This review will contain minor spoilers for The Divine Speaker.
Erotic games often get a bad rap. They occupy a sizable spot in the vast world of video games (don’t argue with me on this, everybody knows it’s true), but remain unexplored due to I suppose, the lack of prestige? The lack of open world game design?
But who cares about shiny prestige? The good stuff, the things that make the heart and gut tick are located in dark furtive glances, foreplay hidden in plot, and the beauty of a murderous man’s face sent to kill you – all good qualities present in indie developer Two and a Half Studios’ new R18+ BL visual novel game, The Divine Speaker.
The Divine Speaker doesn’t do anything novel in terms of VN gameplay mechanics like Doki Doki Literature Club‘s meta-analysis or Sweet Pool‘s fascinating instinct/reason selection, but it’s impressive in both earnestness and quality.
Our main character, Raen, functions as a guide to the larger fantasy world filled with gods, fallen gods, and most importantly, cute guys. You have the option to romance Fawn, a shy cutie with a surprisingly strong side, Leos, an assassin with plenty of trust issues (and the previously mentioned beautiful murderous man), and Cyne, a flirty rich noble with pure, undiluted bottom energy.
With a straightforward VN game, the plot and characters need to do a lot of the heavy lifting. And character design-wise, The Divine Speaker excels. The three romantic leads are compelling, beautiful, and uniquely crafted, complete with distinctive personalities. The level of detail given to backgrounds and outfit changes – gorgeous, gorgeous outfit swaps – creates a world vivid enough to support the fantastical storyline.
The story leans heavily on the classical theme of ‘defying fate.’ Choice versus fate is a big motif, one that’s been covered ever since men started creating stories – like Achilles’ wrestling with free will and destined endings in The Iliad. In The Divine Speaker, choice versus fate is threaded through all the romantic relationships, from Cyne’s life in Sid Caeham to Leos’ thoughts about his bloody profession. The tension between fate and free will adds heart-palpitating flavour to all three romantic relationships, and it’s this consistent theme that makes these three relationships viable. If Raen is a much-less tragic Achilles, then any of the three romantic leads can convincingly play some variation of an also much-less tragic Patroclus.
But for all its strength in character and set design, The Divine Speaker does fall short in a crucial area: Raen. He is, what we would call in some circles, a “white lotus.” Too good, too naive, and too much of a blank slate. He does everything right and wants to save everybody. This type of protagonist, while useful for matching wildly different romantic prospects, feels more like a plot device to drive the narrative forward than the titillating main character of multiple seductions. It’s not that Raen doesn’t have a personality (he snarks at Leos and feels fear as well), but he simply lacks the depth that Fawn, Cyne, and Leos all have.
Some aspects of the story feel rushed too. The final arc of Leos’ good path feels like a perfunctory act of putting a period on every unresolved relationship between various characters, by virtue of people having one to two conversations and then wham! All misunderstandings are magically resolved. Everybody kiss kiss falls in love and lives happily ever after. It’s nice and yes, I get that it’s a good ending, but a little mess can go a long way, instead of relying on forced tidiness.
That being said, The Divine Speaker is beautiful with worthwhile romantic relationships to pursue. The chemistry is there between Raen and all three leads, the R+18 scenes spicy, and the plot titillating. It’s an impressive effort from indie developers Two and a Half Studios, and I look forward to more of their work.
A review code for The Divine Speaker was provided to Gayming Magazine by PR.