I’m all for giving to a Kickstarter campaign almost blindly without seeing how it plays out or knowing more than a couple paragraphs of plot in the pitch, but sometimes a project comes along that has me very much on the fence. In the case of visual novel Elisa – The Innkeeper I find myself thankful that they did provide a demo so that I could get a feel as to what to expect from the full game. So, I downloaded and played their “prequel” to get a better understanding of the main characters involved in the plot.
In Elisa – The Innkeeper you’re basically the narrator, or “like a god” as they put it, as you dictate how the story flows. You’re not just playing a character. You’re playing all of them. To some degree. Unfortunately, these characters are about a two-dimensional as they come. Now, I don’t mind a shallow visual novel as long as as something about it captures my interest. Such as, *cough*, eye candy.
And while most of the “pawns”, as it were, aren’t hard on the eyes it’s the personalities that I find a bit more than grating. All the Prince cares about is his image and wooing the fair Innkeeper, the Merchant only wants to show off his wealth (particularly to said Innkeeper), the Knight has such a short appearance and his hatred towards women is quite palpable, and it’s hard to gauge Elisa the Innkeeper’s attitude towards everyone as it changes from ending to ending.
Now, being a demo I wouldn’t judge Elisa – The Innkeeper so harshly if what I played wasn’t already 20% of the final game. You don’t really meet or get to know half of the cast (two of the girls and only briefly the Knight) and most of the interactions in each branching path is between the Prince and Merchant haggling over the sale of a castle. Honestly, the negotiations were the high point of what I’ve played and I frankly didn’t care much for Elisa herself.
It’s a sad thing, too, as I really wanted to like Elisa – The Innkeeper. I even played through every ending to find some redeeming quality beyond the artwork. All I discovered was how grateful I was that something tangible was provided to push me one way or the other. If what I played weren’t already a fifth of the entire game I’d probably overlook the shortcomings and at least consider picking it up when it releases.
I don’t mind having an unpolished slice of a game as long as it captures my interest quickly. In the case of Elisa – The Innkeeper I could barely make it through one path before wanting to just uninstall the “prequel“. It doesn’t help that we didn’t get to know anyone well and it was rather hard to follow along at times. I don’t want to sound overly negative, and if you want to try a visual novel set in Italy by Italians then don’t let my experience sway you one way or the other. It’s just not for me. And for the above reasons I’m passing on backing this one.