So I was recently contacted about checking out a demo for the potentially upcoming dating sim Celestial Crowns. Depending on how long you’ve been following me, you may or may not be aware that I was a huge fan of dating sims. I still like them, well, in concept, but I don’t get to play them too often anymore. So I was excited to dig back in and give it a shot. I walked away with a few mixed feelings, but I think it is more due to taste than anything. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Celestial Crowns is an 18+ dating sim following your Main Character, who has just been thrust into the role of Queen due to her father’s death. She is actually excited to rule, though not like this until she finds out she is the subject of an arranged marriage with a king from a neighboring kingdom. You then play with the MC developing different traits, positive and negative, and navigate the world and how to deal with the possibility of the marriage. There 3 romance paths to take, each leaning into various tropes from fans of dating sims, romance, etc.
The demo I played is finished from a story standpoint but still needs work with various assets and the like. What’s there in terms of visuals and sounds is fairly solid, so it stands to reason the final product will be pretty top-notch.
Where I struggled a bit was the actual story, which is important for a visual novel. I really liked the idea of developing different traits, but I felt the game sometimes offered too many options in terms of choices. It got to be hard to really zero in on a direction or even understand if I was doing a good job at developing. In fact, at one point, I realized that my “traits” were making more choices for me than I was getting options to make for myself. But again, with so many of them and no indication of what traits impact your path, I ended up on a path I had no interest in. Some people may really like this dynamic, though. There is something to say, for instead of a clear A or B choice, you have to actually just develop your personality because, in real life, that would impact how you respond to things.
Experimentation is a thing in dating sims, but when you are given so few actual clear branches, it makes it even trickier to handle that. It felt more discouraging rather than “I want to play several times and see what happens.” Not only that, but the hand of “being guided” felt like it was there. It is not as bad as some dating sims, but there were still times I felt I was given more of a “choice” than a choice.
However, the idea of palace intrigue and having to balance how your character deals with the situation at hand is good. But I still… didn’t connect much with the story. This is not a judgment on it at all. It was well-written, good world-building, and I can see the appeal. I just wasn’t sucked in like I was hoping. I also did find it a bit long, especially again with the unclear branches. I think romances being a bit briefer, in general, is a good thing. This especially rings true with dating sims, as you are going to play it multiple times.
Overall my complaints are a mixed bag. Some of them were genuine issues with the way the game plays out. Some are just tastes. None of this, however, is “this game is bad.” There were aspects I liked to it. I like that the MC wants to rule, I like that there is logic to making the choices with your path based on the nature of the story. It had some good tongue-in-cheek humor, some romantic moments, and again even if it wasn’t totally for me, a solid story.
So bottom line? I recommend, at the very least, putting this game on your list of games to watch. It will have a Steam page soon, and the Kickstarter launches later this month (I will update when live). I haven’t personally decided if I will be backing it, but I am considering it. I think if you like dating sims, you should really look into it.
Update: The Kickstarter is now live! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/harlevin/celestial-crowns?ref=discovery