The first chapter of Angels and Demigods, 7 Keys Studios’ lightly gamified, anime-style “VR visual novel,” is out, and four more chapters are waiting on funding from a Kickstarter launched September 28. Available for Vive via Steam, Cardboard via Android and iOS, and desktop via Mac OS and Windows, chapter one aims to expand to Samsung Gear soon.
For all subsequent chapters, meanwhile, 7 Keys Studios aims to support all possible platforms, including PlayStation VR and Google’s Daydream, assuming the studio meets its funding goal of $31,111. With 30 days before closing, the project has plenty of time to attract donations, but it’ll need to start reeling them in if it’s to reach the goal. And with eight months to go before next May, the public has a while to wait before it sees any more Angels and Demigods.
Funds will support the development of a very-far-future-based tale of human-engineered ubermensch (Angels) awoken by a quasi-religious order-cum-governmental body (The Chapel) ostensibly to defend this particular society’s homeworld—Saturn’s terraformed moon Enceladus—from mortal threats, like those that might come from the solar system’s other moon and planet-based societies.
The player-character experiences the story from the perspective of a newly awakened and nameless Angel tasked by the Chapel with locating and repatriating Ashley, an Angel whose awakening occurred either in error or as a result of something, perhaps a telepathic communication from another Angel, left unrevealed at the first chapter’s end. Angels are powerful, so the Chapel’s grimacing representatives can’t have one flying around willy-nilly, even for the meager three days that Angels can survive after hatching.
7 Keys Studios’ project bears a passing resemblance to Sequenced, in that both are among the VR graphic novel variety and whose outcomes the user determines through interaction. Sequenced, however, boasts a different style of animation and storytelling that mostly treats the viewer as an invisible observer; Angels and Demigods uniquely places viewers in a first-person view, which is particularly interesting given the graphic novel visual foundation.
Readers beware, your player-character can, and, I’ll wager, will, die a few times before he successfully concludes the chapter. Pick the wrong lines of dialogue—choosing between dialogue options by looking at and clicking them is the player-character’s exclusive means of interacting with his environment—and you’ll meet with one end or another. This is frustrating primarily because the game does not allow its user to skip dialogue (though the player can easily Save and Load games). Thus, dying forces the user to re-listen a meaty supply of lines before their player-character can die (or finally succeed!) again, which brings me to a secondary frustrator, namely the stilted voice-acting, about which I won’t complain anymore because I (a) actually enjoyed the experience and (b) appreciate that 7 Keys Studios built this thing on a budget.
If a user is going to be frustrated by anything else (aside from Ashley’s all-purpose swimwear and every-big-eyed-anime-girl character model, or the fact that scenes remain entirely static through long stretches of dialogue, which, again, budget), it’ll likely be the superficially illogical sequence of conversation options one must select to not-die. I say “superficially” because I actually appreciated, to some degree, that I couldn’t take one tack (e.g., outright honesty or mendacity, loyalty to the Chapel or interest in Ashley) and hope to survive. Although I’ve yet to die in real life, I felt the narrative’s apparently illogical relation to action and consequence, especially as pertains to human interactions, mirrored my lived experience of the same, i.e., often when I say or do something to or for or in relation to someone else and expect a particular outcome, I discover that I’m really awkward and lack basic interpersonal skills. Jokes aside, I’m saying Yay to making contradictory statements, and generally being all over the place in terms of tone and message, in order to survive.