Developer: Sugar Rush Studios
Release Date: October 30, 2021
Normally, when you start a game, the first question you ask yourself is “How do I win?”. But when playing At Eve’s Wake, it’s likely that before too long, the question you’ll be asking is “Do I want to win?” and you may discover that the answer to that question is no.
Which is not to say that you won’t want to play, but you need to be a fan of visual novels because the gameplay is – in its entirety – making choices. Whether it’s how to respond to dialog prompts, or which storyline threads to follow, there are no shortage of decisions to be made. Thankfully, the story (at least as far as I’ve gotten) is fairly well written and full of compelling characters.
Now, I haven’t played too many visual novels, but what set this one apart for me was that you’re frequently given the option to change your mind. I stubbornly stuck to my gut reactions throughout my first play through, even when things went in unexpected directions, and – in the end – terminated the story prematurely. However, that lead to the discovery of the next really interesting thing about At Eve’s Wake – it’s taken influence from time loop games and your character will remember things that happened in past playthroughs. Which is great, because there are a lot of ways to screw it all up, and lots of interesting things to discover.
It does heavily rely on a common trope – your character is missing big chunks of memories. You’ve also suffered quite a bit of tragedy in your life, you father died in a car accident, and your mother has – at least somewhat recently – died in a household accident. Now you’ve received a letter letting you know that your grandmother – who have no recollection of – has passed away and offering you additional information about the other deaths in your family. The game starts as you approach the castle in which your grandmother’s wake is to be held, as is another event, The Convergence.
You will have to choose which personality trait defines you, and it does have an impact on what you are able to do throughout the remainder of that play through. You can choose from being tough, observant, or charming, and when you inevitably start a second (or third, or fourth) play through, you can choose another personality trait to open up other avenues in the story. Choices that you are able to make due to trait you’ve chosen will show up in the corresponding color throughout the game.
Once the stage is set, on each day, you’ll be able to choose different parts of the estate to explore, allowing you to learn more about the other characters. You may choose to side with one faction or another, or you may keep on trying to go it alone, but it will definitely be difficult to figure out who you can trust and who will stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.
The artwork and music fits the mood of the story quite well, and the first twenty minutes or so are quite a ride. I’ve managed to survive to the end of the story once, although I did not win, I also was not trying to – in a lot of ways, the information gained by losing is perhaps an even better reward. The tone and genre of the story are particularly appealing for me personally, and I can’t wait to dive back in to figure out how all the pieces fit together.
SteamDB estimates that At Eve’s Wake has sold between 400 and 1,100 copies on Steam. It was also part of Fanatical’s Stand with Ukraine charity bundle from March of 2022. Most of the handful of reviews that have been left for this game have been favorable, but it’s likely that the niche genre of visual novel and the relatively high price have stunted its sales. It is ranked 2354 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.