Playable Story Review: Regency Love

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers.

From my glowing review of Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Coleman, it should come as little surprise to my readers that I adore the Regency Era. The balls, the marriage politics, the delicious scheming…. there’s nothing quite like a romance constrained by courtly decorum!

Jane Austen knew that well — but she could never have dreamed of a story like Regency Love. Unlike Austen’s novels, the story Regency Love takes the form of a visual novel that can be played only on the iPhone, a contraption I doubt Austen or her peers ever anticipated in their times.

As a lover of romantic tales in any form, I’m no stranger to playable stories, having exhausted the game Choices until its storylines grew too predictable to bear. But Regency Love was my first experience with an otome-style game.

Otome is a game genre invented by the Japanese. It’s basically a dating simulator, where the protagonist chooses which love interest she would like to pursue and is able to make significant choices that contribute to the story’s conclusion.

Yet Regency Love is unique as an otome because of the near-infinite number of ways the protagonist’s choices can customize the ending. Your choices shape your key personality traits, which shape your unique epilogue.

Having played through the story twice in a single night (with two different love interests), I can verify that Regency Love is worth your while if you’re looking for something more unique than your average novel. I grew to empathize with its characters, and even to adore many of them!

In this game, you can customize your name, but not the main character’s appearance, as she does not appear in the game’s art scenes. Still, your choices deeply affect your character’s personality traits, which allows you to personalize your story.

One of the highlights of Regency Love is the art. Throughout the story, you have the opportunity to collect achievements as well as full-screen art scenes. These art scenes vary depending on which romantic subplot you choose; you must replay the game to unlock them all!

The only drawback is that due to the art scenes and detailed nature of the game’s illustrations, the entire game must be played horizontally on your phone. This game would likely work better on an iPad, but alas, I don’t have one — and it’s still compatible with the iPhone.

Regency Love is not a free game, costing $4.99 in the App Store. But once you buy the game, there are very few hoops you need to jump through to play. Three love interests and a variety of endings are available to you for free: Mr. Curtis, Mr. Digby and Mr. Ashcroft. Another love interest, Mr. Graham, is available as an in-game expansion for $5.99.

You don’t need tickets, gems or coins to unlock new chapters as you do in many otome-style and non-otome iPhone games. Instead, you require motivation points, which can be gained from making choices, playing minigames of hangman inspired by Regency Era writers and correctly answering trivia questions about the Regency Era.

Motivation points are then traded to improve your skills as a lady of the court. You’re required to do this in order to unlock certain storylines. For example, Mr. Graham’s story requires you to improve your Embroidery skill to a particular level, while Mr. Ashcroft’s requires you to improve your Riding…. on horseback, you filthy animals! 😉

I played to win Mr. Ashcroft’s proposal my first time, then purchased the expansion pack for Mr. Graham. I can highly recommend both of these storylines and will expand on them separately in greater detail! Still, I do think the other options for the protagonist are a bit thin:

Mr. Curtis is the third eligible bachelor available to court, and I found his affected manner a bit tedious (and not in an endearing way, a la Mr. Darcy). He’s also much older than the other bachelors, from the looks of the illustrations, which makes it clear that he gleans his eligibility from the size of his fortune, rather than his charms. The fourth and final bachelor, Mr. Digby, is presented as a “consolation prize:” if the reader approaches the end of the game as an unmarried woman, the potential for a loveless match with Mr. Digby arises. (Or so I am told.)

I’m also told that there are certain storylines available to the protagonist only if she remains unmarried throughout gameplay, but I have not made it to this point in the game yet. I’m sure I will be playing again in the future and may be able to expand on this at a later date! For now, however, I can only speak to the two storylines I did play — which, as I mentioned, were Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Graham.

Before I expand on the storylines I played, I’d like to talk about what’s next for Regency Love. Tea for Three, the independent Australian studio that created RL, is planning a future game, Regency Love: London, which will rectify some of the criticisms they received on the prior game. For one thing, more bachelors will be available to court, including Mr. Sutton (who is a character who reveals his affections at the last minute, much like a Mr. Darcy).

The new game will also settle the lingering questions many readers have at the end of the game regarding two mysteries in the protagonist’s family: at the beginning of the game, the protagonist notes that she is mailing a letter from her mother to her estranged aunt in London, but does not know the contents of the letter. Later in the story (particularly if you purchased the Mr. Graham expansion pack), you learn of the protagonist’s estranged older brother, Christopher, and his effect on the family’s precarious fortune.

Neither of these, unfortunately, are explained during Regency Love. Tea for Three promises to answer these mystieres in RL:L, but as they work for free, they do not yet have an estimated release date for the sequel. I, for one, don’t know how much longer I can wait!

If you play Regency Love and find yourself eager for more, the authors also have a spinoff novel out, called Lady Lavender, that explores the possibility of romance between two supporting characters from Regency Love, Ellie Ashcroft and Mr. Sutton. Once you read this review, please let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in me writing a review of Lady Lavender in a later blog post!

Subplot: Mr. Ashcroft

Regency Love | Tea For Three Studios

Near the beginning of the story, the protagonist encounters a young girl, Eleanor Ashcroft, at a local dress shop being accused of tearing a dress she did not destroy. The protagonist faces the choice of defending her or throwing her under the bus. If you defend her, you are able to develop a friendship with Eleanor, or Ellie as she is known to close friends and family, thereby bringing you closer to her well-meaning but overprotective older brother, Mr. Marcus Ashcroft.

First thing’s first: Mr. Ashcroft is a straight hottie. With dark hair and blue eyes, his resemblance to Ellie is striking, as are his dashing good looks. Of all the characters in Regency Love, Mr. Ashcroft, in my opinion, most resembles Mr. Darcy in both looks and manner. Though he can come across as cold and unaffected, make the right choices and you may find a certain tenderness begin to blossom between you two.

The drama in this storyline comes from the subplot of Mr. Richard Ashcroft. Richard is the bastard brother of Ellie and Marcus, whom the two have fully accepted into their family (much to the dismay of the upper echelons of society). When he reappears in the town of Darlington unexpectedly, Ellie begins to distance herself mysteriously from the protagonist, only to reveal that it was due to her brother’s arrival. Ellie says she does not want the protagonist to judge her unduly for her brother’s upbringing.

The protagonist is faced with her first major choice in this subplot when it comes to whether or not to accept Richard. If you accept Richard, you run the risk of alienating other characters and potential love interests (such as Mr. Curtis, who will sever relations with you if you choose to associate yourself with the Ashcrofts), as well as stirring up conflict with your Mama.

The next major choice, should you choose to continue your relationship with the Ashcroft family (as you must if you want to pursue Mr. Ashcroft), comes when Richard decides to join the army, despite Marcus’s insistence that he be brought up as a proper man of society. Initially, Mr. Ashcroft blames you for encouraging him and encourages Ellie to sever ties with the protagonist. However, Ellie eventually writes a letter asking you to intervene in their conflict, as she does not know how to handle it.

The way you handle the relationship between Richard and Marcus greatly affects the way the various members of the Ashcroft family see you. To the best of my knowledge, handling this situation well is the instigating event for Mr. Ashcroft to finally confess his feelings to you and give you a proposal. This storyline ends with Mr. Ashcroft dancing with you at a debutante ball held in Ellie’s honor, after Ellie just announced your engagement to the rest of society.

Because most of your relationship with the Ashcrofts stems from your friendship with Ellie, your ability to romance Mr. Ashcroft depends deeply on your choices to be kind to Ellie (or not). As a result, you spend very little time alone with Mr. Ashcroft, especially at the beginning of the story, where Ellie or Richard are not also present. This can make the romance between Mr. Ashcroft and the protagonist appear sudden, depending on whether your choices have been made with the intention to flirt with Mr. Ashcroft from the beginning.

Regardless, I think the storyline is well-done — and especially exceptional if you take into account that you do not need to pay for the option to romance Mr. Ashcroft! The relationship between the Ashcroft siblings is touching and adds an element of drama that is simply not present in many of the other storylines. Plus, the conflict in the story — resulting largely from Richard’s bastard birth — feels real for the time period and not at all forced. Personally, Mr. Ashcroft was my favorite hero of Regency Love, and I look forward to seeing more of him in Regency Love: London!

Subplot: Mr. Graham

Friday Features | Tea For Three Studios

As I mentioned previously, Mr. Graham’s story is an in-game purchase that adds the option of romancing Mr. Graham. If you do not choose to buy the storyline, you will meet Mr. Graham briefly at the beginning of the story, but will not see him or be able to court him throughout the rest of Regency Love. I chose to purchase the expansion after becoming addicted to the game the first time I played, to see what purchasing this subplot added to the story!

Mr. Graham is a charming, cheerful character with blonde hair that matches his sunny disposition. He’s much funnier and happier than many of the other residents of Darlington, making him an easy character to like. However, you quickly find while playing his storyline that other members of the town do not agree with this assessment. Mr. Graham’s status as a member of the Army is contentious, given the uncertainty of going to war with France and the fear many of the town’s residents feel.

Regardless, Mr. Graham’s supervisor, the Colonel, is highly respected in Darlington, and will invite you to many parties at his estate where you will get to know Mr. Graham better. Over time, you will discuss politics with Mr. Graham and come to understand his feelings on the war with France and his strong sense of duty to the country he serves. He will agree or disagree with you, but largely come to respect your opinions, even when they are different from his.

Mr. Graham cannot tolerate cruelty, which becomes a focal point in the story when a wealthy mystery woman comes to Darlington. Mary and Phoebe, the protagonist’s friends, come to admire this woman, yet Mr. Graham has his reservations. Eventually, the protagonist and Mr. Graham witness the woman berating a young child for spilling flour on her gown, which angers Mr. Graham (especially given the strong relationship he has with many of the children in town).

Eventually, you become privy to the information that he is estranged from his family after a failed engagement to a wealthy but demanding woman named Amelia Thorpe, explaining his deep sense of loyalty to the Colonel and the rest of the Army. It also explains his disregard for cruel people like the wealthy woman earlier in the story. You learn this information shortly after he returns from the funeral of his brother, which you soon find will make him heir to his family’s estate.

Your mother is pleased to learn of Mr. Graham’s good fortune, given that he will now be a man of means, rather than living on a modest soldier’s income. However, Mr. Graham remains uncertain of whether taking on the duties of managing the family estate are what he really wants. He feels a sense of duty to provide for Amelia, who married his late brother after their failed engagement, but also feels called to serve in the Army, which allows him to see so much of the world. Eventually, he asks the protagonist’s counsel on the subject.

I’m not sure if your advice affects the outcome, but I chose to advise him to listen to his heart, and this led him to turn down the estate after ensuring that Amelia’s welfare would be provided for. The protagonist’s mother is initially displeased to learn that Mr. Graham will not be wealthy, but comes to approve of the match between you two. Mr. Graham asks Mama’s permission before proposing to the protagonist, and the three of you celebrate happily, should you choose to accept.

Another source of contention in this subplot comes from Mr. Graham’s friend, Mr. Sutton, who appears to hate the main character throughout much of the story. Near the end, the protagonist eavesdrops on Mr. Graham and Mr. Sutton, and Mr. Graham defends her to him. Mr. Sutton eventually supports his decision to propose to you, despite his misgivings. However, at the end of the story, Mr. Sutton shows up on the protagonist’s doorstep, revealing that the true reason for his animosity is that he is secretly in love with her.

This confession came as a shocking suprise to me, as I’m sure the writer intended, but in my opinion, far too late in the story for any option to romance Mr. Sutton to make sense. I would be interested in a future subplot featuring Mr. Sutton, which I’m told will be a feature in Regency Love: London! In the meantime, there’s still the spinoff novel, Lady Lavender, featuring Ellie Ashcroft’s romance with Mr. Sutton.

In totality, Mr. Graham’s subplot was well worth the $5.99 I spent on it. He is a lively, endearing character with boyish charm and handsome looks, who is more than worthy of the protagonist’s affections (unlike Mr. Curtis and Mr. Digby). I only regret that the writers chose to include Mr. Curtis as an original love interest, rather than devoting time to writing Mr. Graham’s story from the beginning — especially given the stunning art scenes that come with unlocking this option.

What About Mr. Curtis and Mr. Digby?

I did not play the storylines of Mr. Curtis, nor Mr. Digby, and likely will not. I would rather replay Mr. Ashcroft’s and Mr. Graham’s story an inordinate number of times (which I probably will) than devote my time to these characters, and here is why:

regency love app | Tumblr

Mr. Curtis is simply too old and too stuck-up. If my protagonist were a character who cared about wealth and status, marrying him might make sense. He has a keen intellect and encountering him leads to many interesting conversations about books at the balls the protagonist attends. Even still, Mr. Curtis is not a character I can view as a tender or doting husband. His option simply did not seem as romantic as the other ones, which is why I regret that the writers chose to include it in the first place.

Regency Love (iOS) – GameCola

Mr. Digby is the Wonder Bread of lovers. Even his art style is much plainer than that of the other love interests — he has two pinpricks for eyes, for goodness’ sake! Still, he is well-meaning and sweet, if unintentionally boring. If the authors had given him an honest chance (read: a personality and some legitimate backstory), his story might be one I am genuinely interested in. But while I would be interested in replaying the story as an unmarried woman to see what options I unlock, I doubt I will cave to Mr. Digby’s last-resort proposal. I’m not interested in a marriage of convenience in real-life or in a game, and I would not want my protagonist to be, either! Even so, props to the author of the story for some genuinely FIRE comebacks regarding poor Mr. Digby’s lack of character and, well, pallor.

An Ode to Lord Fat Cat

Adventures in Gaming: Regency Love | EVELYN PRYCE

Oh, and did I mention? There’s a cat in this story named Lord Fat Cat, who serves as the protagonist’s companion and unlikely guide throughout much of Regency Love.

Lord Fat Cat, this stanza is devoted entirely to you. Where would this game be without your majesty and wisdom? Lord Fat Cat’s presence in this game was a blessing upon my happiness, and I demand to purchase merchandise bearing his adorably chubby likeness immediately.

While he may not be a love interest or even a main character, Lord Fat Cat’s apperance in Regency Love is a delight — and daresay one that is integral to the very fiber of this game’s being.

Regency Love is a darling game that captivated my attention from the start. As a Jane Austen fan, I appreciated the Regency Era references and Pride and Prejudice-esque premise of the entire story. While some of the characters left much to be desired, those that were developed captured my heart and will likely remain there for a long, long time. Furthermore, this game sparked my interest in the otome genre, which I am more curious to explore in the future as a lover of all things inspired by literature!

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