem of Fates Allegiance: shifting point-of-views! Over the course of the game, the narrative shifts between Natalie and Zuri, long-time RA regulars Kika and Sol and newcomer Brienne. Each of these characters have their own agenda and priorities that differ wildly from one another. Kika still wants to be adulated as a hero, Brienne wants to be closer to Kika, Sol just wants a freakin’ drink, etc. These branching narratives have no connective tissue, which means the shifts are chaotic and unfocused at best.
And the crazy thing is that these was an emotional center that the narrative could have used to keep the divergent plotlines focused: FAYE. After the events of the previous game, and because of her personal spiritual beliefs, Faye is mortally injured by the beginning of this game. But because her Father may or may not be dead, she decides to charge forward to find him: regardless of whether or not she lives after the fact. Yes, we have had two bites of the apple with Faye between Red Rose and Hope. However, while she had an unsteady career as a leading lady, she has a great deal of use as a support character whose final days the rest of the crew can unify behind to help.
The Moonfallow Family storyline is very minor here: just used as a catalyst to keep the cast separated, rather than being a source to resolve their storylines and deepen their characters. The best thing I can say about it is that you don’t really feel the waste until you come across the main antagonists of the story: an unnamed cult who are as non-threatening as their fairy wings suggests. They are not given the time or effort to be an actual threat, so that same lack of build-up and danger translates to us the same way. The minute the various plotlines are resolved, the non-threat is squashed and it happens in the speed I typed this sentenced…and I’m a fast typist.
So, where does that leave our various threads? On their own, they’re not terrible. They just don’t play as well together as I think they were thought to. Of everything we have to deal with, the Natalie and Zuri stuff is unquestionably the weakest. Here’s the thing: Natalie and Zuri worked best when it was clear that what was between them was teenage-level infatuation at best. In Reborn, anytime either of them had to act like an adult (AKA their age), it was clear they weren’t romantically compatible. The fact that the end choices hinged their potential relationship on Natalie going rogue or staying loyal to the Protectorate cements that, as they were, the last thing they should be is together.
AND YET, Fates Allegiance sees them as the end-all, be-all OTP and it is cringiest romantic writing I’ve read to date. Their mutual angst over something that, in the larger scheme of things in just this game, isn’t that big of a deal makes a good chunk of this game a grind to read. Natalie gets zero development from this one since she’s basically the Damsel in Distress here and learned nothing from her experience that she didn’t in Reborn. But, in the end, she did follow her heart…no that’s not something.
However, it’s what we learn about Zuri that takes the cake. Zuri’s bright-eyed naivete worked fine in contrast to Natalie’s intellectual drive in Reborn, but that came with the caveat that her naivete was born from a lack of experience. Here, there seemed to be a push to give her some sort of backstory to give her development. However, said backstory doesn’t make Zuri sympathetic or gives her depth. That was unfortunate, to say the least.
Long story short (and you were warned of spoilers coming in), Zuri helped start the SITO group well before Natalie even considered joining. Her insistence on her, frankly, childish view on the world is a reaction to the life or death situations she couldn’t handle as a SITO officer. This has effectively retconned her actions in Reborn and changed her from a naïve soldier who wanted the best for herself and her crew, to a bad soldier who tried to manipulate others into vicariously justifying her self-pity.
Backstory doesn’t necessarily equal character depth or development and here is a clear case of that. More may have been possible here by focusing on her philosophy and its inherent weaknesses in just the situations the Nimross crew has dealt with so far, rather than by giving her a backstory that is dead on arrival.
So what about the rest of the game? Both Kika’s and Sol’s storylines are ultimately filler. Kika is doing her usual spiel: she wants to be the hero of her own story with the universe looking up to her. It’s not a terrible turn, but it suffers from two things. The first is that since it is filler, it only further deflates any potential tension of Kika’s group being separated from the Nimross. The second is Brienne: an eager young space cadet who joins Al on the ground of the alien world. Brienne is about as straightforward of a character as you can get: the whole ‘eager young space cadet’ wasn’t a throwaway knock, after all. Even with hints at her backstory, she’s here to set up a potential romantic angle for Kika in future installments, spinoffs, etc.
It’s, well, meh at best. We’ve seen iterations of Kika Starr for the last three installments of Rising Angels. The potential of a romantic interest does nothing for the current iteration and, quite frankly, Kika is a character better as support or as a foil. Having a romantic interest shifts more attention to her than what may be warranted. Then we have Sol Hackett: surprisingly the only one who comes out of this with some forward momentum.
Like Kika, we’ve known Sol for the full Rising Angels series. This is the first time we get some explanation for his character and, for the most part; it’s solid. What separates Sol from his crew is that the apparent thematic chestnut here of being true to your emotions and following your heart (gag, cough, wheeze) doesn’t work for everyone else because that is all they do anyway. Sol is the icebox of the group and putting him in charge of the Nimross sets that icebox to thaw. He has to take his job absolutely seriously, but he also has to find a way to get closer to the rest of the crew and overcome his prejudices to get the performance from them that will keep them from being grounded.
Is it progress for Sol? Yes. Do I like it? Ehhh….somewhat?
Like everything else with Fates Allegiance, it comes down to tone. The plot surrounding Sol doesn’t know whether he’s this game’s butt monkey or if we’re supposed to sympathize with someone we have several hours of disagreeable history to point to. So, the plot tries to split the middle by making his subject to some well-meaning jokes that tend to go wrong: namely a reprogrammed escort bot that treats him like an otome heroine and the proven criminal Kylie who goes rogue in this game. Things like this and going into his past with Faye, which is pretty squick-worthy when I think about it, keeps his development from being consistent. After all, it’s hard to hope this guy becomes a better person if we know exactly how rotten he is.
That doesn’t mean it can’t work out. Sol does have some wind on his back now and how he handles command after the events of this story is an interesting idea. However, if he ends up in the same bucket as his crew members and doesn’t really learn anything going forward, then it will have all been for nothing.
So, we have several inconsistent plotlines that mostly serve as filler for a bad romance that is overshadowing what should be the center of this particular plot. Without anything to merge these lines and give them a bit of focus, the audience unfortunately spends the bulk of Fates Allegiance floundering. And that may be the nail of the coffin here, because there IS a plotline here that can focus everything. It’s just buried in favor of fluff and angst. It’s…an unfulfilling choice, to say the least.
PRESENTATION & TECHNICAL
The Presentation here maintains the quality of Reborn, but that’s mostly because several backgrounds and characters sprites where transferred over. The same artist brings in new art for the new characters, so there is uniformity to the presentation. However, only Aria has a truly distinct appearance. Weird, I know.
The biggest positive and negative to how the RA universe looks are its different races. Unfortunately, the negative usually wins out here in that you get used to it. There is simply no visual flare for yet another winged or animal-based alien, so they tend to get lost in the shuffle (sorry Brienne). Aria’s look, however, is distinctive even from what we’re used to. Tall, dark skin, pink hair and gold eyes: that’s more eye catching.
As we learn in the game, this look isn’t completely organic and that’s a small shame. This doesn’t make the presentation here bad by any means. It’s just playing it safe.
Technically there is an interesting misstep here that caught my attention. Fates Allegiance reuses the UI system from Reborn: bringing back the Database with all the racial and societal information about the RA universe. However, it is fully copied over with no updates from new information about the world in this entry: specifically, the cultish religion we find out about, updated theories about the crystal that have been featured in both games, the SITO organization, certain criminal elements: you get the idea. It’s a smaller nitpick compared to the narrative issues I have with the game, but if we’re going to keep the audience invested in the lore with this database, it might help to keep it up to date.
Another smaller issue is that you could see when the sprites transitioned between expressions and poses. There is a clear delay there that doesn’t improve as the game goes on. I do remember the glitches we had before, so I’m happy to get some technical improvements where I can get them. Just getting that final layer of polish on it though is something IDHAS will have to ensure for future releases.
Everything else in the game went smoothly and I have no major bugs or glitches to report.
Rising Angels: Fates Allegiance is a one-shot experience as a kinetic novel. I clocked out at just under six hours when it was all said and done. When it’s all said and done, I can’t say I’m picking it up again. As a kinetic experience, the only reason I’d go back is if I just loved the story that much to want to play it again and that’s not how I feel about this entry. The best option is, for now, to just play Reborn again if you’ve never played a Rising Angels game.
Fates Allegiance is a mess of a game: there’s just no other way around it. All of the stuff with the Moonfallows could have worked under different context. But since this is what we got, it just feels hollow and pointless. And with a mainstay character like Faye anchoring that storyline, that’s not a good note to leave it on. The other storylines fair just as well: aimlessly trying to connect to a larger narrative point, but mostly serving as filler for the runtime with the only possible positives being new potential love interests for Kika and Sol.
As for the relationship between Natalie and Zuri…that relationship could only get more crammed down my throat if IDHAS made one of the characters Samoan and put the World Title on her (those who get the reference get the reference). Their relationship only worked in Reborn with certain caveats and those were shredded in this title. In the end, the few moments that worked must fight its way through the jumbled muck of it all: leaving a bland experience that isn’t outright bad, but leaves nothing at all to connect the disparate storylines to make a cohesive narrative.
We are four games into the Rising Angels canon, and it feels like a reboot is already necessary if the series is going to continue. If this particular storyline moves forward, then the developers must come at it swinging to build back up whatever spark Reborn had to it. For now, the series is treading water.
Rising Angels: Fates Allegiance feels like a miscalculation and it causes what was once a promising franchise to take a hard stumble at an unfortunate moment.