[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]loudrunner Studios is getting down to the tail end of their Kickstarter campaign for Melancholy Republic, so they’re making the rounds wrangling up the last of the pledges needed to make their $11,071 funding goal. As we’ve mentioned before the game draws much of its stylistic influence from popular JRPG titles, and has established its own style that blooms from this concept. Two standout overtones make up the public-facing content of this game however, and I’d like to highlight these two elements as the campaign draws to a close.
Melancholy Republic puts players in the shoes of a female politician named Claire C. Lockridge, a woman in a position of power who is forced to watch the world she presides over fall into a declining state of corruption. Accurately portraying a female lead character is a task that hasn’t always been approached correctly in the past, apparent when looking back at any handful of female lead characters in video games. Combine this with the melancholic atmosphere hanging over the game world which happens to be in dire need of a capable heroine or hero and you have the final pieces in the recipe that makes up Melancholy Republic.
Many games that have been cropping up over the past decade and a half allow players to make their own characters. Whether it’s something as simple as choosing a preset gender as a point character, or going as far as customizing their own character in Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or The Elder Scrolls, players are given a lot of power to choose an avatar they can either project themselves onto or simply make someone silly-looking. When a title that designates the main character as a male, we’re usually presented with an archetypal hero figure. Whether they’re the whiny, spoiled Tidus, or the collected, seemingly-invincible Sam Fisher, male protagonists are typically portrayed very capable or self-sufficient. Female leads are a different story, and if you’ve been playing video games for at least a year, you don’t need this article to point out the fact that a fair majority of female characters in general aren’t designed fairly in comparison to the opposite gender. Melancholy Republic’s Claire C. Lockridge is an example of a capable female lead, not made out to be a spectacle in that sense, or overly-sexualized. Claire presides over the City of Lorna, putting her in a highly important position of power. Cloudrunner Studios approached this in a way where it’s not made out to be strange, abnormal, or having characters portray a unified undertone made of sexist views or jokes. This is one step in the right direction for properly creating female leads, an important step in paving the way for game developers to take this into consideration for future titles and characters.
Since Melancholy Republic is a JRPG-inspired title, and it portrays a world in sadness (it has melancholy in the name), one particular game comes to mind that succeeded in instilling this type of troubled world. In Square Enix’s Valkyrie Profile, the player found themselves in a world of constant tragedy. Though the world in the game may have not exactly been in constant sadness, viewing it from the perspective of a Norse Battle Maiden certainly made it so. Lenneth Valkyrie was constantly sensing the final moments of Einherjar before then collecting their souls as party members in this tear-jerker of an RPG. If you’re familiar with the title, the striking similarity in game atmosphere between Valkyrie Profile and Melancholy Republic should be quite apparent. If that doesn’t say enough about Melancholy Republic succeeding in this category, perhaps experiencing the game world itself would prove Cloudrunner Studios has established an effective overall experience in putting together a world in trouble. Though we can only speculate based on the trailer and the absence of a playable demo, that melancholy does creep its way in, and we know ahead of time that should Melancholy Republic reach its goal, we’re in for a unique adventure.
Piecing game elements not commonly strung together can only get you so far as a developer. However approaching each element with care and applying a unique and original style will determine whether or not the result is successful. Cloudrunner Studios has created a game world that effectively conveys all the feelings and stories penned by the concept, and wrapped it in an eye-catching style reminiscent of JRPG titles that impacted the world of video games in the 16-bit era. Titles like Melancholy Republic will slowly but surely shape the way games are made in the future, which is a trend that has been picking up steam in recent years.
The Melancholy Republic Kickstarter is nearing the end of the line with a small amount to go in order to hit their goal, so check it out if it sounds like something you might be interested in.