Welcome to Now Playing, in which we recount our recent adventures in PC gaming. This week, as a princess, Chris must survive 40 days until coronation in Long Live The Queen.
A maid carrying a towering pile of linens barrels down the stairs towards me. I leap deftly aside, avoiding a collision, then take a moment to revel in my success. It's a small success, to be sure. All I've done is avoiding getting bumped into by hurrying maid. It's still a success, however, and particularly notable because after playing several in-game weeks in Long Live The Queen , it's literally my only success.
As a teenage princess in this visual novel-style role-playing game, I need to survive for 40 weeks to reach my coronation. Each week, I choose two subjects to study, from social skills like composure, elegance, and court manners, to physical skills like swordplay and horseback riding, to intellectual skills like history, medicine, economics, and military strategy. My mood affects how well I learn these skills: for instance, if I'm angry, I get a bonus towards learning how to jam a sword between someone's ribs, but if I'm depressed, I won't be very good at learning how to appear elegant. At the end of each week, various events will test these skills. I might have to interact with visiting nobility, make a tough decision about the kingdom, or simply avoid a careless maid.
Or, someone might try to assassinate me.
Naturally, while building my character, I've been trying to follow the modern Pixar princess route: rough, tough, and willful, as opposed to the original Disney princess route: elegant, sweet, and interested in nothing more than finding the perfect princely husband to make my life blissfully complete. For Game of Thrones fans, in other words, I'm building an Arya Stark, rather than a Sansa. I defy my father as often as possible, sneak out of the castle at night to explore, and focus my studies on swordplay, military tactics, and counter-espionage. I've been working on my reflexes and agility rather than learning how to dress properly or flatter visiting dignitaries, and while I don't know how to play a single note on the glockenspiel I have gotten pretty good at complex transposition cyphers.
Sometimes this fits my vision of a modern princess pretty well. When having to dance with a boy at a gala, I trip over my feet. Fine. Like I care . Just wait until the archery tournament, y'all, when I nail a bulls-eye from across the green and the entire audience turns as one to see who loosed that arrow and I pull back my hood to reveal that, YES, I am a GIRL. SUCK IT.
On the other hand, eschewing standard princess lessons in favor of total badassery has left me a bit lacking in the department of Not Being A Complete Blithering Moron. I know nothing about the history and traditions of my land, so I wind up accepting a necklace from a visiting noble without realizing that the gift is actually a marriage proposal (I dump him when I find out). Not knowing about manufacturing or trade means that when a visitor asks for money to fund the construction of a printing press, I have no idea what the hell he's talking about, and send him off empty-handed to spend the rest of his life sullenly recopying books with ink and quill. A woman visits, asking for gold to build for a hospital, and with no knowledge of herbal medicine I decide that cramming a bunch of sick people into one building will cause them to die faster, and thus I deny her request.
Even when I get a chance to practice my chosen skill set, it seems to fail me. While sentencing a woman to life in prison she becomes enraged and attacks me. Touchy! This seems like a great opportunity to see how great I've become at sticking swords through people, but when I reach for my blade I find I'm not wearing one. I'm forced to throw something at her instead, and even that misses because I haven't trained up my archery skills enough (that tournament I fantasized about earlier might not go as well as I planned).
One day a musician visits and asks to join my court, promising to write songs about what a kick-ass princess I am. Having had my nose in books about foreign spies, I'm immediately suspicious of her true intentions. Musicians are often used as secret agents: she may just be here to slink around informing on me to my enemies, or perhaps even try assassinate me. I have her play a little ditty, but having not studied music, I can't tell if her lute-playing is professional quality or double-secret backstabbing murderer quality. I kick her out, feeling like my book-learned wariness is finally starting to pay off.
My paranoia grows, and I'm glad to let it. Apart from being able to dodge maids, it's the only useful skill I've got. I'm invited to a friend's birthday party, but it's a friend I haven't seen in years. Why is she so keen for me to visit all of the sudden? Hmm? Hoping to lure me into a trap, no doubt. I refuse the invitation. I'd rather stay home and learn more about how to be successfully paranoid than expose myself to a transparent assassination attempt, thank you very much.
It does occur to me that perhaps I should temper my weapons training and severe suspicion with other skills, but it feels like I've traveled a bit too far down this lonely, angry, violent, distrustful path to change my ways. Since I'm clearly an conspiracy-fearing idiot with no concept of acceptable customs or manners, I'm definitely going to need keep up my military training because I'm eventually going to offend the wrong person and have to carefully sort everything out with a few hundred thousand soldiers.
All of this is why, when a civil war finally breaks out, I'm genuinely happy. Something I know something about! Something I know almost everything about. While I've got weeks of related book-learnin' on my side in this war, I also know sheer numbers can't hurt, so I ponder increasing the size of my forces by emptying my dungeons and making the prisoners fight in exchange for pardons.
I mull this decision over for a minute. The only criminal I personally sent to prison was a man who strangled his wife because "demons" made him do it. On the one hand, a man with demon-powered stranglehands might be useful on the battlefield, but on the other hand... actually, even if he just strangled his wife because he's a horrible person, he's still shown an aptitude for killing. Useful either way! GET THAT MAN A HORSE AND SOME PROPER STRANGLIN' GLOVES.
I win the war, easily. My studies of military strategy, logistics, and battlefield medicine make it a resounding victory with minimal losses on my end. Granted, a smidgen of diplomacy might have avoided the entire bloody mess, but no matter. I've now got two flowers in my cap: concisely putting down a massive rebellion and winning the hearts and minds of the locals, and that time I didn't bump into the maid.
Speaking of my maid! The week after the war, she brings me a gift someone sent to me through whatever passes for the postal system in this kingdom: a box of candy! Candy in the mail. How nice and not at all suspicious! I immediately tear it open and start cramming double-fistfuls of chocolate into my mouth. Naturally, the candy has been poisoned and I die.
Somehow it never occurred to my princess, whom I'd lovingly crafted into a tense, paranoid warlord, that she shouldn't empty a box of mysterious mailcandy into her mouth. You would think studying poison and espionage would have saved me from this espionage poison, but instead, a list of other skills, skills I never studied, princess skills, were key to avoiding this fate.
I guess that's the lesson: you can't build a successful Arya without adding a little Sansa. I just learned it a little too late. Ah, fudge .
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