For me, Changeling was a bit of an off-brand pick for #DatingSiMonth. I have very limited experience with visual novels, and I’ve found them to be very hit or miss. However, the few I have really enjoyed have not been romanced-focused; it’s just not my genre. However, when looking through some of the games I’ve picked up in Itch.io bundles, Changeling caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, being about high schoolers was a fairly good indicator that it would be light on graphic sexual content. Secondly, while romance is part of the story, and the final choice you make in the common route locks you into a single romantic interest, each route you play through gives you more and more information about the overarching mystery surrounding the protagonist.
Still, I wasn’t too sure that I’d get invested, but I figured I’d dedicate an evening or two and see at least one story arc before I decided whether or not to continue. I went in completely blind, so the path I ended up taking was not the one I would have chosen if I had realized the decision was one about which boy I’d be spending time with, but I just went with it.
Despite coming to a very dismal end with Corvin’s Route, I was undeterred. I figured I’d try one more route, and see how much the story changed. Now understanding which decision determined the storyline, and having gotten to know the characters better during my first playthrough, I was better prepared to choose a love interest with whom I might actually be inclined to make “best ending” sort of choices.
I did not – in fact – make best ending choices, but I got a better ending with Elliot than I did with Corvin. More importantly, I learned so much more about my character and about what was going on around her. I wanted to see the rest of the stories. I was hooked.
Normally, however, I don’t have the patience to get through all the repetitive clicking to get back to a choice point, and when I started out, I hadn’t yet mastered the visual novel pro-tip of saving often. Very often. On the upside, Changeling‘s skip feature is phenomenal – it takes you to each decision point quickly, and without a whole lot of manual clicking.
I really didn’t have strong feelings about the art style, which may be a make it or break it for some visual novel fans. The writing was solid throughout, which is perfect for me as a plot-first reader because the world building and story is really interesting. The romantic scenes – at least the ones I’ve encountered – are sweet rather than sexy, which I very much appreciated. If I had any complaint, it’s very minor – the side characters (non-love interests) seem to fall neatly into the boxes of either being sympathetic and likeable, or are kind of broadly painted with the antagonist brush. That wasn’t really an issue for me, though, it might read a little dramatic but who among us wasn’t dramatic in high school?
Probably the strongest praise I can give to Changeling is this: after losing access to my original save file, I went back, and manually clicked my way through to be able to start all six possible love interest routes. I’ve found the Steam guides to all the best endings, but I don’t know that I’ll necessarily use them. I kind of want to find out just how bad I am at dating sims, and admittedly, I’m in for the story more than I am for the boys.
I don’t know yet if I will play them all, but I also pretty sure I want to know what happens on the other four routes. I’ve played for about six hours now, reached two of the god only knows how many endings, and I’m still eager to read more. I expect future progress will be somewhat slower since I’ll no longer be able to play on my Steam Deck in bed, but I don’t doubt there will be future progress.
(Bear in mind, I do read rather quickly – the developers estimate most people will need about 4-6 hours per route to reach an ending!)
I don’t know how this stands up againt games loved by visual novel enthusiasts, but if you’re curious about visual novels, and you are interested in a YA supernatural drama with a side of cute boys, this might be a good one to try out. Changeling was part of the Itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality back in June of 2020 as well as the Itch.io Bundle for Ukraine from March of 2022. It is also available on Itch.io and Steam for $19.99.