With a focus on story-telling over leet skills and grinding, visual novels are getting deeper and darker than ever before. Instead of sticking exclusively to romance, many have begun to blend genres in new and exciting ways. Studio Theophilus is hoping a mixture of fantasy elements will help their new title, Zodiac•Axis stand out.
Weaving a tale of suspense, romance, and supernatural events, with Asian inspirations, Zodiac•Axis is seeking $10,000 on Kickstarter. The campaign offers a brief (about 7 minutes) pre-alpha demo. This is just to get potential backers acquainted with the game’s atmosphere. An atmosphere which includes a healthy dose of psychological horror.
The story follows protagonist, Alison Hart. A freshly graduated journalism student desperate for a job. Desperate enough to apply at an online tabloid. One which specializes in articles about the supernatural. Alison doesn’t actually buy into the tinfoil hat conspiracies she writes about. After her next assignment though, she might just change her mind.
Studio Theophilus promises backers a thoroughly developed gameworld. Mixing the contemporary environment with whimsical Asian fantasy. Unfortunately, the campaign doesn’t really give us more than the faintest taste of what’s to come.
Teasing “a light and fluffy adventure” we are told that Alison is almost crushed by a chandelier, trapped in a burning house, and witness to an execution. Clearly the game plans to take a darker turn than the crisp and colorful art would have us believe. I just wish they would have left more breadcrumbs in the actual campaign to draw backers further into the story.
Developing The Skills To Survive
Despite being light on details, the campaign does hint at some interesting ways Alison’s choices will come into play. Choices will affect, not only the available story outcome, but also Alison herself. Choices can lead to increased courage, creativity, or observation for Alison. These skills allow her to stay alive and write better articles. All of which will play a role in deepening her friendships and pursuing possible love interests (it is still a visual novel after all).
Studio Theophilus hopes to complete a fully-featured demo by this summer. The new demo will show off the first part of the story’s common route and roughly 1.5 hours of gameplay. They hope to release the full version of Zodiac•Axis sometime in 2018.