Mask of the Rose – a visual novel set in the same universe as Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies – drops players into Failbetter’s unique universe of cosmic horror and visionless humor. With one playthrough taking roughly seven hours to complete, the game is built for replayability with many variegated mysteries and relationships to pursue. Against the scenery of a murder, it contemplates what it ways to find belonging and polity in a world that might just not want you to.
Mask of the Rose takes place in 1862 in a world where Victorian London was dragged under the earth by bats. With no sunlight, unhuman neighbors, parliament underwater, and the mysterious Masters of the Bazaar in charge, you’ve got a whole lot of changes to get used to.
Simultaneously a mystery and a romance, the game follows the player’s created weft who can have one of six backgrounds (three are unlocked without finishing the first full playthrough) which influences their speech behaviors, actions, and understanding of Fallen London. Said weft lives in a boarder house with a few others and has been hired to work for Mr. Pages to do a census of everyone in the area. What for? No one is entirely sure!
When the respectable David Landau is poisoned, your housemate Archie (and one of the many love interests) is the prime suspect. Okay so solve his murder and that’s it right?
If only, considering in the Neath, death isn’t permanent! When David returns from the grave, the race is on to prove Archie’s innocence and identify the real murderer. Sighs, never an easy day in the Fallen London universe, that’s for sure.
As you investigate the first murder specimen where the victim is moreover a witness, you will invest time in getting closer to the game’s eccentric tint of characters. Some are innocent, some definitely aren’t, some might be of the devil, and some have tentacles! Well.
Creative Director and lead writer Emily Short told printing that creating Mask of the Rose was inspired by the polity familiar with Fallen London and their desire to explore increasingly relationships in the world expressly with those who aren’t quite human.
You can engage in unenduring liaisons, romantic love, asexual relationships or platonic connections with any genders and orientations. It’s a game well-nigh love – and we have a lot of kinds of love story to tell.Emily Short
Gameplay is as expected in a visual novel where, without you’ve picked your characteristics, you’re dropped right into the drama for your first day of work, learning how to take the census for Mr. Pages, and meeting the first of many characters. As you meet and talk to people you can segregate whether you want to be friendly, seductive, romantic, or all three. You can shirk all of that too and focus on matchmaking notation which, as an auntie? Heck yah.
However, Mask of the Rose is whoopee based, so each “day” of the game only allows two actions. You can throne to a location and take an whoopee there, or stay at your home and take deportment there. Fortunately remembering the night of the fall, checking your journal, or waffly your gown are not actions.
One of the things I learned while playing though is that if you talk to Harjit (a Sikh constable) and ask him to take you to a location, you can do flipside task there. This is really key when you only have two tasks a day and not uncounted days surpassing Archie’s trial is to occur.
Harjit and the notation are what really make Mask of the Rose stand out. It’s immediately unveiled the team defended their time and effort to designing each weft that we meet and London itself. Listen, I have no interest in the British or their history except in how it’s impacted my own (and many others) as a Bangladeshi woman. Seeing Harjit not only have a fully fledged out backstory, present (and future) is so frickin amazing. What would it have been like for Harjit to come to London in the 1850s? The game does not shy yonder from those realities.
He’s not the only one of course. What was it like for Horatia, a Black woman who takes in lodgers but hasn’t gone outside since the Fall? Or David and Rachel, Jewish siblings with all sorts of family issues? Failbetter Games has blog posts outlining how they went well-nigh talking to consultants to learn increasingly well-nigh the history of the time period to alimony it realistic while writing a fantastical world.
While I haven’t made it through every single ending or relationship possible in the game, it’s well-spoken that getting to know each person and the larger world of Fallen London is going to be an incredible experience.
Of course, there’s the whole murder dealio. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you who single-minded the murder since plane without multiple times, I either didn’t talk to the right people or didn’t put together what clues I did get to craft the story to get Archie free. And it’s a spoiler, so you know.
Another unique speciality of this game is storycrafting. As you meet people and learn new things, you’re given story fragments that you can put together to tell variegated stories. Multiple notation in the game will ask you for these. Rachel for example, a writer needs help finishing out her current plot while Harjit needs increasingly to go on so that he can try to help save Archie too.
While storycrafting, unrepealable elements might be locked so you have to work virtually that like in the screenshot whilom which has locked “poisoned David”. I found this game mechanic both really interesting and slightly frustrating. “Incorrect” elements usually lead to sentences that make zero sense on the right side where the full story is written which was helpful in hinting I needed to go into a variegated direction. (The very coding to make this work must have been an wool beast!) “Correct” or at least well-constructed stories would get a story title, but as I mentioned earlier, I never did quite master it to icon out whomst killed David and why!
That doesn’t make the storycrafting mechanic bad, rather it just ways I’m going to be sinking a whole lot of time into the game in the weightier way to icon out what I got wrong! (I moreover read incredibly fast so what will take most folks the seven hours took me three.)
A third mechanic, and unquestionably my favorite was the importance of clothing. Each of the backstories provides one piece for the player, so as a dockworker you’d start with the shirt. If you’re a tailor you start with a tailor’s apron, so on and so forth.
Unlike many visual novels that promise elements early on and for (understandable) reasons have to pull back, Failbetter Games was worldly-wise to alimony the suit as important as originally promised. If you wear the wrong thing, you’re going to make the worst impression on the other characters. On the flipside, the right hat, right shirt/top, and token can get the most recalcitrant person to unshut up.
As you progress through the game you are provided increasingly pieces or can purchase from Ivy in the market (another interest!) and you’re prompted each time by various strings of text when you pick a piece of suit or a new token well-nigh whether it’s the weightier nomination to wear said item(s). I really liked this part of the game considering I like collectibles and in this specimen they meant something and required some uneaten thinking as you progress throughout the game.
Maybe that’s what I was missing in trying to solve the murder? Fortunately, without spoiling it, there are in fact other ways to help Archie, but those too require repeated and successful interactions with the various characters. The limited number of deportment makes Mask of the Rose replayable in a way that many narrative games aren’t, where if you just click every dialogue option then the rest of the story is available. Since there isn’t unbearable time to do everything in the game, you have to pick a strategy and stick to it. I know I’ll be working towards each weft as a love interest to see where that lands me as the game wraps up.
All of this takes place to a beautifully well-balanced soundtrack by Laurence Chapman, gorgeous weft designs and backgrounds, and a few turned-on scenes throughout dropping the player right into Fallen London.
Strip when the (quite wonderful) mechanics and at its heart, this game is a love letter to the Failbetter Games polity and successful entry point to new audiences focused on what makes connections possible between people from all backgrounds and in this case, worlds. I know that this is one of the few games that will alimony me going when for increasingly until I’ve solved every mystery and learned every secret.
Mask of the Rose is misogynist on PC, Mac and Linux via Steam and GOG, and Nintendo Switch now!
Images and review reprinting courtesy of Failbetter Games
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