I love dating sims. I love otome games. They explore the nuances of relationships through video games in engaging ways. That’s why, when I discovered Astoria: Fate’s Kiss, I knew I had to write something about it.
This brief post just touches on why I believe the game works so well. I’ve tried not to spoil the game as much as possible so that you all have the opportunity to experience it for yourselves if you so wish to (and I highly recommend that you do!).
A:FK was developed by AmeMix, a sub branch of Voltage Entertainment USA. I could immediately tell that this game was different than any other Voltage game I’d played previously (and believe me, I’ve played many!). But why was it different? Well, A:FK was made by western developers, for a western audience, so certain tropes that are usually found in Japanese otome games weren’t there. Gone was the shy protagonist, the aggressive male and the weirdly jealous and possessive partners. Instead, here were characters with three-dimensional personalities, who made you, the player, feel a part of their world.
First up is the game’s Main Character (MC), a human working for H.E.R.A (Hell and Earth Relations Agency), a secret agency that is the bridge between Olympus and the Human world. Seriously, can someone make a game where I romance this MC? I love her! She’s ambitious, loyal to her friends and family and adores cooking. MC loves her job and that is just one of the driving forces behind her character. And, while we're on the subject, can someone allow me to romance May as well? May, MC’s best friend, is adorable, bubbly and MC's biggest supporter in love and life.
MC’s ambition doesn’t seperate her from the rest of the cast, rather it drives her to do the best she can. That doesn’t mean MC only cares about moving up in the world. No, she embodies some very traditional feminine traits including empathy, caution and nurturing. What I loved most about her, is she doesn’t apologise for being emotional. She cries when she needs too, and let’s out her frustrations when she has to. But the biggest difference between her emotional nature and other Voltage protagonists, is that no one reprimands her for feeling. MC’s tears are never held against her, she’s portrayed as a foolish woman who feels, and I find that so important to have shown in a game.
Now, I’ve only played 3 of the main characters in the games 1st season. Hades, Medusa and Cerebrus (I’m coming for you Cyprin!). All three routes were different in how they approached the budding romance between MC and the character in question. Some tried to deny the blossoming relationship, while others whole heartedly embraced it and threw caution to the wind. Furthermore, each character had some kind of quirk which humanised them. For example, Medusa’s appreciation and care for her garden, and Hades’ slight obsession with fitness. These fabled greek legends felt relatable in our modern day society.
There were some major similarities in how the characters acted, particularly towards MC. Never did I feel belittled or squandered by any of these characters. Right from the start of the game, I always felt equal to my paramour. Neither were established as better than the other. I found this a big feat to achieve considering MC, a human, is essentially working with greek monsters, and in some cases gods. I appreciated never feeling inferior and liked being an equal. It felt like a relationship filled with mutual respect. Together, the two mains always worked towards a goal bigger than themselves and allow their relationship to blossom through fighting adversity.
With a game that tackles a partnership in an equal and positive way, it’s no wonder that A:FK became the first Voltage game to include queer romantic interests. Medusa and Alex Cyprin, like the rest of the characters, felt human. Neither were tokenised (as I’ve seen in games previously) or overtly sexualised any more than the other characters. They were fun, relatable people who had true depth to them. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a lesbian relationship portrayed in games, but Medusa’s route was one of the most realistic and enjoyable ones I’ve ever played. And I can’t wait to play Alex Cyprin’s route to discover the first (known), non-binary romance in games.
Another big part of characterisation I really appreciated was how openly secure MC was with her sexual desires. She was not shy, and never apologised for her lust. No, she wholeheartedly embraced it, and so did her respective partners. Sex was treated with respect. It was never treated as a goal of the game, rather it was portrayed as one aspect of a relationship that can be very enjoyable. I truly enjoyed playing a woman who was assertive with her wants and desires. It was refreshing and I hope to see more of it in other otome games.
There is so much more I can say about each of these characters, and I hope I get the time to do in depth analyses of them soon. But, if you’ve come here curious about A:FK and wonder if it is indeed for you, I hope this brief summary helps. All in all, if you enjoy otome games as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll love the game.
Astoria: Fate’s Kiss is available on iOS and Android.