After a successful Kickstarter campaign a year ago, the upcoming visual novel/RPG hybrid Path of the Midnight Sun received a free demo earlier this year. It is set in a world that was once terrorized by the Demon King, until he was defeated and sealed away within a human’s body. The humans who house the Demon King’s soul are known as Vassals, and although they normally don’t live long, the current Vassal has survived for 21 years. Yet it seems all is not well, as monsters have been appearing throughout the land.
The demo begins with you playing as a man named Suzaku Orniéres, but he wakes up without any memory of who he is or what he was doing. His companion, a woman named Shiori, explains to him that they are traveling to investigate rumors about the current Vassal. Yet in addition to his memory loss, Suzaku is also troubled by frequent visions that suggest he might have done something terrible in the past.
For the second part of the demo, you play as Lady Faratras, the current Vassal. She is dealing with all of the responsibilities that come with her important position, as well as training alongside the candidate who will be the next Vassal if she fails. Elements of a few different genres are present in the demo, starting with the visual novel storytelling. The sprites during these sections are animated, which gives the scenes a nice touch of life. At certain points you have dialogue choices, which can raise affection with a character or provide other benefits, such as increasing Sanity. While Sanity doesn’t really come into play in the demo, in the full game it is intended to affect both character interactions and combat.
Battles feature a turn-based combat system. On each turn, you gain a small amount of mana, which allows you to use special skills in addition to your basic attacks. There are a few different strategic elements already apparent in the demo, such as paying attention to turn order and enemy formation and choosing your skills accordingly. For example, Shiori has an attack that targets a row of enemies, and Faratras has an ability to randomly counter an enemy.
In the demo, Path of the Midnight Sun feels much more like a visual novel with occasional RPG battles than an RPG with visual novel elements. However, the battles are clearly meant as introductions to the combat system, so it remains to be seen what the balance will be in the full game. Meanwhile, other gameplay factors come into play as well, such as the map used for traveling. Moving from spot to spot takes time, and after a set amount of in-game time, enemies will move. Encountering an enemy will lead to a battle.
That’s not the only place where time comes into play, either. Path of the Midnight Sun also has light adventure game elements. During the section of the demo where you play as Faratras, you’re given the freedom to choose your actions in certain areas with a point-and-click interface. Inspecting objects in the background takes no time, but other actions do. Talking to a character for the first time takes five minutes, while at one point I was given an option to spend 15 minutes reading a book, which gave me an attack boost in return.
It feels like it’s setting up a number of potential trade-offs, where you can spend time for one benefit, but you’ll lose something else. Time limits in games always make me a bit nervous, but it’s not apparent from the demo if this will simply be a matter of deciding what you want to prioritize, or if proper time management in the full game will be critical. It feels as though it might be designed to encourage multiple playthroughs to see different outcomes, which makes it unfortunate that there seems to be no “skip” feature to quickly move through already-read text in the visual novel sections.
That aside, Path of the Midnight Sun plays well and is a beautiful game, although the text seemed to lag slightly in some conversations. Curiously, although I was first drawn to Path of the Midnight Sun because I read it was inspired by Fire Emblem and Ace Attorney, I wouldn’t have necessarily named those two based on the gameplay. The demo’s combat feels more like a traditional turn-based RPG with some strategic elements than a strategy RPG, and the visual novel side felt typical of a visual novel that incorporates point-and-click elements. But regardless of what its inspirations were, I enjoyed the demo of Path of the Midnight Sun, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it as it approaches its full release.
You can download the demo for Path of the Midnight Sun from itch.io.