I recently was contacted by a representative from an independent game studio, 1 Look Games. He informed me about Nilspace, their project which is set to launch its Kickstarter in June. You can download and play a free demo on their site, but if you don’t have the time and are still curious about the game, then… well, that’s why this article exists. I played the demo for around and hour and here’s what I can gather so far.
Nilspace is, in a nutshell, a spinoff of Fire Emblem 16 (Three Houses), except it’s set in modernity rather than in Japanized European high fantasy. You play as Pearl, a university student whose interests include sarcasm, boardgames, and Nilspace. In-universe, Nilspace is a SRPG for mobile phones, which means that the Nilspace that we play is a SRPG about people playing SRPGs.
I’ll be honest and say that the premise of the game isn’t appealing to me personally. At all. While I’m sure that others will love the pseudo-realistic setting, I hated school and don’t want to play a game which simulates the experience. That’s a big part of why FE16 falls so flat for me. (And yes, the irony of me running a site called “SRPG Academy” is not lost on me.) The education itself was loathsome and didn’t encourage actual learning; other students were bland and superficial; teachers were draconian and/or they just didn’t understand how to teach; and I’d rather not be reminded of that.
Worse yet, the game’s dialogue is steeped in gamer culture, demonstrated by characters talking about “smurfing” and calling each other “noobs.” Don’t get me wrong – I love video games, and I’ve met some great people because of video games, but I absolutely loathe the wider gamer culture, which is largely occupied by vacuous “e-girls,” socially awkward NEETs, bigots who can’t tolerate other points of view, and dumb people who think they’re smart and consequently instigate pointless internet arguments with everyone else. There’s a reason, after all, that I barely spend any time in any gaming communities. And those communities are precisely what this game reminds me of. So take two things that I despise – the gamer culture and academia – and it’s not exactly a recipe that I’ll be itching to try.
My intention isn’t to stand on a soapbox here and lecture anyone about my personal tastes and dissatisfaction with vapid cultural mores, so suffice it to say: I don’t like the setting. Does this mean it’s a bad game? Absolutely not. I’m sure there are many people who like games like this, just as I’m sure that many people loved FE16. Thus, for any fans of FE16, games like this and Wintermoor Tactics Club may be worth checking out. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that if you’re a diehard fan of FE16, you need to play this game. It’s got Fire Emblem mechanics for its battle system, and take a look at this:
A calendar system, exactly as implemented in FE16. To this game’s credit, you’re given the option at the beginning of the game to choose whether to skip the “free time” parts of the game. For me, this elevates it above FE16, which was more rigid and forced you to spend inordinate amounts of time in the monastery. At least in Nilspace, you can choose. I like having choices. My
body playthrough, my choice!
Mechanically, the game is decent enough, although I’m not sure I’ll have the time to play through it once it releases. It’s simply not very interesting to me, and there are a lot of other games I’m prioritizing, after all. So I’ll let someone else cover Nilspace instead.