I love visual novels. I love stories about duality. I love stories with paladins. So, it should come as to no surprise that I couldn’t back Brilliant Shadows quickly enough. And, after finally finding the time to play through it I just have to say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least. My only regret was having to drop my pledge considerably towards the end of the campaign. That said, I hope to see more from Ithaqua Labs in the future.
Veronica Ashmar and Prudence Celeste have been friends since childhood and they had hoped to be joined together during the ceremony that bonds a paladin with a necromancer in a sort of symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, fate would have none of that and instead Prude gets paired with the eccentric Hektor Warlock (yes, that’s really his name) and Ash ends up with a mark but no pair. And thus begins the beautifully crafted tale of Brilliant Shadows.
Throughout the game you’ll be making the choices for Ash, the more-or-less focal point of the story. Brilliant Shadows isn’t just the quest to find her matching pair but it’s also a tale of self discovery for all five of the major players. Well, technically it’s six if you count the unseen half of Ash’s pair but I won’t spoil that for you. Having just been bonded Ash, Prude, Hektor, and the pair of Belinda and Aelfnod are forced to leave the mountain where they’ve been training for reasons that become quite apparent roughly a third to a half way through.
As I mentioned, Brilliant Shadows is about finding oneself in the world. For Ash it’s more than just finding her, for lack of a better term, soulmate. For starters, she’s had feelings for her childhood friend. Feelings that run deep and make her insanely jealous when she finds out that she and Prude haven’t been bonded. Despite that, she still confesses her love. In fact, her sexuality is brought up quite a bit throughout the game to the point where it’s pretty obvious which team she’s playing for.
I never thought that I’d fall in love, figuratively speaking, with a necromancer but with Ash I couldn’t help but feel for her and her struggles. I’ve always seen this type of spellcaster as someone who’s purely evil, raises the dead, and just does unspeakable things to others, but Brilliant Shadows brings this dark magic into a whole new light and their balancing relationship with paladins just melted away the veil of prejudice. For, as the saying goes, you can’t have light without darkness.
There are three different endings, with several smaller branching paths, but I only managed to get one so far. And Brilliant Shadows is pretty lengthy, at least for a visual novel. After several hours of reading through the text I didn’t want it to end. This is something that only the most gripping stories have managed to invoke in me. Which obviously means that I’d love to see a sequel in the future should there be plans for one.