Romancelvania Preview: The Thirst Begins (PC)

As part of Steam's Next Fest, Romancelvania swoops in to begin the seasonal spooks. Part Metroidvania, part dating sim, this successful Kickstarter game sets its ambitions to combine both harmoniously. As the thirst begins, will Drac bring the goods, or will it be a lackluster one night stand?

Romancelvania Preview: The Thirst Begins (PC)

From the creators of Perception comes a horror/romance mashup that none have seen before. After successfully raising over $215,000 on Kickstarter, The Deep End Games have provided the world with a demo of the fruits of their labor. Romancelvania sets out to combine and parody genre tropes of both Metroidvanias and dating sims. Yes it’s cheeky, yes it’s punny, but is it any good? The thirst begins.

The demo for Romancelvania is available on Steam now.

Romancelvania | Teaser Trailer | Steam Next Fest 2022

Story – The Richest of Blood

So far what’s interesting me the most about the upcoming game and the demo is the story. Set 100 years after Drac’s last relationship and post-break-up slump, our titular protagonist gets flung into a dating show called “Love at First Bite” against his will. The strength of the game so far is the dialogue and character interactions. Drac’s “I’m fed up with this” tone contrasts against the flamboyance of Grim the showrunner to create humorous situations resulting in chuckle-worthy interactions.

The three partners available in the demo are a delight to talk to. The relaxed and sassy genie Vess, the in-your-face wine mom ex Medusa, and the devilish gigachad Brocifer provide the laughs and are all varied and interesting to talk to. This is all brought together through some top-of-the-line voice acting. It’s the best aspect of the game in my opinion. Vess is best girl so far and I’ll have no opinions that say otherwise.

Vess knows what's up

Vess knows what’s up

Gameplay – Solidly Spooky

The gameplay so far is good…but not great. Half of the game is so far a very standard Metroidvania affair. Drac can collect health upgrades, level up to increase his stats, and collect new powers to unlock more of the map. None of the upgrades were unique enough or executed amazingly enough to have a wow factor. The speed boost, the mist, and the Headdoken (a Hadoken but with Medusa’s head, love the pun) all work as intended, but so far haven’t been used in ways too interesting. The controls are all well and functional but the camera is quite jittery at points. It’s not game-breaking, but it leads to occasional annoyance with enemies suddenly appearing off-screen.

The interesting spice that Romancelvania brings to the genre is well, the romance. You can chat up the contestants to increase their relationship level and unlock buffs for Dracula. It’s a good incentive for Metroidvania players to interact with the dating mechanics, which aren’t very deep so far. There doesn’t seem to be much in terms of wrong dialogue options, and the right answer is not hard to deduce. It gets some great dialogue out of it, but it’s far from brain-teasing. 

Jogging around with some incubus puns.

Jogging around with some incubus puns.

Graphics and Audio – Slightly Rotting

I appreciate what Romancelvania tries to do aesthetically. While a bit dark at points, the locations Dracula travels to in this short demo are very eye-catching. From a production set covered in old CRTs, to a greek inspired art gallery, to a nice pool in Drac’s garden, Romancelvania so far puts many Metroidvania’s to shame in terms of location variety. The character designs look great and the modeling so far is well executed. The soundtrack, while not a major banger, does do a good job of setting the atmosphere.

However, there is a large lack of polish that needs to be sorted out by the final game. There’s the occasional graphical glitch and particle effect gone rouge which I can mostly look past. But then there are areas of major slowdown such as in the dining room and stretched low-resolution 2D assets that give the game a really unprofessional vibe, something the rest of the game manages to avoid. There is also some sound mixing issues, such as Drac’s voice lines being noticeably quieter than the rest of the cast, and the fewer airhorns I hear the better. A softlock also occurred after declining to save my game which sucked. I could open a chest from the underside of a platform, which didn’t suck. I really hope Deep End takes the time to iron out these issues. It’d be a shame to tarnish a game with great promise. 

This game was reviewed on PC.

Summary
As a fan of Metroidvanias and a casual enjoyer of visual novels, Romancelvania scratches both itches nicely. I remain optimistic due to the strong story and hope that the issues can be ironed out by the time the game releaces.
Good
  • Great potential story
  • Mechanically solid
  • Incredible voice acting
  • Occasionally humorous
  • Great location variety
Bad
  • Badly in need of polish
  • A bit too dark at points
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