When I was younger I remember my aunt having copies of Mills & Boon. Too young and unaware, it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the genre of books she was reading. In a strange way I look back on it fondly and given my new-found knowledge I learned more about her; but I digress. The gaming world has a similar genre with a varying range of explicitness. Angels With Scaly Wings tries to be a rather serious visual novel however, the rather simplistic and often innuendo based approach to its romancing brings it down but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The year, we are told, is the year 20XX and the human race has discovered a portal and after what must be the all-time record for the longest pen pal relationship it is revealed that on the other end was a sentient race of dragons. With almost no thought to consequences, two people are sent through the portal as ambassadors to their new found friends, a gentleman called Reza and yourself. Not much is given to creating your character as you are cast as a person of indeterminate sex with the only customisation being your name and its colour. Given that you can romance any of the dragons whether they be male or female, the androgynous casting of our main protagonist is there to perhaps avoid controversy. However the upshot here is that without being able to set traits or define yourself as a character in this world there’s a distinct lack of attachment. This really hampers things as the story progresses as we never really cared as much as we probably should have about our character’s plight.
It’s a shame really as the story, taking out the romance, is pretty good. There’s a lot of narrative which occasionally is a little overwritten but generally conveys quite a lot. Surroundings are wonderfully described as are the thoughts and feelings of our character and the artwork backs this up rather well. The dragons do, occasionally, look rather awkward in their human style surroundings (reasons for which are explained in the game) but the narrative and artwork tie together quite nicely. There are times when a lot of writing is given to a very mundane topic or there are random musings where there needn’t be but generally the script stays on point. It’s also a narrative that requires several playthroughs as you are pretty much guaranteed to fail to get the good ending on your first try. There are many threads to be woven when you do replay and thankfully there is an ability to skip text and situations already experienced. We didn’t see any hiccups or places where things happen out of sequence which given the story’s complexity is rather impressive.
Despite being a visual novel there is some leeway in terms of how things are played out and who you see when. You are often presented with situations where you can choose to go and visit characters you want to interact with. It’s a nice touch and gives a modicum of control where often there isn’t one in this genre. These choices also affect how you are perceived by the community of dragons at large further demonstrating the number of webs the writers are trying to weave. When this is combined with the way multiple playthroughs are linked it only serves to make the forced romancing aspect drag things down a little harder. Anatomic questions aside, the dialogue when things get a little hot under the collar feels awkward and the frequent innuendo outside of these encounters border on the silly.
What’s more it just never feels natural. Given your role and reason for being in their society in the first place it seems downright odd that anything should happen. Still, happen they do, and when things do progress to their conclusion it doesn’t quite follow the path you may expect. Much is made of being able to romance a dragon though when it does eventually happen it’s all rather subdued. Not that we’re complaining mind and we’d much rather have the classy fade to black over anything bordering x-rated. It’s worth noting though that Angels With Scaly Wings would work just fine without the romancing.
As mentioned previously things are pretty good visually. Several different locations are visited during our adventure and each is distinct from the other. There’s little to no animation with many action sequences described rather than acted out. The dragons do look a touch cartoony especially against the rather more artistic backgrounds but it’s not too distracting. There are several different species of dragon to meet and all are unique. The roles they play in society is pretty much dictated by which species they are and the storyline paints an interesting picture of the dragon society at large. Much is mentioned about how your presence is affecting the community and it’s hinted there are many more towns and cities out there beyond the one where our story takes place. It would be interesting to see more of this world explored should a sequel happen.
Overall, then, Angels With Scaly Wings is a bit of a mixed bag. The story is a compelling one with intriguing plot twists and characters built through some well written dialogue. Interwoven through multiple playthroughs, the complexity of what they’re trying to achieve has to be commended. It’s certainly a game that warrants repeated run-throughs even if it’s just to get a better ending than the rather sombre and wholly depressing one we first encountered. Coupled with a rather beautiful soundtrack there’s much to be loved here. However a lack of attachment to your character in this world often made developments in our adventure mean a little less than they perhaps should have. When this is added to the heavy-handed innuendo and cheesy romancing it brings things down overall. If you’re into visual novels and can look past the romancing then Angels With Scaly Wings is definitely worth your time.