Twilight is infamous for its depiction of an ancient vampire in the form of a teenage boy and a high school girl. Forever ruining the mystique of vampires, its depiction of the romance between protagonists Edward Cullen and Bella Swan is creepy at best, and its prose is atrocious. While I can’t stand the books and the movies are awful, I have to admit there’s something about the relationship dynamic between the supernatural and mortal that has me intrigued. Enter Wayhaven Chronicles: Book One – a vampire romance choose your own adventure game that sunk its teeth into me.
Written by Mishka Jenkins and published Choice of Games, this is premier of a planned seven book series. Choice of Games encompasses every aspect indie gaming in a nutshell; their games are as low-budget as can be, featuring nothing but text on a plain white background, they have lots of creative ideas, and their quality ranges anywhere from stellar classics to all-time duds. Wayhaven Chronicles: Book One is on the higher end. In fact, as an avid player of CoG games, I can say it’s one of the better games by the publisher, and the best of their Hosted Games games.
The set-up is simple: you play a detective on their first day of the job in the idyllic small town of Wayhaven. That very morning, there’s a gruesome murder the likes of which the community has never seen before. It turns out that the murder (and the subsequent ones) is all the work of a single vampire. Once you discover the existence of the supernatural (a closely guarded secret by an international organization known only as “The Agency”), you must find out why the vampire isn’t just feeding on folks, but why he’s killing them in such gruesome ways.
The game wears it’s inspirations on its sleeve, from Twilight to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What makes Wayhaven Chronicles stand out is how player-driven the narrative is. The player can determine almost every aspect of the story, from simple things like gender, height, and name, to your sexual orientation, why you joined the police, and even why they were given their promotion. Extreme levels of player choice is par for the course with Choice of Games, but here every choice feels like it leads up to something.
Make no mistake, though – Wayhaven Chronicles is foremost a romance story. The investigation elements are light, and you find the identity of the killer vampire early on. Being the first in a planned epic series, a lot of the plot feels like it’s there more to establish a foundation for future books. That doesn’t mean the story here isn’t engaging. In fact, being a romance game, you also get to choose who to vacation to Bone Town with.
This is where Unit Bravo comes into play, a group of vampires assigned by The Agency to help you solve the murders. Why are a group of secret vampires helping a human stop a vampire killing spree? For that, you’ll have to play the game and found out yourself.
It’s with the characters where Wayhaven Chronicles shines. This isn’t Twilight, full of creepy, rapey, cardboard cutouts of characters spouting wooden dialog. Here, every character has their own personality, and they interact in natural and surprising ways. Your protagonists sexual orientation determines Unit Bravo’s gender, though their character remains the same. The leader can be Ava or Adam, the number two either Nat or Nate, the grizzled badass sex-addict Morgan or Mason, and the wise-cracking newbie Farah or Felix. Those are just the starting point of each character though, and you’ll get to know them all in interesting ways going forward.
Wayhaven Chronicles is everything a romance-focused game should be. Its relationships aren’t creep-fests, and above all none of the characters fall in love with the protagonist because the plot requires it. The detective elements are light, but they provide enough substance to keep you engaged and the story moving forward. By the end of Book One, your detective and love interest will form a real bond because you put the time and effort into nurturing a friendship first, and beating bad guys seconds. Unless it’s Morgan/Mason, they’ll just want to bang.