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Review: Loren: Amazon Princess for Windows, Mac, Linux

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Title: Loren: Amazon Princess
Price: $24.99
System(s): Windows, Mac, Linux
Release Date: April 30, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Winter Wolves (Winter Wolves)
ESRB Rating: N/A. I’d say it’s best for ages 18 and up, because there’s a lot of innuendo and mature situations. Those can be turned off in the options menu, but since it’s so easy to turn it back on again I wouldn’t recommend it for younger gamers.
Pros: Interesting and long story, can have a male or female lead character, 10 party members available, can talk with party members in camp and romance some, multiple difficulty levels, can choose different responses to shape the story, can turn adult content off and have characters put more clothing on, easy to find random battles for extra experience and each character has a good assortment of skills to choose from when leveling up.
Cons: Some of the characters’ clothing and behavior is still a bit mature even with the censor option on. There aren’t loads of different weapons and its usually best to just save up for the most expensive since there isn’t much difference between them. There are no unique sidequests, outside of the “tasks” in each town that can be performed to earn experience and discounts in shops. I didn’t care much for the official soundtrack. The unusually poppy and happy theme song doesn’t fit with the game.
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb sideways, 83/100, B, * * * out of 5

Last year, Winter Wolves released Planet Stronghold, its first visual novel RPG-mashup. It was a futuristic, space opera with multiple endings and plenty of customization options, but often got more challenging than one would expect from a hybrid game. Loren: Amazon Princess, it’s second visual novel RPG, completely addresses those issues by offering a more balanced combat system and multiple difficulty levels. In addition, it possesses a much more interesting story. At the same time, it’s also features a bit of mature content which might give some people pause.

The Amazon princess must overcome her prejudices to save the world

Loren is princess of the Amazons. She’s strong, both physically and mentally. However, she’s also led a very sheltered life. That’s about to change as her mother, Queen Karen, has abruptly disappeared from the Citadel, the Amazons’ fortress home. The other Amazons seem ready to just declare Karen dead and write her off, making Loren the new queen, but she won’t accept that. Instead, she declares she will leave and find her mother. Her mother’s advisor, Breza, advises her to take either the slave Saren or Elenor along, as both have experience as warriors and are healers.

So even though it means casting off her title and going it alone with one companion, Loren goes into the outside world to search for her mother. In doing so, she ends up getting involved in yet another quest. She’s tasked with retrieving the Sword of Embers, a legendary weapon bestowed upon man, elf and dwarfkind by the gods. It only recognizes and glows for the strongest warrior in the world, and when Loren grabs it, it shines.

Which means a simple rescue quest could end up leading Loren to face her destiny as a heroine who might be able to defeat the a Death Knight and his demon armada.

Visual novel and RPG blend well together, though equipment lacks importance.

Like Winter Wolves’ Planet Stronghold, Loren: Amazon Princess is a hybrid game. It’s a turn-based RPG with plenty of visual novel elements thrown in for good measure. Players can make decisions that influence the story, which can result in certain characters living or dying, certain romantic story-lines being triggered and, of course, influence the ending. There aren’t any grand, world-shattering choices available, as most will lead you to the same basic end, but your choices do influence what kind of epilogue each character gets and the future of the Amazons and world in general.

What’s interesting is, you aren’t actually playing as the heroine, Loren. You’re playing as her slave, then servant, Saren or Elenor with an unknown narrator dictating the story sometime in the future. It provides an interesting perspective, as your character’s purpose, whether its male or female, is to prove him or herself to the princess and the world, rather than actually save it.

As for the gameplay, the RPG segments proceeed in a manner similar to an old school RPG. Character portraits represent heroes and enemies on the battle screen, with icons representing ailments. On the left, you get a panel showing an opponents stats and vulnerabilities, while the right has a list showing who’s up next to attack. Clicking on an ally portrait can trigger a buff, healing effect, potion or defense, while clicking on an enemy allows a character to use a standard attack, a ranged attack, a potion or a skill. In almost every case, your overall goal is to try and inflict as many status ailments as possible, since it makes enemies susceptible to damage and might allow your allies to unleash more effective, special attacks.

Experience is earned from all battles, as well as town fame or other rewards in other cases. Level up enough and you’ll be able to customize your characters. You can assign three points each level to strength, skill and will. Since all characters fall into the warrior, thief or mage class, I think you can tell that each stat tends to apply to one more than others. Depending on the difficulty level chosen at the beginning of the game, you also gain a skill point every two or three levels that can be used to learn and upgrade skills that can be used in the battle. This allows for quite a bit of character customization, especially since each character learns skills from two different subclasses.

As good as the battling and skill assignment are, the equipment options are a little disappointing. There is a varied assortment of different kinds of equipment and lots of different shops, but there really isn’t much point in continually shopping. It’s best to just save up a lot of money and get the five most powerful weapons and perhaps a handful of really nice necklaces or general equipment for the six characters you use the most. The difference between weapons is negligible, and I found that some of the weapon drops from boss fights were strong enough to satisfy equipment needs for characters. Granted, some weapons do have elements associated with them, that can make certain fights a little easier, and some items do offer element resistances, but if you have the right people in your party to boost defense and attack power, you’re fine without going overboard, level grinding to earn lots of equipment. In addition, in Chapter 4 you get to visit one shop that offers all the best equipment in the game at pretty substantial discounts, which makes it smarter to just power through earlier chapters with what you have or get for free, saving money for the best shop at the end and final boss battle.

Finally, I want to let people know that Loren: Amazon Princess is a game for mature audiences. It is pretty well written and interesting and the option to turn off “Sexy Romance Graphic” does help censor the game greatly, but character outfits are quite revealing and there is innuendo even if you choose to play the clean version. It doesn’t tarnish the experience at all, and there is equal opportunity fan-service, but if you’re squeamish about mature content you probably try the demo before you buy the game. I’d also recommend bracing yourself if you play as Elenor and decide to romance Rei, as he comes across as a huge pig and jerk until you get his affections past two hearts, at which point he practically changes into a whole new man.

An interesting RPG worth replaying, so long as you don’t mind some risque behavior

While I’ll admit I bristled a bit at the fan-service in Loren: Amazon Princess, even with the censor option turned on, it’s worth overlooking as the battle system is well arranged and challenging and the overall story of a young man or woman rising from slavery to become second in command of an army that will help save the world is very well done. I especially liked how the decisions, mostly those made in the fourth chapter, did influence the ending and epilogue. While it may be a bit expensive and is definitely only for mature audiences, it’s well made, tells an interesting tale and I could honestly see playing through it a second time to see what effect different choices would have on the story.

If you’re interested in Loren: Amazon Princess, I’d highly recommend testing the demo out first. After about 15 minutes, you should immediately know if this is or isn’t a game you’d want to play and somehow I get the feeling more people would be willing to keep going than completely abandon it.

Site [Loren: Amazon Princess]

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