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‘Detroit: Become Human’: Exploitative and Tasteless



Like any David Cage game, Detroit: Become Human tells a story that is ambitious, ridiculous, and doesn’t shy away from difficult content. The game takes place in a dystopic future Detroit where androids have become a part of everyday life: they live as bodyguards, nannies, maids, and sex-workers, and are treated as non-human property. That is until the androids begin to gain consciousness, and we follow the lives of three of these deviants: Connor, Kara, and Markus, as they struggle for freedom.

There’s a lot to be said for Detroit as a game: its environments and level design verge on the cinematic, its narrative choices make the world feel both expansive and meaningful, and the actors involved deserve real credit for an incredible array of moving performances. However, the story that Detroit tells is exploitative, it is tasteless, and it is unimaginative. It is challenging in every way, save for the philosophical. For the most part, Detroit’s “ambitious” scenes rely on shocking content that forces an emotional reaction, taking advantage of themes such as child abuse or the Holocaust without gravitas, respect, or due consideration.

You can read our full review of Detroit: Become Human for an impartial look at the game that fairly considers gameplay and mechanical elements. But this opinion piece looks to provide a critique Detroit’s more questionable story decisions, and the scenes which undermine the game’s argument and vision – because frankly, Detroit doesn’t deserve praise for exploiting stories of abuse and genocide for a game that only goes skin-deep.


  • Exploiting Child Abuse and Player Emotions

We knew right from the start that Detroit: Become Human was going to be heavy going. The 2016 and 2017 trailers both featured children in peril: first a child dangled from a rooftop, then a young girl being beaten by her father, but David Cage defended the dark subject matter with the promise that “there’s a context in the story, there’s a reason for that”, and we gave the game the benefit of the doubt. The problem is that having now seen the game in full it is clear that Cage’s child abuse narrative isn’t content with just one scene, and definitely isn’t used with care, context, and solid reasoning.

Detroit: Become Human

Todd beating his daughter, Alice, as Kara looks on helplessly is the main drive in Kara and Alice’s storyline. The horrific scene allows Kara to break through her programming, and follow the maternal instinct to protect Alice through the rest of the game, but beyond this convenient plot point, there isn’t much in the way of context to justify Alice’s constant exposure to violence, isolation, and threats of pedophilia.

Is there a context to help us understand Todd’s actions? He’s poor, overweight, he uses drugs, and his wife recently left him. If that sounds like a stereotypical ‘bad’ character backstory, that’s because it is. Alice doesn’t do anything to provoke Todd’s violence, in fact, she doesn’t say anything as the script escalates Todd from angry muttering to flipping the table and hurling abuse at his child. It would be laughable how the writing magics child abuse out of nowhere just to satisfy some dramatic tension in a scene – if it weren’t so horrific.

Of course, this isn’t an argument that games should never use violence or show complex situations. As an art form games are uniquely capable of helping us to explore such painful topics and resolve our feelings around them, to empathize, understand, and feel moved to action. Detroit: Become Human simply doesn’t do that. Instead, it revels in your feeling of anger, confusion, and helplessness, it exploits your emotions by shoving a child on screen and beating her as an easy plot device.

Even your final vindication of breaking free, and perhaps even murdering the abuser, is a brief-lived freedom because Kara’s story literally doesn’t develop any further. Her entire storyline is looking after Alice, running from strangers, policemen, and threats of child molestation (Sorry, Jerry). The game even puts you through a concentration camp with Alice, separates you, and threatens that she could be exterminated.

Detroit: Become Human

It doesn’t help that Alice’s script comprises some of the most desperately clichéd Disney-sweet lines possible: “Why didn’t he ever love me?” “All I wanted was a life like other girls, maybe I did something wrong?” “Maybe I wasn’t good enough. That’s why he was always so angry.” “I just wanted him to love me. Why couldn’t we just be happy?” – I’m sorry, Alice, it’s because David Cage thinks being abused is a great plot device. The problem is these lines are so senselessly over-dramatic that much of the effect is lost – at least in my case, I couldn’t take the hyperbolic handling of Alice’s abuse seriously. It was staged precisely to manipulate the viewer, and it was sickening in its laziness.

Perhaps Cage’s reasoning lies in the fact that towards the very end of the game we discover that Alice was an android all along. Perhaps this is supposed to make us wonder whether it was ok for Todd to beat her, for Zlatko to turn her into a slave, or for the concentration camps to exterminate her. I’m afraid that whether concentration camps are good or not is a moral quandary far too deep for me to answer, so I’ll stick with pointing out that whether the child is an android or not, the child abuse that Detroit depicts takes advantage of its players, and uses a deeply serious subject utterly without care. The bottom line is if you want to feature child abuse in your game, it should be done with delicacy, and respect, not as a shoddy covering of a lack of character development and a quick recipe for some emotional drama.



  • Concentration Camps and Civil Rights as Political Allegory

While you might agree Detroit’s use of child abuse goes too far, there are other issues with how it uses political allegory. The game’s core philosophy is the question of whether androids should be accepted as human: with thoughts, feelings, and rights of their own. In David Cage’s world, androids do not have rights, nor are they even recognized as having personhood or consciousness.

Androids cannot disobey, and the only consequence of harming one is a possible insurance fee for damaging someone’s property. Androids are referred to as ‘it’, they are banned from bars and public spaces alongside ‘No Dogs’ signs. Androids are marked with blue triangles and an armband that must be visible at all times. They are literally rounded up and sent to concentration camps, stripped, separated, and shot.

Detroit: Become Human

Clearly, there is an allegory here to the slave trade and civil rights movement, and boy does Detroit highlight it. From black characters literally explaining their sympathy for androids through the similarities of their past treatment, to using ‘We have a dream’ and the black power symbol as slogans in the android uprising, Detroit: Become Human is not afraid to draw parallels between real periods of discrimination and genocide in our history, ones which we still feel the presence of today, and the very important android uprising taking place in this game.

Perhaps these historical references help players empathize, not just with the story of the androids, but also with those of other races and creeds. Perhaps it helps players to understand the struggles of others and the horrors of the past. But does it not also destroy any moral complexity to the android’s right to freedom? Literally aligning the actions of the humans with Hitler cancels out Detroit: Become Human’s most interesting question as to the android’s right to freedom.

Obviously, androids are human and deserve their own rights, to disagree is to side with the Nazis, KKK, and child abusers all in one. Even if you think Detroit: Become Human has every right to use these sensitive political references with all the subtlety of a rampaging elephant, you might agree that Detroit’s handling of them destroys any question of what is morally right or wrong in this situation.

Detroit: Become Human

How far this use of traumatic historical events is a problem for you is ultimately a matter of taste. Historical events are not sacred – to be left untouched and unquestioned, and drawing parallels to them in works of art can create a powerful commentary and connect to a new audience. But in my opinion, Detroit goes too far: it rubs your face in too many obvious references, salts too many open wounds, and above all borrows from a history which it has not earnt the right to use.

Detroit: Become Human is not solemn, it is not complex, it is not thoughtful in its use of allegory. A story that wants to highlight the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps, the struggles of the civil rights movement, racism, segregation, and the terror of experiencing child abuse – should not also include rain-drenched lesbian sex robots fighting in underwear and heels.


  • Fetishizing Torture and Demeaning Women

Detroit: Become Human’s “philosophically challenging” content is made unforgivable when we look at the game’s use of women. It falls into the skin-crawling category of obsessive power fantasies: both of the male controlling and torturing captured women, and of overtly sexualized yet domineering women who are beyond the need for men (but let’s enjoy looking at them anyway).

The former occurs as Kara and Alice are captured and tied up by a perverted android serial-killer, and potential pedophile, who attempts to wipe Kara’s mind and turn her into the perfect slave. His house is filled with the disfigured and sexualized bodies of previously captured androids, one male android left sitting in a bathtub with only a head and torso remaining screams excitedly that you “must obey master” as you flee past. As your memory is drained away Alice is shoved to the ground as the abuser tells her “I’m going to teach you some manners you little bitch”, and held captive for the pervert’s own fancies, whatever they may be.

In all fairness, this scene can play out in multiple ways, and some might not seem like such full-on BDSM psycho torture scenes as others. In case you missed the highlights, you can find tortured androids in the basement who tell you “He likes to play with us”, and a burnt out female droid on her knees in the corner of Zlatko’s bedroom, wearing nothing but panties. If you fail to regain your memories, you can literally stay as Zlatko’s slave for the rest of the game, with Alice dragged away to a black screen. Let’s take a moment to appreciate this quote:

 “The rule I give myself is to never glorify violence, to never do anything gratuitous. It has to have a purpose, have a meaning, and create something that is hopefully meaningful for people.” – David Cage

Detroit: Become Human

Is Zlatko’s torture mansion not gratuitous? Is it serving a purpose? I would argue that this torture fantasy comes out of nowhere. It makes no fine points about the nature of humanity, and it has no connection with Detroit: Become Human’s or Kara’s greater story. At most, it adds a side-character we can take along with us. Was it necessary to show the monstrosity of abuse performed upon androids? Was it necessary to beat Alice again? At best, this scene once again exploits child abuse and sexualized torture for the sake of ‘intense’ drama. At worst, this scene is meant to titillate.

In a separate scene, we see a reverse “forward-thinking” and “empowering” view of women. As Connor, we are tasked with the daunting video game trope of having to enter a strip club, examining another case of deviant android activity. What we uncover, after a dutiful investigation of every possible angle at the strip club, is a murderous female android, skin shimmering in the falling rain, beautiful and fearsome as she flings herself against us, determined to fight in nothing but her bra and stiletto heels.

Yet her empowerment is realized yet more as we discover that not only is she sexily rebelling against her rape and abuse as a sexbot, but also that she is in love with her fellow oiled up naked colleague. The revelation that these strippers are not only independent sexy women but are also, in fact, lesbian lovers, is almost too ground-breaking to bear. What an incredible romance story. What a novel idea. What a convenient excuse to spend hours modeling softcore pornography. If you’re not picking up on the sarcasm in this paragraph, you might have the perfect reading level to appreciate this scene.

Detroit: Become Human

As if it wasn’t enough, Detroit: Become Human’s voyeuristic sexualization of women is not just an uncomfortable addition to an otherwise philosophically sound venture. Detroit fundamentally does not understand what it is doing. How? With its menu screen.

Detroit: Become Human uses a female android, Chloe, as your own personal menu navigator. She speaks to you, adjusts your settings, gives you advice, and- crucially, can be set free at the end of the game. The idea is that the player, by the end of Detroit: Become Human, might well feel uncomfortable with their own use of Chloe as a personal android. She’s chained to the menu screen, forced to serve your whims, and eventually, she decides to ask you to let her leave.

It’s a neat metanarrative touch, and it would remain so, if not for the fact that Quantic Dream tweeted recently that due to popular demand they’ll be returning Chloe to the menu screen. You’ll be able to “acquire a brand new model (but your original Chloe will still be free)”. So, never mind about android freedom, we understand that you miss your blonde menu-screen pet, we’ll return her but say it’s a new model so you can feel ok about it. It’s impressive how a game can manage to so fundamentally misunderstand its own premise.

Detroit: Become HumanDetroit: Become Human is an impressive game. It is beautiful and ambitious, and despite its failings, it has unquestionably had an effect on many players. It is right that games should strive to address complex subject matter, and leave their impact on the political landscape. But in my opinion, Detroit loses all credibility with its thoughtless script, its careless depiction of child abuse and genocide, and its decision to feature demeaning sexual fantasies under the guise of progressive fiction.

It is easy to be swept up in the glamour of Detroit, but its story is ultimately cheap. If Cage wants to champion video games as an art form, and espouse complex gameplay mechanics in favor of a pure script punctuated with quick time events, then it stands to reason that the story be critiqued closely. Sadly, for all its efforts, Detroit: Become Human ends with a story that is emotionally, politically, and sexually exploitative. These themes deserve better.

Helen Jones is a Ravenclaw graduate who likes to apparate between her homes in England and Denmark. She spends her time reading fantasy novels, climbing mountains, and loves to play story-focused and experimental indie games like The Stanley Parable or Night in the Woods. She also covers tabletop and board games over at Zatu Games, and you can follow her twitter @BarnacleDrive for updates, blogs, and pictures of mushrooms.



  1. Matt

    October 9, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Haters gonna hate fact is this was a really well made game with a really moving narrative. you can have your opinion however i and most players will disagree with your sentiments. This is a really good game that pulls at anyone’s heartstrings.

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‘Atelier Ryza’ Warms the Heart No Matter the Season

Atelier Ryza excels at creating a sense of warmth and familiarity, and could be just what you need during the winter months.



atelier ryza

The Atelier series is something of a unicorn in the JRPG genre. It isn’t known for its world-ending calamities or continent-spanning journeys; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The small-town feel and more intimate storytelling of Atelier games has made them some of the most consistently cozy experiences in gaming, and Ryza is no exception. No matter if it’s this winter or next, here’s why Atelier Ryza is the perfect type of RPG to warm your heart this winter.

Ryza starting her alchemy journey.

Like a Warm Blanket

Unlike protagonists from other entries in the franchise, Reisalin Stout (or Ryza for short) has never stepped foot in an atelier or even heard of alchemy at the start of her game. Instead, she’s just a fun-loving and mischevious girl from the country who spends her days in search of adventure with her childhood pals Lent and Tao. It’s this thrill-seeking that eventually leads the trio to meet a mysterious wandering alchemist and learn the tricks of the trade.

The entirety of Atelier Ryza takes place during summer, and it’s clear that the visual design team at Gust had a field day with this theme. In-game mornings are brought to life through warm reds, yellows, and oranges, while the bright summer sun beams down incessantly in the afternoon and gives way to cool evenings flooded by shades of blue and the soft glow of lanterns. Ryza’s visual prowess is perhaps most noticeable in the lighting on its character models, which are often given a warm glow dependent on the time of day.

The cozy sensibilities of the countryside can be felt elsewhere as well. The farm Ryza’s family lives on aside, the majority of environments are lush with all manner of plant life, dirt roads, and rustic architecture. Menus feature lovely wooden and papercraft finishes that simulate notepads or photos on a desk. Townspeople will even stop Ryza to remark on how much she’s grown and ask about buying some of her father’s crops. Everything just excels at feeling down-to-earth homey.

The titular Atelier Ryza.

An Intimate Take on Storytelling

Kurken Island and the surrounding mainland feel expansive as a whole but intimate in their design. This is partially due to the readily-accessible fast travel system that Atelier Ryza employs; instead of a seamless open world, most players will find themselves jumping from location to location to carry out quests and harvest ingredients for alchemy. However, there’s still strong incentive to explore the nearby town thanks to tons of random side quests and little cutscenes that trigger as players progress through the main story.

It’s an interesting way to tackle world-building. Instead of relying on intricate dialogue like The Outer Worlds or massive cinematic cutscenes like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Atelier Ryza lets players get a feel for its world rather naturally through everyday conversations. These scenes run the gamut from Ryza’s parents yelling at her to help more around the farm to running into and catching up with old friends who’d moved overseas. They’re unobtrusive and brief, but the sheer number of them gradually establishes a cast that feels alive and familiar.

The town drunk and Lent's father, Samuel.

Of course, post-holidays winter is also the season for more somber tales. The relationship between Lent and his alcoholic father is striking in its realistic depiction of how strained some father-son relationships can become.

The narrative escalates subtly: An early cutscene shows Mr. Marslink stumbling onto Ryza’s front lawn thinking it’s his. Then an event triggers where the neighborhood jerks tease Lent about being the son of the town drunk. Lent’s house is a small shack pulled back from the rest of the town, and visiting it triggers one of the few scenes where Ryza can actually talk to Mr. Marslink himself. The situation eventually reveals itself to be so bad that it completely explains why Lent is gung-ho about being out of the house whenever he can.

Though Lent’s general character motivation is wanting to get stronger and protect the town, it’s the heartfelt insights like these that make him much more relatable as a party member. Atelier Ryza features no grand theatrics or endless bits of exposition, but instead favors highlighting interpersonal conversations as Ryza continues to learn more about the people and world around her.

Atelier Ryza

Cozy games rarely get enough credit. Just like the Animal Crossing series or Pokemon: Let’s Go provides players with a warmth that can stave off the harshest of winters, Atelier Ryza succeeds in being the lighthearted, touching JRPG fans wanted. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and heartwarming in the way it builds out its world and cast of characters, and seeing Ryza gradually grow more confident and capable is a joy unto itself. If you’re in need of a blanket until Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out in March, you can’t go wrong here.

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PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘The Artful Escape,’ ‘Foregone,’ and ‘Tunic’



PAX South

This past weekend, PAX South 2020 brought a huge variety of promising indie games to the show floor in San Antonio. Here are just a few of the most remarkable games I got to try, including a hardcore action game, a classic adventure, and an experience that can only be described as dreamlike.


Simply put, Tunic is a Zelda game, but foxier. Tunic takes significant inspiration from the classic Zelda formula, complete with an overworld to explore, puzzles to solve, enemies to fight, and a protagonist clad in green. My demo even began by leaving me weaponless and forcing me to venture into a nearby cave in order to discover my first weapon.

Yet there’s nothing wrong with following such a traditional formula. At a time when Nintendo has largely stopped creating new games in the style of its classic Zeldas, it’s left up to other developers to rediscover the magic of the original gameplay style. Based on my time with the game, Tunic achieves exactly that, reimagining the charm of A Link to the Past for the current generation with gorgeous visuals and modern design sensibilities. The biggest difference from its predecessors is its green-clad hero is a fox, and not a Kokiri.

All, that is to say, is that if you’ve ever played a 2D Zelda, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Tunic. It starts by dropping the foxy little player character into a vibrant, sunny overworld, and true to form, your inventory is completely empty and the environment is full of roadblocks to progress. Simple enemies abound, and although its greatest Zelda inspirations lie with those from the 2D era, it also includes an element from the 3D games due to its inclusion of a targeting system in order to lock onto specific opponents. What followed next was a linear, straightforward dungeon that focused on teaching the basics of exploration and item usage. It was extremely simple but hinted at plenty of potential for the full game later.

Tunic’s gameplay may hearken back to the games of old, but its visual presentation is cutting edge. It features gorgeous polygonal 3D visuals, loaded with striking graphical and lighting effects, making its quaint isometric world truly pop to life. My demo didn’t last very long, but the little bit I played left me excited for Tunic’s eventual release on Xbox One and PC. It could be the brand-new classic Zelda experience that fans like myself have long waited for.



These days, nearly every other indie game is either a roguelike or a Metroivdvania. Just by looking at Foregone, I immediately assumed that it must be one of the two based on appearances alone. Yet when I shared those assumptions with the developers, Big Blue Bubble, the response in both cases was a resounding, “No.”

Foregone may look like it could be procedurally generated or feature a sprawling interconnected world, but that simply isn’t the case. The developers insisted that every aspect of the game world was intentionally crafted by hand, and it will remain that way in each playthrough. Likewise, although there is some optional backtracking at certain points in the game, Foregone is a largely linear experience, all about going from one point to another and adapting your strategy along the way. In a generation where nonlinearity reigns supreme, such straightforward design is refreshing to see.

If there’s any game that seems like an accurate comparison to Foregone, it would have to be Dark Souls. From the very start of the demo, the world of Foregone is inhabited with fearsome enemies that don’t hold back. If you don’t watch what you’re doing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and fall under the pressure. Thankfully, there’s a broad assortment of abilities at your disposal, such as a wide area of effect move that can stun enemies within a wide radius, and a powerful shield that can block many attacks. I fell many times during my time with the game, but it never felt unfair. Rather, it merely felt like I wasn’t being smart enough with my own ability usage, and I was encouraged to keep jumping back into the world for just one more run, this time armed with better knowledge of my own abilities and potential strategies.

And it’s a beautiful game too. Rather than featuring the typical pixelated aesthetics often associated with platformers, the world is actually built-in 3D with a pixelated filter applied on top of it. This allows for a uniquely detailed environment and distinctly fluid animations. Foregone looks to be a worthwhile action game that should be worth checking out when it hits early access via the Epic Games Store in February, with a full release on console and PC to follow later this year.

The Artful Escape

Bursting with visual and auditory splendor, The Artful Escape is easily the most surreal game I played at PAX South. The demo may have only lasted about ten minutes, yet those ten minutes were dreamlike, transportation from the crowded convention to a world of color, music, and spirit.

As its name would suggest, The Artful Escape is an otherworldly escape from reality. Its luscious 3D environments are populated with 2D paper cutout characters, its dialogue leans heavily into the mystical (the player character describes his surroundings with phrases like “a Tchaikovsky cannonade” and “a rapid glittering of the eyes”), and its music often neglects strong melodies in favor of broad, ambient background themes. This all combines to create a mystical, almost meditative atmosphere.

It only helps that the platforming gameplay itself is understated, not requiring very much of you but to run forward, leap over a few chasms, or occasionally play your guitar to complete basic rhythm games. This gameplay style may not be the most involved or exciting, but it allows you to focus primarily on the overwhelming aesthetic majesty, marching forward through the world while shredding on your guitar all the while.

This Zenlike feel to the game is punctuated with occasional spectacular moments. At one point, a gargantuan, crystalline krill called the Wonderkrill burst onto the screen and regaled me with mystic dialogue, while at another point, I silently wandered into a herd of strange oxen-like creatures grazing in a barren field as the music began to swell. The demo was filled with such memorable moments, constantly leaving my jaw dropped.

For those who think that games should be entertaining above all else, The Artful Escape might not be so enthralling. Its platforming is extremely basic and its rhythm minigames are shallow at best. For players who think that games can be more than fun, however, The Artful Escape is set to provide an emotional, unforgettable experience, an escape that I can’t wait to endeavor.

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PAX South Hands On: ‘Boyfriend Dungeon’ Wields Weapons of Love

A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend, and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.



Boyfriend Dungeon

In most games, weapons are straightforward objects. Sometimes they can be upgraded or personalized, but at the end of the day, they function as little more than tools for a single purpose: to cut down enemies and make progress in the game. Boyfriend Dungeon, however, proposes a different relationship with your weapons. They’re more than just objects. Instead, they’re eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that are ready to mingle.

Boyfriend Dungeon is a dungeon crawler and dating sim hybrid all about forging an intimate bond with your weapons and, after demoing it at PAX South, this unique mix seems to be paying off.

There are two main activities in Boyfriend Dungeon: exploring the loot-filled dungeons (referred to as “The Dunj”) and romancing the human forms of your weapons. There’s been plenty of great dungeon crawlers in recent years, but Boyfriend Dungeon sets itself apart by humanizing its weaponry. This concept may sound strange on paper, but Kitfox games director and lead designer Tanya X. Short is confident that players have long been ready for a game just like this.

“A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.

“I think the fans of Boyfriend Dungeon have been out there for years, waiting. I remember when I was in university ages ago, I was sure someone would have made a game like this already… but I guess I needed to make it myself!” She adds that “A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.

Boyfriend Dungeon

My demo with Boyfriend Dungeon began simply enough. After a brief character creation phase where I chose my appearance and my pronouns (he/him, she/her, or they/them), I was dropped into the stylish, top-down hub world of Verona Beach. Here I could explore the town and choose where to date my chosen weapon. I decided to head to the public park to meet Valeria, a swift and slender dagger.

“Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”

Upon reaching the park, I discovered Valeria in her dagger form. When I picked up the weapon, a beautiful anime-style animation commenced in which she transformed into her human form. What followed was a visual novel-style date sequence complete with detailed character art and plenty of dialogue options to help romance your date.

The dialogue is full of witty, self-aware humor and charm – there were more than a few jokes about axe murderers along with other weapon-related puns, for example. Short herself put plenty of love into the writing. “Writing dates with weapons is a joy I never knew could be part of my job, but here we are. Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”

Boyfriend Dungeon

I loved my date with Valeria, but she’s not the only potential mate in Boyfriend Dungeon. Rather, there’s a cast of five potential partners in the game, each of them hailing from distinct backgrounds and identities. “When I was coming up with the cast for Boyfriend Dungeon, I tried to imagine as many kinds of people and personalities that I could be attracted to as possible.”

Short drew from her own personal experiences in creating the cast. “I was very lucky to meet my partner many years ago, so I haven’t actually dated many people in my life, but I become fascinated with people I meet very easily, and they can provide inspiration. Whether they’re upbeat and reckless, or brooding and poetic, or gentle and refined…there’re so many kinds of intriguing people out there. And in Boyfriend Dungeon, I hope.”

After building up this bond during dialogue, it was time to put it to the test by exploring the Dunj. Of course, this isn’t the typically dreary dungeon found in most other dungeon crawlers. Instead, it’s an abandoned shopping mall overrun with monsters to slay and loot to discover with your partner weapon.  

Boyfriend Dungeon

Combat is easy to grasp, focusing on alternating between light and heavy attacks and creating simple combos out of them. Just like how the dating content aims to be inclusive for people of different backgrounds, Short hopes for the combat to be accessible for players of different levels of experience as well. “Hopefully the dungeon combat can be approachable enough for less experienced action RPG players, but still have enough challenge for the people that want to find it.”

Based off the demo, Boyfriend Dungeon seems to achieve this goal. I loved learning simpler moves and discovering new combos with them. Movement is fast, fluid, and intuitive, making it a pleasure to explore the Dunj. Succeeding in dungeons will also result in a stronger relationship with your weapons, so it’s in your best interest to perform well during combat. Of course, your weapons don’t simply level up – instead, their love power increases.

An arcade environment

“Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”

Fighting and dating may seem like two disparate concepts, but in practice, they manage to mesh surprisingly well. “The game is mostly about switching from one [gameplay style] to the other,” Short says, “and it’s nice for pacing, since you often want a breather from the action or get restless if there’s too much reading.”

The overarching story and general experience remain relatively firm throughout the whole game regardless of your decisions, but Short encourages players to enjoy the ride they take with the weapon they choose. “Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”

In Boyfriend Dungeon, your weapons can wage more than just war. Rather, they can spread love and lead to deeply fulfilling relationships. Boyfriend Dungeon is one of the most refreshing games I played at PAX thanks to its engaging dungeon exploration and combat and its surprisingly positive view of weaponry. That’s the mission of peace that Short had in mind with the game: “It feels like a difficult time in the world right now, but that’s when we most need to find love and compassion. Let’s try our hardest to be kind.”

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