Gilded Shadows Review by Foxxelle


An otome, sci-fi visual novel in which you can customize the MC and pursue six love interests. Plenty of exciting and romance scenes, with each route narrating its own story. Highly recommended.

Gilded Shadows is a large, fully GxB otome visual novel which knows its primary audience and targets it unashamedly. It boasts more positives than you could shake a whole bunch of sticks at, including interest of story, depth of characters, range of options and very high quality supporting graphics. If you're convinced already, go read that instead of this, otherwise let's look a little deeper. 

Story Overview
Arcalis. A barely hospitable planet abandoned by an alien civilisation who built liveable bio-domes and created a planetary AI to control everything in them in order for life to flourish, before vacating for reasons unknown. And leaving in their wake a potential location for human colonisation many, many years later.

What these colonists only discovered after settling was that Arcalis is flooded with nanites, tiny harmless machines (computer chips, if you will) which "infected" all individuals, altering their physiology and giving them access to "The Net", Arcalis' in-mind equivalent of today's internet.

Many generations on, this physiology change has led to many people developing psionic abilities; most to a very small and harmless degree, but a minority with skill sets which could be either useful or dangerous, dependent upon the nature of those involved. These people are known as "Espers".

Our MC, Morgan Leone (name fully changeable, along with skin tone, hair and eye colour, and 3 personality traits) is not only one such Esper, but a very powerful one at that. Only she has always tried to hide it as society knows the risk of unregistered Espers able to act at will. Therefore planetwide regulation invariably forces the gifted into strictly limited lines of work for recognised authorities, else be liable to fall into the criminal underworld.

One such unregistered Esper recognises Morgan for what she is.. and that leads to a frantic race by assorted factions to get to her first. And so our story begins.

Reader Experience
With six completely different stories to enjoy after a sizeable common route, Gilded Shadows offers heaps of entertainment to keep you busy for quite some time. Take a quick look at the "hours played" of a random selection of reviewers to underline this. What you should also notice is that so many of these players wanted to stay with it until completion. That alone should tell you most of what you need to know about the quality provided.

The basic story is a good one, with excellent world building and history – and then you get into the routes. All 6 are deeply engaging and feature a LI who is very easy to like (although Caleb is a bit of an ass and nowhere near as good looking as the others, ultimately he has enough redeeming features to pass). Every character is well developed and distinct from all the others. 

Everything you could realistically want from a VN is here, though access isn't always exactly where you'd expect it to be. A good example of this is the controls information – this is not on the main menu, but from the "Escape key menu" which is only accessible once you've begun the story. Nonetheless, all features are there and clearly laid out how to use them. The backstep (Pg up or scroll wheel) covers up to 30 steps, there's a quicksave, autorun, window/fullscreen option.. and so much more. Quick access commands are contained within a neat row of circles absorbed into part of the text-box display, and light up when hovered over. This is SO MUCH better than a list of words to click along the bottom of the screen.

There are also several "Extras", including a full page profile of each LI and the MC, containing a half-body sprite and pen-picture, a full glossary/encyclopaedia of all unusual terms used in the narrative (this alone is a good 90 minutes worth of reading if you don't access it via the in-game hyperlinks when you come across them), a list of endings for each route, and a flowchart detailing choices taken/not taken for each chapter of both the common story and each route! Strangely, this is accessible from the main menu where it's unlikely to be very helpful, but happily, also from in-story where you can nip out at a choice, see which option you haven't done yet, and return directly to where you popped out from. The developer really does appear to have thought of everything.

Graphics and sound
The graphics. OMG, the graphics! The sprites are semi-realistic and this beats angular anime faces hands down for me every time. They seem to have a LOT of very subtle facial movements which are well worth looking out for. And then there are the backdrops: the colour detail, for a visual novel, is nothing less than sensational. I want to leave a little mystery here to encourage you to find out for yourself.

Sound holds up well. Background tunes didn't really grab-and-shake me, but they are the right side of respectable, and served the job as a supporting feature perfectly well. Some effects are good too, I especially liked the storm sounds, which, if you play in the recommended route sequence, you'll have to wait a while to get to hear! 

There aren't enough characters in Steam's limit to do this game justice in a review. It's a genuine diamond amongst all the coals. To anyone who sees "24 quid!" and thinks "expensive", I'd point out that expensive means priced above fair value, thus dismissing such thoughts out of hand immediately. Remember there are, at release, 6 full stories – effectively £4 each – and at 100k words apiece, beautifully presented, they alone are probably better value than a typical short VN at 5 or 6 pounds. And there are 3 more routes to follow!

This is one of the easiest recommendations I am ever likely to be able to make on Steam.
If you like visual novels and can afford this, truly, it's a no-brainer. The reasons provided for the two negative reviews at time of writing are a joke. It's a fantasy story. Take it at face value, don't confuse it with real life - and you'll love it.

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