Long Live the Queen is a tough but satisfying stat-building social simulation visual novel, similar to the Princess Maker franchise. The player guides Elodie, the 14 year old princess who will be crowned queen when she reaches adulthood in the game at 15… if you can keep her alive that long. Being royalty isn’t all fun and games when you’re faced with many different factions, enemies at your border, and magical dangers. Through every week until her coronation, the player gets to choose what Elodie studies — and those skills are what she will have to rely on to survive the twists in the story, with the ultimate goal of first finishing the game, and later obtaining the different endings or a ‘perfect’ playthrough.
Analysis through the Elemental Tetrad Lens
The game follows Elodie, who is to be queen after her mother suddenly dies. Whisked from her school back to the palace, she is thrown into week after week of lessons…and also, power. Despite not yet being crowned queen, in order to prepare her she gains some control over the fate of her kingdom, and the player’s decisions have a great deal of power, not only to shape Elodie’s fate but that of her court, her kingdom, and her country’s interaction with others. Additionally, part of the story is about the many perils of ruling. There are many ways to fail and never reach Elodie’s coronation.
The story is closely supported by the mechanics. In this game, knowledge is power and all knowledge, from decoration, handling dogs or horses, vocal lessons to military, political and magical knowledge has its uses. (Some however are more useful than others). Certain decisions and choices are locked behind skill checks based on whether Elodie has enough of that particular knowledge, but you need to be prepared ahead of time, which is why what you study each week matters. Furthermore, it leans into the fact that Elodie is young, and hence emotional. Every week her mood will affect her choices on what she is able to study, giving her positive or negative modifiers to what she is able to learn. Time is always linear, and the tradeoffs of every choice become obvious early, making plays feel like their decisions matter. Finally, while the events of each week are linear, the overall player experience is not the same every time, because depending on the way you train Elodie, her abilities and her experience is different. This allows players to learn and anticipate as they go through multiple playthroughs, and really learn about the power of their choices and the many potential dangers of being a young ruler.
Long Live the Queen embraces a simple, cutesy aesthetic and the colour pink. It also provides a clear callback to similar games like Princess Maker, and other female-targeted games. While at first this seems at odds with the darker political themes and dangers in the story, the contrast also serves to highlight how the fantasy of being royalty is very different from the reality. For me, it felt particularly novel and fresh that each potential death Elodie could achieve was immortalized in a cute chibi badge on your achievements page. The urge to collect them all tempts players to replay the game just to achieve particular bad-endings and not just good endings, encouraging the discovery of the different impacts your choices can make. You even have the ability to dress up your princess (though this is actually an additional mechanic, because using the dress-up outfits increases your skills in a particular field, encouraging players to use the different outfits). Being a very story driven game, there is no action and the game is static, 2D screens with a great deal of text. The events in each week are told via short Visual Novel style scenes, in which the stat logic fades away so that you can focus on the story. Parts of the story’s lore is delivered through small text snippets summarizing Elodie’s lessons each week, which gives the player the context to understand what is happening during the story — but these dense snippets are displayed in a different kind of box, so the player can choose to read or not as they wish.
The technology is also in harmony with the rest of the tetrad. The tricky stat-crunching is easily managed for the player, and players can also save at any point. This makes the act of trying different choices at different parts easier and making it more fun to go back and replay different parts. Hence, the technology highlights the story and the satisfaction of building Elodie’s stats in different ways to overcome challenges.
I believe the game could be more immersive with more varied graphics or music, because the aesthetics were simple to a fault. In particular, the music quickly becomes repetitive. The simple graphics also made the deaths and other endings feel more sudden, which can be frustrating to the player. However, overall the graphics served the story, mechanics, and technology well, and might have been a necessary concession to producing the game quickly, and to put the players focus on the text.
Lens of Curiosity
Long Live the Queen excels in applying the lens of curiosity, and encourages players to keep coming back to the game again and again. The first few times you play, you probably won’t win. There are just too many potential dangers. This causes the player to wonder “What will it take to win? What should I make Elodie study on my next playthrough?” The story itself is interesting, where decisions cascade (actions done in earlier weeks affect events in later weeks), which makes a player feel like they want to find out what happens next in the story because they had a role in creating it.
There is a tendency to do completely different things in later playthroughs (for example, studying music in the first playthrough and royal demeanor in the next), leading to different options. You can see every check you fail, piquing the curiosity about what other text you would see if you had passed the check. Once you solve the game for the first time, most players immediately want to play it again to explore more paths. Furthermore the death achievement collecting page gives players hints about what paths they haven’t figured out yet, and that unknown is very motivating.
Lens of time
“Games give us the chance to do something we can never do in the real world: control time”— Art of the Game Lenses
This lens is interesting to observe the game through, because the main mechanic of the game is choosing what Elodie studies every week — speeding through the time before her coronation. The game length partially comes from these interesting but thought heavy decisions, and figuring out what to study in order to unlock new scenes and discover new things. As choosing individual subjects to study each day would lead to decision fatigue and a very long game, the game restricts the number of activities you can choose to just two. This is where the technology really supports the game. As mentioned in the tetrad, you can rewind time via saved games. Additionally you can actually speed up time. For scenes that you’ve read previously, you can speed through the dialogue, which allows you to get through repetitive content quickly.
Lens of Pleasure
The three main pleasures this game offers (via LeBlanc’s taxonomy of game pleasures) is discovery, narrative, and challenge. For discovery, as stated in my analysis of the lens of curiosity, players enjoy finding out both how to win the game as well as how to win the game in different ways. Discovering new scenes also gives a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction. For narrative, as explained earlier the story is the games core strength. However, noting that narrative is more than story but also a dramatic unfolding of events, the structure of the game actually lends itself to this pleasure in particular. This is because each week is pre-coded with particular dramatic events. There’s rarely a dull moment in this game, because every week has the potential for something big to happen, and as described in chapter 17, the game uses the “string of pearls” method to space cutscenes with interactivity and challenging character choices.
Challenge then, comes from figuring out how to navigate this game in order to discover new scenes, strategies, and endings, and to progress the narrative. And this is quite difficult. The limited time, coupled with Elodie’s moodiness, really limits what you can study — and the games events wait for no player. There is always a time-crunch and a new threat, and the punishing stat checks drive many players to pull out their notebook or excel sheet to map out what future decisions they need to take to survive. But it is precisely this puzzle which makes the game so fun for me. The difficulty in even surviving gives me a lot of pleasure in triumphing over adversity (This is unpopular with certain kinds of players though, and if this doesn’t sound fun to you this probably is not the game for you).
Lens of Emotion
I experienced frustration, joy, surprise, sadness, regret, dread, worry, curiosity, satisfaction and triumph playing this game. The strength of the story experience carried all of these for me, and I would like to highlight what emotions I felt at certain key moments.
Firstly, deaths and failed checks. I almost always felt frustration when my run was suddenly cut short, or my plans for that week were dashed because I failed a skill check. However, I usually also felt surprise about the different outcomes, dread as I waited for Elodie’s bad end, and even satisfaction with the deaths due to having unlocked a new outcome. In some senses, the game made failure fun.
Secondly, I wanted to raise the tangible worry i felt for Elodie. While the player’s journey and that of Elodie are very closely intertwined, there are times where I felt very separated from her character, and I am sure this was intentional. Elodie is young. Elodie is a child, put in a horrible position of having to deal with being queen. At times in her story, I just felt so bad for the decisions I was making, which might put her in a bad place after the story ended — and while I did try to get her bad endings, I also tried very hard to find endings where she would be happy and the kingdom would be well, because of those emotions I felt about her.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Long Live the Queen! I think it is an excellent and novel game, with a tricky puzzle to solve regarding what stats to build and a complex and surprisingly deep story which quickly pulled me in. If you do not enjoy stat-raising games or puzzles which encourage frequent replay, this is not the game for you. But if you’re interested in trying to help a young would-be-queen beat the odds, maybe you’d enjoy this deceptively cutesy princess-raising game.