Heretic's Hope

The About text tells us that this is set in the same world as last year's Devotionalia, and you can see it in the general setup: the sky is described as another sea, and there's this idea that the universe may exist in layers with the gods of one layer being the mortals of the layer above. But where Devotionalia was really more of mood piece, enticing us with its strange, ethereal otherworldliness, Heretic's Hope feels much more grounded in the concrete. We have an actual story, for one thing; we have a history; the inhuman creatures first gestured at in Devotionalia are now brought to the forefront, seen rather than implied, and we have humans living alongside them.

We also have hand-drawn character portraits of the "realistic cartoon" variety, which shifts the tone somewhat into a "Young Adult Fantasy" mode. Despite the serious opening question of what it means to be holy, I think we're all a lot more interested in the story of just what is going on with our hero and how they're going to overcome the challenges thrown at them.

Not that there's anything wrong with that: it's just a different flavour of breakfast, that's all, and really should be judged on its own terms.

Anyway, the story is that we're the only human living on what was once a human settlement that has since been conquered (there was an actual war) and taken over by an insect civilisation. Our mother used to be an interpreter, facilitating communications between this kingdom and the world outside, but she died about a month ago and now, to our surprise, we're being asked to fill the role of pontiff, leading the populace in all things religious, much to the displeasure of the previous pontiff.

It's not immediately clear to me how our choices affect our final outcome, though our interactions with the three court officials closest to the queen switches out at least one segment of the endgame and possibly has deeper, more significant effects on the progress of the story. As intriguing as this all is on the first playthrough, subsequent playthroughs are less rewarding in terms of discovering and interacting with the underlying plot. Perhaps there is one specific set of choices that will lead to a different outcome, but the general sameness of the storyline outside of that specific set of choices rather discourages exploration.

Alternatively, perhaps we should be exploring the ways in which the three court officials relate to the queen and to the god of their religion, but the focus on the protagonist and the plot leaves little room for any focus in that direction.

If this were breakfast, it would probably be kedgeree and Earl Grey tea. It's solid and substantial, with a bit of a spicy kick and a sense of the exotic brought back to the shores of home.