The Crown & the Flame is largely determined on the decisions the player makes for the characters. It is a medieval fantasy focused on two characters: Kenna (the “Crown”), a princess who finds herself becoming a queen of an overtaken kingdom; and Dominic (the “Flame”), Kenna’s common-born childhood friend who’s finding that he’s got a strange power of his own.
Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk
I admit, I haven’t been playing video games lately.
No, correction. I haven’t been playing many old video games lately.
Even more of a correction. I haven’t been playing much of console video games other than Dragon Age: Inquisition lately.
So when I started writing this column, a column dedicated to older iterations of video games, I was at a loss of what kind of game I wanted to talk about. Frankly, the one I’ve ultimately decided on isn’t so much an old game, but the concept in and of itself is rather vintage, if you look at it. After all, choice-based text adventure games have been around since the eve of the Computer Age, and every game that followed the original Adventure has stayed true to this concept since, only with better graphics and animation.
Anyway, let’s get straight to work here. Let’s talk about The Crown & the Flame.
Pixelberry Studios has been around since 2005, and while a small company acquired under EA Games (which, in my opinion, isn’t a very good managing company for indie gaming studios in general), it has helmed popular mobile apps such as Surviving High School and High School Story. I admit having played High School Story a few times until I got bored with its slow pace and teeny-bopper drama, but since then I’d never really considered it the best thing since sliced bread.
But there is an upgrade to their newest installment, Choices: Stories You Play. Not only are the graphics much better and more streamlined to its genre flagship stories, but the options are also not as petty and shallow as the previously mentioned games. (That said, I can’t say for certain that this truth holds for all of the Choices stories…only that there was much less of the teen drama in the fantasy and crime serials provided.)
Enter The Crown & the Flame, Book One, which was released this summer. Like many choice-based games, the story of The Crown & the Flame is largely determined on the decisions the player makes for the characters. It is a medieval fantasy focused on two characters: Kenna (the “Crown”), a princess who finds herself becoming a queen of an overtaken kingdom; and Dominic (the “Flame”), Kenna’s common-born childhood friend who’s finding that he’s got a strange power of his own. While Kenna and Dom are separated for the majority of the game, Crown & Flame constantly switches back and forth between the two characters as they work towards amassing an army to overthrow Prince Marco and retake Stormholt, Kenna’s kingdom.
Crown & Flame works as a visual novel, often reminiscent of the options I’d encountered in Cinders (another visual novel I might bring up later on this year), with a barrelful of possibilities, especially in the romantic arc. Both Kenna and Dom have numerous romantic possibilities in their arcs, including a romance with each other (which seems to be the most popular ship in the series—heck, I ship it). There are also numerous ways for Kenna to amass an army, as well as unnatural allies she could gain just by choosing the “right” option. Then, of course, other than Kenna and Dom, people can die.
All in all, it is a pretty fun game to play, though not entirely fun to play it “free.” Unlike most games I play, console and PC-wise, Crown & Flame operates on a chapter-by-chapter basis. It is episodic to a point: players are given chapter keys in order to unlock and play a chapter. Unfortunately, players are only given two chapter keys maximum, and two hours have to pass in order to get another chapter key once the player runs out. Additionally, much of the premium choices are locked away and can only be accessed through the use of “diamonds,” a difficult object to acquire, considering players only acquire them by playing through Choices chapters. Considering most premium choices require 20-25 diamonds to unlock, it’s pretty much impossible to play through all of Crown & Flame with everything unlocked unless you spend actual money (which I choose not to do for mobile apps on principle). That said, I’ve managed to unlock a few things on the way. If I were you, though, and you want to complete the game with an actual romance, have 30ish diamonds tucked away for the last legs of the game.
So, yeah, as a visual novel, Crown & Flame has a riveting enough story and a set of nicely-illustrated characters to keep my attention going for the entire game. It’s also replayable upon chapter key use, and whatever premium choice got unlocked the first time around is still accessible when the book is replayed.
Is it worth time and actual money to unlock more storylines and extra dialogue, though? I’d say give that bit a pass.
Game: The Crown & the Flame, Book One
Genre: Choice-based, episodic fantasy
Publisher: Pixelberry Studios
ESRB Rating: T for Teen