Finally alone in the throne room, you can take a breath. Whew. You always suspected running the kingdom would be hard, but ruling Al-Marahij is something else! You’re in charge of absolutely everything – at least until your parents get back. And the candied date on top is that, with the extra public attention, your secret is at risk now more than ever…
You jolt upright as the doors fling open. A young woman enters, and glides towards you. She is poised, beautiful, and quite unannounced; clearly, someone of royal blood. “Greetings, Prince Amir,” She says, bowing, “I am Princess Lyra. I have heard much about you, especially your wisdom and kindness.” She looks up, her brown eyes glistening like orbs of amber. “I’ve…also heard you are single. As such, I have been sent here to ask for your hand in marriage, so that we might tighten the bonds between our nations for many years to come. Does this please you, my Prince?”
Does this please you? Gazing upon this wondrous lady that most princes would happily wed in an instant, you naturally have only the one thought: Fuuuuuuuuuuck.
“I, uh, am sorry, Lady Lyra,” You stutter, “But…I can’t stop thinking about my mother and I lost all my underwear, so you wouldn’t want to marry me, right?” Those precious amber orbs stretch into melted pools of horror; yep, that seemed to have killed all interest. As the Princess storms out, you pat yourself on the back for avoiding another marriage proposal. Though if you keep rejecting Princesses like this, people are going to talk: Being gay in a kingdom that does not look kindly upon it can put you in some tough spots sometimes. But that being said, you’re not helpless. One of your duties is managing the nation’s laws after all. If you play your cards right, you might be able to change the right ones, and maybe find love along the way…
And that is essentially the main goal of Your Royal Gayness: To enact social change in the Kingdom of Al-Marahij, woo a receptive prince, keep up appearances and look after the kingdom to the best of your abilities – and you have until your parents return in 60 days to do it all. Released on the 26th of January, Your Royal Gayness is a hybrid of visual novel and management sim, similar in style to games such as Princess Maker or Long Live The Queen, but a little simpler and not as difficult. The title was created by Lizard Hazard Games, a studio formed by Finnish game dev students, and it serves as the studio’s debut release. A successful Kickstarter helped to fund and promote the game.
Gameplay wise, Amir’s rule is all about making decisions that primarily affect Kingdom resources, foreign relations, Amir’s own stats, and suspicion over his sexuality. Ideally, one wants to raise the first three and keep the last very, very low. Kingdom resources consist of Wealth, Military Strength, Noble Support, and Commoner Support. Each resource is important to maintain in order to be able to make certain decisions – Wealth, for example, will allow you to brew potions, and Noble Support will allow you to change laws.
Regarding foreign relations, you have three neighbouring domains to consider: The forest dwelling elves of Aeroth; the Viking-inspired Gnuppverjahrepprfell (don’t worry, the cast can’t pronounce that one either); and the vampiric, gloomy Obisidia. Maintaining high relations with these countries is presumably important to maintaining peace, but I struggled to make a noticeable dent in things even when actively antagonising them, so I’d safely say the average player doesn’t have to worry too much about international snafus (like accidentally serving the Obisidian ambassador a goblet of wine instead of winemaker).
Amir’s stats affect some randomly occurring scenes; one may choose to raise Talent, Nerve, Uniqueness and/or Charisma on the weekends, but these really don’t seem important to worry about. Even if you don’t have enough stats for the scene when it happens, there doesn’t seem to be any penalty. I just balanced raising all stats and seemed to do just fine. This re-occurring lack of import is a bit of an issue in the title; yes, eventually screwing everything up will end in a game over, but the game is generous in giving you time to rectify things. For example, I played for almost a week in negative Wealth, with about three warnings before the game decided to end my playthrough. In further patches, the devs will hopefully consider making things a bit harder, or alternatively consider the inclusion of a harder difficulty mode.
Each weekday of the 60-day rule is broken into phases: Letter Phase, Audience Phase, Management Phase, and Princess Phase. You’ll sometimes have events with your romantic interest or advisors in the evenings, and Weekends are entirely dedicated to activities to build those personal stats of pseudo-importance. The Letter Phase occurs each morning, and you receive a missive that either: is from Amir’s family and friends; presents a minor decision up-front (Eg. A foreign country is wondering if you could loan scholars for an expedition); or gives you feedback from your citizens about your rule so far. They’re nice attempts to make the world feel larger than you’re experiencing.
In the Audience Phase, one of your advisors will approach you and present a dilemma for your input, which will affect kingdom resources. Interestingly, most of these dilemmas can continue on for a few days with related decisions. For example, if your advisor approaches you regarding a cult in town and you ask to disband it, you might be informed the next day that the cult was taken care of and the leader captured – you can then decide to interrogate the leader to find out what the cult was after, and once you know, decide what to do about that. This sequential storytelling imparts an appreciated sense of continuity to the world, and makes decisions feel like they have importance to them, as opposed to being one-off, click-and-forget affairs. Though some decisions like that do indeed exist – just far fewer in number.
The Management Phase is essentially the crux of the game: For starters, it is here you assign tasks to one of your lovely advisors – the friendly and mysterious Spymaster Seraph, the stern and practical Drakemaster Magda, and the bumbling and totally-not-a-lizardman Court Wizard Barry. These tasks can range from improving international relations, to brewing potions that could help Amir or the Kingdom more directly, to gathering particular kingdom resources. You may also change Amir’s outfit (with some unlockable through the course of play), visit the dungeon and ransom prisoners gained through some decisions, consult the Library for lore, and change laws.
And changing laws is important.
Whilst ultimately you’re working to make the nation a better place for LGBT+ people, you also have other things to look at – there are laws regarding the rest of society, taxes, and military. These laws will affect certain resources daily, as well as your legacy at the end of it all. Sure, you may like the idea of Free Education, but that’ll be -3 Wealth a day; is it worth it, or will you have to risk angering the commoners by raising taxes to compensate..? Picking and choosing what you want to pass is important as well; you simply won’t have enough time and resources in one playthrough to pass everything you may want to.
It is also through the Management Phase that one may ask Seraph to spy on eligible ladies (or lads) in waiting. Getting to know what a Princess (or Prince) likes and dislikes will enable you to avoid (or woo) them much easier. That information can definitely come in handy: Princesses will storm your castle like Shrek on a quest to ask for Amir’s hand during the Princess Phase, a phase that may randomly occur after dealing with the Audience Phase. In order to avoid ending up in a sham marriage, you must fabricate a lie out of presented sentence fragments that’ll cause the potential suitor to lose interest in you (at least, for a time). This lie will be a jumbled sentence of confused, desperate (and often amusing) garbage, but if you shove enough discovered (or luckily guessed) dislikes in there, she’ll flee and simply assume you’re incompatible. If you accidentally put in stuff she likes, though, or are simply not convincing enough, you may be in trouble as she wonders why you’re turning her down…
Speaking of princes, after spying on one and ascertaining if you two are compatible or not, you can approach one and ask him out – You can only dedicate yourself to one Prince per playthrough though, so when you decided to commit, you commit. From there, you have to try to keep the relationship happy and stable to the point that – ultimately, when you legalise same-sex marriage – you can wed them. You interact with your date from time to time in random events that are often rather endearing.
Though as sweet as true love may be, one has to be careful of gathering too much suspicion regarding Amir’s sexuality. Suspicion is measured in a meter on the upper left, which raises and lowers with some actions (such as failing to convince Princesses you’re really not meant to be). The higher it is, the more people will suspect, and challenges will occur. Should the suspicion meter be maxed out, the game will end – even if everything’s all good legally, society still needs time to adjust, and you’re at risk of people dismissing your laws as self-serving.
As one may expect from a game with heavy LGBT+ themes, it does tackle things like coming out, supporting a closeted relative, choosing to confront a homophobe and things of a similar theme (but not to a grand depth). The ending sequence was clearly written with a lot of thought though – You have options in how you want to tackle Amir’s situation.
The overall writing of the game is decent, and the humour of the title usually trends towards something pretty relaxed and sometimes corny, but it has risqué moments here and there. At times, the game has an interesting fusion of the expected ‘ye olde’ pleasantries and more modern language; there’s something satisfyingly amusing about being called ‘Your Liege’ after receiving a letter from a friend who describes something as complete shit and calls you ‘Bro’. The characters are ok in that they work with the setting, but the only real stand out (perhaps understandably in such a RNG heavy game) is Seraph, who’s friendly nature and mysteriousness creates an appeal similar to someone like TOMCAT of Midboss’ 2064: Read Only Memories. You simply want to know more about them, and their interactions with Prince Amir (or ‘G’, as they call Amir) can be entertaining. And thankfully, the main cast does get some one-on-one moments with the Prince, which helps to make them more than just names and titles. The cast is diverse in sexuality, gender, age, ethnicity, body shape, and even height.
Art-wise, the game eschews great detail in favour of a simple, yet appealing style reminiscent of a fairytale book – it works to reflect the world and its inhabitants quite nicely. The only disappointment with the artwork are the Princes and Princesses themselves; characters sometimes do look quite similar, and considering they’re a focus of the title, one wonders if pre-set characters (or at least Princes) may have been a better route than randomly generated ones. The soundtrack, whilst not a product of RNG, may as well be: It’s pleasant, but the only two tracks to stand out at all are the main theme, and the theme that plays during ‘whacky shenanigans’ and even those don’t stay with you for too long. The sound effects are similarly serviceable.
But despite some merely ‘ok’ elements, the game does have a fair bit going for it, and overall cobbles into something quite enjoyable and surprisingly more-ish; I found myself playing through the title for hours, and could easily see myself giving it another run through down the line, just to check where other decisions could lead me, or what other people the RNG could throw at me. I ended up pursuing a passionate, dance-hating spiritualist from Gnuppver- er, the Viking land, in my complete playthrough.
Overall, Your Royal Gayness promises an interesting take on simple kingdom management, with an angle not overly explored in gaming. Whilst quite enjoyable, featuring appealing art, light but amusing humour, decisions that feel like they matter, and fun interactions with Princes and Princesses, the game does have flaws. Most notable of these are the lack of difficulty, and the fact that some things – like international relations and personal stats – just feel pointless. But those are things that could be fixed with a patch. If they were, I would happily recommend the game at full-price – for now, though, perhaps wait for a sale. At any rate, for only their first title, Lizard Hazard Games have made a neat little industry debut here, and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.
I give Your Royal Gayness a 7.8 out of 10.