What I was expecting from Angels With Scaly Wings was something like Persona 4, but with fewer confusing dungeon crawls and a lot more dragons making out. What I got was Phoenix Wright, but with even less sexual tension.
Angels With Scaly Wings, a game by Radical Phi that is currently out on Steam, bills itself as a dating sim. On its store page, it talks about “hang[ing] out with the locals” and falling in love, amidst a story of intrigue, mystery, and murder. It’s also a game about dragons, which fit it nicely into the recent abundance of date-the-cute-monster-type games.
It takes place in a future that you don’t even learn about until much later in the game, one in which humans have ruined the world. It is only upon discovery of a mysterious portal that leads to the world of humanoid dragons that we are offered hope, and the chance to swap technologies with the dragonfolk for mutual benefits.
Unfortunately, the first human ambassador through the dragon portal turns out to (maybe?) be a sabotaging mass-murderer, and you, the second ambassador, are pulled into the drama as the dragons try to solve the case.
The intrigue, mystery, and murder take up far more of the game’s 175,000 words than any of the love interests do. Each time I woke up, greeted by the excitement of a new day full of cutie dragons to woo, I was instead dragged off to a murder scene, asked to do some tedious investigation task, or thrown into a long, long conversation with someone I couldn’t even smooch—a conversation that never really gave me, the player, any real input.
In most dating games, or even just games that have dating in them (like Bioware’s, for instance) there’s a heavy element of role-playing and choice. There are a minimum of three dialogue options, usually, which offer different approaches to conversations: do you want to be snappy, flirty, sad, angry, diplomatic, evil…? In Angels with Scaly Wings, most of the time, I was left to watch the character to whom I had given my name talk without me. I never even got to see their face, let alone choose what it looked like, leaving me stuck with the feeling that I was sitting in the cockpit of a self-piloting plane.
Even when I eventually got to the “dating” scenes, which I spent with a young waitress and hobbyist flyer named Adine, I felt powerless and disappointed. There was barely any sense that this was romantic, which is unsurprising given that she was a dragon and I was a human, apart from the occasional blush on her snout.
Though the scenes were long, they were chaste and boring to sit through. Some scenes—like when she admitted that she really liked romance magazines—gave me only response options that ranged from scathing to dismissive, again leaving me feeling like little more than a button-pressing monkey.
Though I felt powerless in some ways, I felt paralysed by power in others. There were just so many choices: where would I hang out that day, what would I do, who would I spend time with, what would I say to them? It felt like I was just one tiny misstep or misunderstanding away from making the entire dragon world hate me forever, and from my research, it seems like it’s pretty easy to get the “bad ending” for the dateables for this exact reason.
Maybe I’m to blame when it comes to the lack of romance in my playthrough. It seems, according to my further research, that other potential dating options get a little… sexier. A few screenshots show dragons reclining, with one implied dragon penis hiding behind a well-placed wine bottle (although the dragons are naked all the time, so I don’t quite understand how that’s supposed to be a reveal), and another sensually posing for the benefit of the viewer.
Adine has a scene in which you help wash her back in the shower after she injures herself and can’t reach, but I was so incredibly bored having to sit through lines and lines and lines of police-and-sci-fi-themed dialogue that I never actually reached this relatively tame scene.
It seems I’m not alone in thinking this game is a little limp in the sexy department, either. There are a few mods for the game, one of which is titled “Adine’s Romantic Ending” and promises a little more time with the yellow darling. I watched a YouTube video. There was no kissing. Surely the point of mods is that you can, at the very least, play tonsil tennis with your boo?
All in all, I left Angels with Scaly Wings feeling bored instead of blushy, like I’d been promised fantasy romance that had quickly been replaced by hours of slow, unsexy reading about murder. Imagine your dad saying that he’s really into this new romance TV show and finding out it’s one of those gritty Swedish police dramas instead. Not a bad thing at all, but because it’s not what you expected, you’ll never be satisfied.