What if Dr. Faustus had been a loving father? How far would he go to restore his daughter’s soul?
GameChanger Studio have answered this question with a macabre resource management game: My Lovely Daughter. You play Faust, an alchemist who has lost his memory, and discover your daughter’s corpse slowly decomposing in her bed. Her soul has been trapped by dark magic, but perhaps there exists some way to revive her…
A Faustian Endeavour
My Lovely Daughter begins by teaching you to create homunculi. You start with resources like mud and wood which you combine in a summoning circle to create new daughters. Melting golems, steel robots, and wooden dolls only begin to describe the possibilities of your creations. It’s surprisingly diverting finding all the possible combinations as the game unlocks more and more ingredients. You name each new daughter and give her a room of her own which you visit to talk to them, play together, or bring them gifts.
You can also brutally murder your daughters whenever you feel like it. Each homunculus you kill strengthens your daughter’s soul. Depending on their affinity (Anger, Sadness, Fear, or Joy), they also imbue the soul with different emotions. The kicker is that the happier and more experienced your daughters are, the more life-force they provide when you finally sacrifice them. The best way to farm your homunculi is to get to know them, give them sweets and toys, and let them find confidence in their monstrous selves – then slaughter them for the maximum points possible.
My Lovely Daughter intends to make you feel queasy about your actions. The game does give you a chance not to walk down the path of murder, though in your hurry you might not stop before it’s too late. The game’s brilliantly spidery art-style helps the macabre atmosphere, falling somewhere between Tim Burton and Don’t Starve. It also features disorienting soundtrack strung with violin chords and the snips of scissors.
To Work, My Lovely Daughters
GameChanger Studios say the game is intended to be “a commentary on child labor, abusive parenting, and ignorant societies”. While this might be a bit of a reach, it is fair to say that My Lovely Daughter ought to leave you feeling uncomfortable. In order to revive your daughter, you must experiment and uncover the right combination of emotions. This means a long, methodical process of creating new daughters, rearing them to be happy, then murdering them. The game leaves you detached and dispassionate as you murder each girl, instilling a kind of numbness, outmatched only by Faust’s cruelty as we glimpse his madness with each dismemberment.
In order to keep your homunculi production going, you must send your creations out into the town to engage in “child labor”. This is where My Lovely Daughter becomes more of a resource management game, as there are only so many jobs available each week. The townsfolk, each shadier than the last, have odd jobs that are suited to different affinities. Some jobs call for Sad daughters to donate their tears, while others need Joyful to give plants love and care.
However, the commentary on child labor somewhat falls through. While your monstrous daughters don’t like doing a job they aren’t inclined towards (like sending your Fearful homunculi to work in the lava pits) it never seems to seriously affect money earned or their happiness. Working during the week does require your attention, however, as some jobs only appear for a short time. Being in town is your one time to try and take on orders for higher quality reagents, interact with the local villagers to uncover clues about your past, and stock up on various supplies.
An Imperfect Creation
Putting your daughters to work is diverting, but it doesn’t present much of a challenge either. You can pay to unlock more rooms in your mansion for more daughters to stay in. Later on, special items become available that can increase the amount of money your daughters earn or make them gain experience faster, as long as you offer blood and prayers to them. The game tries to create a sense of urgency around using these expensive items but I never found myself running out of money to begin with. Towards the end of the game, earning money was completely unnecessary, and I found myself working my daughters solely for the experience. Requests from the villagers were an annoying interruption, and I had stockpiles of sweets and ice cream enough to become a certified Willy Wonka.
Unfortunately, My Lovely Daughter’s biggest problem is the story itself. The entire game has the feel of a script that wasn’t originally written for an English audience, so the story clanks with poorly translated phrases and a drastically accelerated plot. It’s a shame, because the main gameplay of managing your daughters and becoming an unholy monster is compelling, if horrifying. The game does feature multiple interactions and endings as you progress. However, like other games that begin with inexplicable amnesia, My Lovely Daughter may disappoint.
Overall, while it’s hard to say My Lovely Daughter’s conclusion is satisfying, murdering your children decidedly is. My Lovely Daughter doesn’t have a happy ending, but it is absolutely Faustian.
- A truly gripping and macabre setting
- Compulsive and worryingly satisfying gameplay
- Appropriately creepy sound design and art style
- End-game lacks challenge and becomes repetitive
- Clumsy translation lets down the game’s ambitious story