Bleeding Moons Review – Love, Duty, and Death
Intrigue, tough choices, engaging and just a little bit thirsty perfectly describe Bleeding Moons, an interactive fantasy-adventure game from developer IAN Games. Bleeding Moons is a 10-hour adventure where you go on an epic journey through a life of nobility, life as a mercenary, and life as a complex system of choosing between duty, love, and your own sanity. In this Bleeding Moons review, we look at why you should consider playing this indie adventure based on some of its strong and weak points.
For an indie game the size of Bleeding Moons, it does a good job of building a believable world filled with political intrigues. Most of the world building is done by just playing through the game and reading the dialogue, but if you want a bit more, there are books you can read that give more detail on each faction.
You play as Ian de Valmain, son of Count de Valmain and heir to the throne. Spoiling nothing plot-related, because of some political difficulties you move to a nearby mercenary camp to spend some time as a soldier, and this is your base for the largest part of the game. You are also undercover so they treat you as just another soldier and no one knows about your noble heritage, except for the commander of the camp.
Mercenary life changes Ian forever and as the game progresses it thrusts you into increasingly complex and morally grey areas. There are very few simple choices in Bleeding Moons and almost every choice forces you to choose between duty, love, and your moral code. Many of these choices have no gratification, and there is rarely a “good” choice you can make. You simply have to choose what you consider being the lesser evil in each scenario.
The game has multiple endings and depending on the choices you make on your journey (and who survives) you end up at one of these endings. Mine was very depressing and a most fitting conclusion to the way I played the game, but more on that a bit later.
Bleeding Moons’ setting is nothing mind blowingly unique, but it does a fantastic job of giving context to the actions you take in its world.
A decent setting alone does not make a great game, it also has to be fun to play. In this section of our Bleeding Moons review, we look at some standout and not-so-standout aspects of the gameplay.
For visual novel-type games, pacing is extremely important as it can cause players to lose interest in the plot if it is too slow, or have a plot riddled with holes if it’s too fast. Bleeding Moons mostly has good pacing, but we had to skip some sidequests and dialogue to keep focussed on the main plot.
The story moves along at a decent pace and there are enough moments where you have to make pivotal choices to avoid players becoming passengers in the story. There are some puzzles, but if (like us) you hate puzzles in games, there is the option to skip them to get right back into the story. We think this is a great little feature that definitely adds to the immersion in the game.
The entire Bleeding Moons experience is driven by its dialogue. There are very few other mechanics apart from a little bit of exploration. Therefore, it is obviously quite important that the dialogue isn’t bad!
We are happy to say that the dialogue and conversations in Bleeding Moons is not bad. It will not win any Oscars, but for the casual gamer it will be more than good enough. We didn’t see any spelling mistakes while we played, and it was easy to read and follow the text.
However, we felt that the main characters and other important dialogues were a cut above the dialogue of the less important and side-characters. This is not a major issue but sometimes a character looked interesting but then didn’t offer much in terms of dialogue and character building.
In the endgame credits you get a little wrap-up of what happened to all the characters based on the choices you made. There were a few characters that came up that we really didn’t care about, and their dialogue was very limited during the game. This meant we didn’t have enough interaction with them that their story mattered to us. A minor complaint, but a valid one nonetheless.
Our Bleeding Moons review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of themes the game engages as part of its different narratives.
As a starting point, apart from the “being a noble’s son and living an undercover life” narrative, most of the others are centered on mature themes. During the game it thrusts you into situations where you are confronted with murder, consensual and non-explicit sex and other sexual acts, and a few instances where hardcore themes such as paedophilia is implied. Now don’t take this the wrong way, Bleeding Moons engages these themes not in a perverse way, but as part of a narrative that frames the world as a bleak and contorted place.
Bleeding Moons is certainly not a place filled with rainbows and pony’s. It tells a depressing and somber tale of duty, love, and the tensions that go along with that. In Bleeding Moons there is no happily ever-afters, only life with a good helping of perdition.
Bleeding Moons was developed using the RPG Maker software, so it is very much bound to the context of this engine. This means you play in a top-down view similar to what you would expect from old Final Fantasy games. The assets are all detailed and high quality, but are not visually distinct from other games that use the engine.
The aim of Bleeding Moons is to tell a story, so the graphics are not the most important aspect of the experience. Therefore, the RPG Maker style graphics are perfectly fine for what Bleeding Moons sets out to achieve.
It has to be mentioned that there are occasional “cutscenes”, where custom made art is on show and these pieces look fantastic. We would have loved to see some more during our playthrough.
We didn’t expect much from Bleeding Moons when we set out to play and review the game. Despite the impressive list of awards (which are foreign to us) on the Steam page, games are subjective experiences and no amount of awards can make us enjoy something. Luckily they didn’t need to as we had an enjoyable time while playing Bleeding Moons.
We would recommend the game to those who are looking for a casual and narrative driven adventure experience. If you like pursuing romances in games, Bleeding Moons also does a magnificent job of simulating three complex romantic endeavours for you to pursue. Will you stick with your childhood love, pursue an adventurous relationship with a fellow soldier, or submit to a life of duty? Choose one, try to juggle all three, or walk away, the choice is yours.
A last remark is that Bleeding Moons creates some truly emotional moments where the narrative really comes alive. If you have been following us for a while you would know that we think narratives are a crucial part of a gaming experience, and you can find a worthy narrative in Bleeding Moons.
Bleeding Moons won’t cause you to empty your wallet, so when you are in the mood to sit back and relax with a narrative driven visual novel game, give it a go! That’s it for our Bleeding Moons review, see you in the next one.