Sunday, July 7, 2019

To Infinity and Beyond! || Chasing the Stars (PC)

The end never justifies the means because there is no end; there are only means.” - Penn Jillette

Title Screen

Chasing the Stars is a BL (Boy’s Love) Ren’py visual novel created by Ertal Games. I played their previous game A Hand in the Darkness, which was also a BL visual novel, you can find my blog entry about that game (here). I backed this game on Kickstarter and I waited some time for it, so I was happy when I got the email saying that it was finished and got my keys for it. However, I was changing jobs and had a lot going on so I didn’t get the chance to play it until now. Everything has sort of been on hold, and even after I said I was coming back there was a major crisis and I had to bail again. Sorry! But I’m here now, and let’s talk about Chasing the Stars.

In Chasing the Stars you play as Tirs, a young man who has a dream to be a part of the team that is Terraforming the new planet Alaya. Tirs had an opportunity, but declined, not wanting to leave his boyfriend at the time Nil. Tirs bore resentment over his decision to give up his dream to go to space, and it impacting their relationship in a way that Nil breaks up with Tirs. The game starts just after the break-up when Tirs has to come face-to-face with how he got to where he is, with the help of his friends Pol and Lila. Pol suggests that Tirs try to join the terraforming project again, and after some debate, Tirs decides it’s worth a shot. How will his life change if he’s able to follow his dream?

If only, if only. 

I like the cast in the game, particularly Dr. Rossell, but as someone who’s had a lot of crushes on teachers through the years it’s sort of a thing with me. Although Rossell’s character is rather predictable and I knew where his arc was going, that doesn’t mean it was bad by any means. Perhaps I’ve just watched too many anime have have a knack for seeking out the bad boys. The dynamics between Tirs and his teammates and friends are well formed and the dialog feels natural and smooth. There are more than a couple spelling or grammatical errors, much like in their last game. I hate to harp on such a thing, but when you're paying for a game those little not so polished features really can stick out.

There is partial voice acting in the game, and while the voices all fit the characters, at times the written dialogue and the spoken dialogue didn’t match. It didn’t change the meaning of what was being said in any way, except for one time it sounded like Tirs called Lila “Linda”, but it was just a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Also there was one time that Tirs was speaking, but it had Mark’s name on the dialogue box.

Something that really bothered me was a section of the game that involved inputting a code by selecting, “Up”, “Down”, “Left” or “Right” to open a computer. If you don’t input the code correctly the first time, you get stuck in an endless loop of “It doesn’t do anything. The cursor blinks, unmoving, so I type another arrow”. This apparently is a feature, not a bug. As Ertal stated in their forum for the game, “Not an issue, sorry: if you fail the right order of the arrows, you get into a loop. You must load a saved game to repeat the puzzle (psst, there's a guide in the game folder).” This is bad game design(not everyone immediately thinks of the Konami Code when they see arrows), and irritated me that there isn’t some out or restart to this.The guide is nice, but it shouldn't be a required tool to play a game. 

Poor Biel has tried so hard

In all fairness I only played through this game once, so there are tons of branches and decisions that I didn’t get to explore before writing this. I slept with Marc (Dr. Rossell) right away because he was my favorite, and I also had the opportunity for a threesome with Marc and another character named Biel that I came to really like through the course of the game too. I unfortunately didn’t get to see any romance with Pol this time around, but perhaps I’ll swing through it again on my own time to see how that goes.

Despite any flaws in the game, what Ertal excels at is really the love scenes. I really enjoyed the scenes I saw in my play through. They're well written and descriptive. Much like A Hand in the Darkness, their writing skill shows more in these parts of the game than anywhere else. 

Something else I appreciated in this game, and many other BL games I’ve played too, is the ability to set whether you want the sex scenes or not. Chasing the Stars gives you an option up front to decide whether you want them all, you don’t want any of them, or if you want to pick and choose as you go. I appreciate that. I also enjoy getting to choose top or bottom for those scenes. I do wish there was a gallery available though.

All is well that ends well... right?

Overall Chasing the Stars is well-written and I like the Steampunk theme, the character designs, and the story of going into space is one that I can relate to. I’ve always loved the idea of going into space and seeing what is out there. Perhaps someday. I got End 8, which tells me there are at least 7 other endings out there that you can get. I imagine not all of them are as happy, either. If you enjoy BL games, and especially if you enjoyed Ertal’s previous game, then I think this one is work your time as well.

Thank you all so much for joining me here for this, if you’ve played the game, let me know what you thought of it. Who was your favorite character? Who did you romance? Do you think Marc deserved what he received? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you all next time!

Pol is honestly so cute though...


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