Hierofanía Review

Title: Hierofanía
Release date: 2012-02-08
Developer: Ludeshka
Publisher: Ludeshka

This time I'm gonna review an OELVN that is quite well regarded on the Internet.

Hierofanía is a debut VN by Ludeshka and that shows. It's very rough around the edges, which gives it certain charm, but there were problems with the plotting that I simply couldn't overlook.
In Ludeshka's world fashion sense is dead.
The game follows an interesting concept. A decade or so ago god Ultrecht suddenly disappeared leaving his worshippers without any magical abilities. The Order of the Knights of Ultrecht goes into decline and presently there are only two strongholds remaining that devote themselves to the missing God. We focus on one of such strongholds where only four inhabitants remain: a blind commander, an old knight and two squires. As the Knights are sort of this game world's paladins who take their powers from their deity, it's no wonder that the members are disillusioned with the prospects of their order. Things pick up when a mysterious person requests Knights' assistance in clearing his name of a crime he didn't commit, and two clerics of EllsMiralls come in his pursuit.

Our protagonist in this tale is Crocket, a young squire, who pulls a very effective "Samus is a girl" stunt on us shortly into the game. The beginning simply didn't disclose her gender and I assumed that I played a young man. It's an interesting decision of the author to make Crocket a bit dumb, but in a non-annoying way. She is a bit of a goofball and cloud cuckoolander who has very definitive ideas about being a Knight. Crocket is a well fleshed and realistic protagonist, who, nevertheless, managed to surprise me. I mean, how many warriors do you know who would just march up to an enemy stronghold and knock on the door yelling: "Anyone home"? Crocket is well read on the heroic deeds of the Knights in the times of yore and tries to act chivalrously like them. It doesn't always work, but her bullheaded stubbornness is admirable.
No, he is not facepalming - that's his usual pose.
The other main character is Stranger. We never learn his name, but he claims to be a criminal; the only thing is that this time he was accused of a crime he didn't commit - the murder of the Princess. The more we interact with him, the more it becomes apparent that Stranger is a sinister figure, but his real agenda is hidden from us. It's hard to like Stranger as he is a very superficial figure - even when we are revealed his agenda in ending 7, his motives remain shady at best.  Also, I found his sprite to be laughable. It's like he has only two completely ridiculous poses. I gather that keeping his face constantly obscured was supposed to make him more mysterious. It doesn't work though.

The third main character, or rather a pair of characters, is Douglas and Deedra, who are clerics of EllsMiralls - goddess of dauchebaggery. OK, it's actually supposed to be a goddess of truth and beauty, but apparently all her clerics are complete narcissistic vain assholes. Still, I sort of managed to warm up to the pair, as they displayed genuine traces of personality deep somewhere.
Never change, Crocket.
So, the plot sounds intriguing and the characters are not that bad... what went wrong? There is zero worldbuilding. Some games do not need it - this one cried for it. Other Knights let Crocket go on her quest with tears and blessings as if she was traveling to the Mountain of Doom beyond the River of Fire. In reality she and Stranger only travel for a day until they reach their destination. If the target was so close, why not march there in force and wreck the shit up for God and justice? If Crocket's mission was supposed to be a solitary quest that didn't come across well in the narrative. Also, big deal is made of the missing Princess, but her role is never explained. Is she a Princess of our country or of some other? How, why and when did she disappear?

Plot elements are introduced and left untied for no reason. For example, the Master vampire is present for one reason only - so you could see a fight scene in the game. He doesn't affect the plot in any way. Logical fallacies abound too:
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

Writing in Hierofanía is pretty competent... until you reach the 7th ending. Suddenly it's impossible to tell what the main characters are even talking about. That's the main reason why Stranger's agenda looks so skewed - I didn't understand half what he was saying. That might have something to do with Ludeshka not being a native English speaker, but I saw no particular problems with the text until that ending. And yes, the 7th ending is canon according to the Word of God. That's also were we get the title drop. It seems "hierophany" means "manifestation of the sacredness" in Greek. Go figure, I learned a new word.
A chirpy chick.
Graphically the game takes a few minutes to get used to, but I actually liked the presentation. The twisted sharp angles and garish colours help to create a suitable mood for this game. Sadly, the art is very uneven in some places. Sprites suffer the most from it. Majority of the characters look good, but the Princess is an abomination. The author must have drawn her with his eyes shut. And I have already mentioned the Stranger and his increadibly uncomfortable poses.

The author must be commended for daring to create the game with some really dark themes. One can even say that there are no good endings in this VN. Still, it's very unpolished and appears to be a rush job. There are plenty of missing opportunities to explore some of the superficially presented themes deeper, like the consequences of an absent God. It's excusable for a debut, but I hope that if Ludeshka chooses to write a sequel he will take a better care with it.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official site
Lemma Soft thread

Final Verdict: 60%


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