Review by Juhyun Tony Bae
Available on Steam
Approximately 3-4 Hours Playtime, Digital, $5.00 CAD
Ages 14+, Grades 9-12
Young Adult, Video Game (Visual Novel), Fantasy, Mystery
The spirit knows I’m following. Plumes of purple smoke rise from the ground and scatter, carried by the wind and those traversing the streets. Normal people can’t see it, but this at least is a harmless haze, nothing worse than chimney vapour. It can control its excretions. Otherwise, an exorcist would’ve intervened long ago. Maybe one already did. It leaves me a trail of its existence, like footprints in a desert.
Revenant March is a visual novel. Similar to a video game, it is a genre of storytelling you read and interact with on the computer. In this grim fantasy, you are not only told the main character’s story, you also make many of her decisions, directing the plot with your choices.
Olenine is a seventeen-year-old exorcist who usually takes on small contracts banishing evil spirits. One night, while completing an otherwise ordinary mission, she is approached by a mysterious man with an unusual offer. The man, who somehow knows much about Olenine’s tragic past, has information about her ruined home, and is willing to tell her everything for the safe return of his daughter.
Throughout her investigation, your choices influence how Olenine approaches the obstacles in her way. Will you follow the laws of the city, even if it means slowing you down? Will you stand your ground when confronted or try to resolve things diplomatically? Are you willing to put the lives of other people in danger to save one girl? These are a few of the choices you must make as you play the narrative game. Paying attention to relationships and situations is essential to making the correct decisions, and it really helps the players to get more invested in the story.
The mystery in Revenant March is layered and full of twists. I found myself constantly surprised as revelations redirected Olenine in completely different ways. With an expertly setup plot, none of the twists in Revenant March felt cheap.
When it comes to the art, I only wish there was more! The characters are distinctive, and the environments are made much more clear thanks to the visuals. Unfortunately, characters only have one pose-art each, which makes their postures ill-fitting for certain scenarios. Additionally, climactic moments either only get one or no visual depictions, when it feels like there should be multiple slides dedicated to them.
The music, however, I thoroughly enjoyed. The score hits the perfect balance of setting a mood while not distracting you from reading. A few emotionally charged tracks are used sparingly to really elevate everything when the situation calls for it.
My biggest gripe was that Olenine’s back story is kept a mystery from us, even though we are meant to play as her. In a book, learning our protagonist’s background as we go through the story feels natural, but in video games, we are meant to play as them. If we don’t know who we are, what we are capable of, or what the rules of the world are, how are we meant to make the correct choice? This does get better around mid-point in the story once you settle into Olenine’s character.
The story could have benefited from being a bit longer. I would have loved an introduction that displayed Olenine’s abilities and background, and a little more time to get to know the other people in the city. Towards the climax, it became less about her as the side characters took over, making me wish that I’d had more time to connect with these people beforehand. For that reason, even though the ending was exciting, it didn’t have the emotional punch the story deserved. Finally, the plot is pretty linear no matter what decisions you make, so a branching storyline would have really given our decisions some real weight.
Still, I had a blast playing Revenant March, and the story really keeps itself open to sequels. I hope Strandline Games release more episodes, because I would love to explore Olenine’s story even more (especially a prequel)! At only $5 on Steam, I’d happily recommend this to anyone interested in a short fantasy adventure.
Juhyun Tony Bae is a Korean-Canadian writer currently studying at UBC. He’s trying to discover the perfect balance of sleep, play, and writing, but seems to be struggling. His work has been published in Grain, FreeFall, and Wax Poetry and Art. You can follow him on twitter @jTonyBae.