Smoke. Flame. It’s the first thing you know, and quickly realise it’s the only thing you know. Unable to remember who you are as a town burns around you, you’re approached by two strangers: friends. Your confusion is understandable, you’re told – You’re a Seer, someone with the ability to have visions of the future, and in such visions – like the one you’re apparently having now – you have trouble remembering specifics.
So you, along with your guide Valessa and mercenary, Ulric, must figure out how this tragedy came to be, and stop it before it starts.
It’s certainly an interesting premise for any game to start with, and Winds of Change only gets more intriguing from there – You’ll soon find yourself in the midst of an international conspiracy, with the world-governing Triumverate, and a spirit-controlling blade at the heart of it all. If you ignore the game’s initial info dump, it’s quite a good opening, really.
Winds of Change is the second title by Tall Tail Studios, an indie company that focuses on furry visual novels. The title just dropped for Steam on PC, and I was provided a review code by the publisher; having experience with Tall Tail’s previous title, Major/Minor, there were a few things I expected from the studio, and kept an eye out for.
One such thing is the presence of real-life people in the games. In the furry community, putting one’s fursona in art is common place, but that idea doesn’t really sit well with me when it comes to video games. I remember really liking the character of Rook in Major/Minor, curious if he was a romance option, as romance is indeed a side-feature of these titles… Then feeling weird when I discovered Rook was actually someone’s fursona.
It feels awkward to develop thoughts and feelings towards characters only to learn they’re representative of real people. Whilst there are some side characters that are like this, the main cast seem to be originals, which is good.
Another thing I kept an eye out for was the writing; Klace (The head writer and founder of Tall Tail) is a decent wordsmith. Although there are times I feel scenes – and thus perspectives – shift a bit quickly, Klace is able to draw readers in with emotive and well written prose. You feel like you fully adopt the role of Seer, something further helped by the plethora of options you get – From determining your gender, to what sort of emotion you respond to characters with. You’re given a lot of choices.
Speaking of characters, all are well designed and feel nuanced, with their own motivations and complex personalities. You’ll recruit more people – including some surprising options, depending on your choices – as you journey throughout the world. Not every character will be upfront with you, as you’ll quickly learn with Ulric, and picking up on lies is key to figuring out who actually has your best interests at heart. Winds of Change features full voice acting to help convey characterisation even more, and every voice fits perfectly. Something like this is a wonderful thing for a visual novel to have.
Whilst the majority of the title is in the style of a typical visual novel, there are points in the game where you get to explore areas in a point-and-click style interface; this is true for world travel, and exploring specific locations. In the latter, you may learn useful information through books, find items of use, or talk to your comrades. You’ll also get access to Parallel Chronicles, scenes where you’ll see what other characters are up to at that point in time.
The background art by Emilio Chase, and the character art by Feyvaras are both richly detailed: Emilio’s backgrounds paint majestic looking scenes, whilst Feyvaras’ character art brings the cast to life with a variety of expressions and poses. Some characters do look a bit similar, as there’s a plethora of white-furred canines in the cast, but that’s not the artist’s fault.
The soundtrack – composed by Fox Amoore and Joel Seudler – is quite nice, too. It feels like there’s a piece for every scene, from whimsical day-to-day moments, to scenes of dread. It’s all well realised, but I do wish tracks had more personality – They are at risk of feeling a bit generic. Such is the danger for background music though, I suppose.
The title is divided into four acts, and will last you around two dozen hours; a good length for a visual novel. It’s available for around £14.99, $19.99 USD, and $30 AUD. A slightly more expensive version with a copy of the soundtrack is also available.
Overall, Winds of Change is a quality visual novel; with a rich story and complex characters, you’ll find yourself charmed by the world of Alestia, and intrigued by the fate befalling it. The characters you’ll meet along your journey are charming, and the voice acting, art, and soundtrack help make a neat experience all the better. Tall Tail Studios has created a wonderful title here, and I’d recommend at least putting it on your watch list.