The Regency Period is an odd place to romanticize, with its strict rules of decorum and acidic societal pressure. And yet bookwork girls like myself seem to chase after regency romance stories like it’s free gourmet chocolate. There’s an innocence and intrigue about it that’s fascinating, the perfect breeding ground for a secret romance that feels both chaste and forbidden. Now, I can only speak for myself, but isn’t it more special when your partner is willing to break social etiquette because of their strong feelings?
That and many more reasons is why I agreed to make one last side trip before we dig into NaNoRen2017. The Lady’s Choice is a regency, Austenian style visual novel that puts the player right in the thick of Regency England and lets you play your way to romance. This story is a previous project of a current NaNo writer that got high praise, so I’d be remiss not to look at it before her new project,
Can you conduct yourself properly this season and find true love? Or will you fumble about and be the laughingstock of society?
After years of seclusion at her country estate, Lady Sophia Ingham (or whatever you decide to call her) is called back to join Society at the behest of her childhood friend, Arabella. As a daughter of a viscount and heiress to a great fortune, she couldn’t be expected to stay holed up outside of the city forever. Whatever drew her away from society (something the player gets to decide) is all in the past; it’s time to return to the city of Bath and help her widowed friend enter the season.
“You fret too much, dear Sofia.”
Ah, but a single lady in possession of a great fortune must be in want of a husband; this is a truth society has universally accepted.
Stolen phrases aside, Sofia has three striking gentlemen chasing after her charming wit and caring nature (and one chasing after her money). Which handsome gent will have her hand by the end of the season, or will the gossip and scandal burn her up?
Your standard visual novel is all about the player’s choices shifting the story towards a specific ending. The Lady’s Choice keeps to that theme but adds twice as many choices to the gameplay. Any choice with four options is about shaping Sofia’s personality as either headstrong, witty, proper, whatever the player wants. The choices with three options are crucial deciding moments, where you either correctly blend into your judgemental peers or ostracize yourself. This simple little mechanic, with only minor consequences behind it, means the player’s gonna be so immersed they’ll be craving tea and tower dresses at the close of the window.
But we’re not here to blend in with society; we’re here to get our Austenian Flirt on. Because yes, you have a choice of three eligible bachelors in the game: a returning lord, a disgraced lord, and a captain in the army. To win the heart of said men, one must pick the correct response in those three-option choices. If you’re on the right track, you’ll be graced with a glorious CG that will likely leave you fanning yourself from the vapors. Get enough of them and you’ll earn one of four endings: bad, love one, love two, and true love.
You can’t see the smile on my face
Storywise, the game usually has a main plot and one subplot: the main plot of the bachelor and the sub-plot of your friend Arabella and her own love, Colonel Foxley. It’s fun to watch the two of them banter off each other’s exciting relationships and speak to each other in an honest, affectionate fashion. The game also has a habit of Lip-Teasing the player; it’ll set you up for a kiss only to break you away at the last minute. It’s both frustrating and romantic and left me fanning both angry and grinning like a maniac.
These two are the king and queen of Lip-Blocking.
I am in love with the art of this game. This game has a lush variety of detailed backgrounds, well-crafted sprites, and some downright stunning CG’s. The historical accuracy of the clothes is occasionally suspect (as I’m pretty sure the protagonist’s dress wouldn’t pass) but everything otherwise looks like it was plucked right out of any Austen book.
I only found one art mistake whilst playing, and it could very well be a matter of opinion. The art in this game otherwise is solid.
Our Colin Firth look-alike was an add-on to the final product, and a homerun to be sure. He’s bold and capricious in his flirtations, possessing a wild and rebellious streak that rubs the prim and proper the wrong way. To make matters worse, he arrives at the same time as a scoundrel appears in the streets: The Society Swindler. When the Swindler isn’t robbing the rich to give to other rich, he seems to be specifically targeting Sofia for all manner of intimate things. Things take an even stranger turn when Amesbury’s good friend, Mr. Montfort, arrives in town for the season. Will the dashing rogue steal her heart, or is there something far darker underfoot?
As previously mentioned, Mr. Laurence Amesbury is the “bad-boy” of this particular period. He flirts boldly, enjoys seeing society is dysfunction, and just genuinely likes to stir the pot. His path is a steamy one with a fairly predictable main plot and surprise sub-plot, but highly worth the wait.
Just like us, the girls back then went crazy for a man in uniform – a red one specifically.
If Amesbury looks like Mr. Darcy, then Captain Guy Blake of the Royal British Army took his moody and romantic attitude. Born in trade, Guy sees socialites with great disdain. They treat him like a military charity case but Sofia is the first to make him feel accepted. This causes tension when the rich and uber-creepy Lord Huntington is willing to go out of his way to make Sofia marry him.
To play Guy’s path is to watch two men fight over you, something I think at least a few of us have fantasized about. It’s a fun, albeit short, path that really turns up the caustic aspect of strict social structures and the cast system of money and power.
When you think of the personification of Tall, Dark and Handsome (™) than Sir Isaac Stanton should pop into your mind. Stanton practically bleeds Byronic Hero; he has a reputation tarnished by a gambling house and Sofia is warned on all sides that she should stay far, far away from him. And yet, the more time she spends with him, the more she finds a strong-willed and deeply gentle soul who seems trapped more by outside forces than an internal vice. In short, there’s very much more than meets the eye with dear Isaac and a kind, patient soul can be the savior he’s been waiting for.
As mentioned, Isaac is the guy if you ever fantasized about being the hero in the relationship. You get to swoop to the rescue of this “socially dangerous” man and pull him out of the abyss he’s trapped in. It’s also one of the most visually, ahem, stimulating paths in game. That makes the game’s tendency to kiss-tease all the more frustrating.
With its witty and smooth sense of humor, and risk-taking liberties of the source material, The Lady’s Choice is a great game for regency geeks like myself who wished they could be Elizabeth Bennett at one point or another. It simulates the romanticized version of old England we all fell in love with: social danger, intrigue, innocence, and passionate romance. It’s a chaste romance novel, no denying that, but the story is so good I hardly even care.
Next Time: The Crossroads
Do you wish you could meet your own Darcy? Or do you find the Regency Period overrated? Feel free to comment whatever below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.