fault -milestone one- Director's Cut Review

Title: fault -milestone one- Director's Cut
Release date: 2013-08-12 (original release) / 2014-08-17 (DC)
English release date: 2014-12-15 (DC)
Publisher: Sekai Project

fault (with a lowercase 'f') is an indie Japanese visual novel, published in the west by Sekai Project. Actually, it's kind of misleading to say that this VN is Japanese, as the main creator is an American living in Japan, and therein lies its greatest strength.

Upon reading the novel it becomes rather clear that it is extremely untroperific, i.e. it's missing the most prevalent tropes and clichés of the Japanese medium. fault reads more like an OELVN, than a Japanese VN, and in this case it is a strong compliment. Japanese pretty frequently try for an exaggerated, downright theatrical style of writing with larger than life portrayal of characters, who still somehow end up stuffed into neat labeled boxes. Thus it was extremely refreshing to read such a down to earth story, especially in a fantasy setting.
Search and Destroy, Alucard!
fault is a science fantasy story set in a world, where science and magic coexist... on different continents. This dichotomy is reminiscent of Stark and Arcadia from "The Longest Journey". Science barely exists on the magical continent and there is almost no magic on the science continent. Moreover, people from the science continent cannot live in the magical one, though vice versa is possible. The magic itself is called manakravte (pronounced 'manacraft'), and is usually cast by siphoning mana from manalines, which are similar to the leylines of our world. The drawback of this is that all manakravters have shorter lives than normal baseline people.

The story starts with an unknown hostile force attacking a small peaceful Kingdom of Rughzenhaide. This is probably the only time where the usual Japanese tropes rear their ugly head - all of the attackers are moe anime girls. However, the game at least acknowledges such an unusual fact and calls them 'child soldiers'. During the ensuing massacre the princess Selphine Rughzenhaide and her bodyguard Ritona Reighnvhasta escape the castle using an untested experimental manakravte. Of course, it all goes wrong and the magic deposits them on the opposite end of the planet - on the science continent. Suddenly Ritona, an accomplished manakravter, loses almost all of her magical powers, which are her main means of protecting the princess. The two fugitives decide to assume fake identities and probe the unknown city for information and means of returning home. There they meet a mysterious girl named Rune...
Oops... a magical mishap.
Intrinsically fault is a road novel, where two travelers are on a journey home. Their deep seated sense of justice forces them to make a stop at Kadia City and solve the mystery of a weird girl Rune, who appears to be a slave to a ruthless owner. fault is an episodic novel and this is only 'milestone one', or the first episode. I assume that other episodes will focus on other stops on the pair's journey back home and further adventures. The VN is completely linear - there is one choice, but it has no influence on the events.

Princess Selphine and Ritona are very compelling characters of this tale. At first I was apprehensive that Selphine will be a typical naïve princess, oblivious to the dangers of the wide world, but nothing could be further from the truth. The princess is a very self aware person, who knows she is a burden to Ritona, but still tries to do her best and provides both cheerful support and wise council. Ritona is our protagonist, whose first and foremost duty is protecting Selphine. She has a strong sense of justice, but is also deeply pragmatic. Neither of the characters can be readily attributed a traditional character archetype, as they act and feel like real persons in a dire situation.
The beauty is only skin deep.
The self imposed time limit on our protagonists cements that I'm reading a very different VN. The usual Japanese VN would force our heroines into a Lawful Stupid idealistic position, where they would strive to solve the mystery of Rune despite themselves being in danger of becoming prisoners within the Kadia City. This novel takes a smart approach, with the girls deciding to leave the City in a few days even if they fail at their quest. The safety of the princess takes precedence over the plight of some girl they barely know. This makes the heroines even more likable in my eyes.

fault is a pretty twisted tale, involving bloodshed, murder and massacre. It never becomes too explicit, but nothing within the promotion art or description hinted that this VN goes in a pretty dark direction. fault is pretty short, and, frankly, moves a little too fast near the end, but it still manages to strike an emotional chord. The main theme 'milestone one' deals with can be summed up as "What Measure Is a Non-Human?", but other themes also come into play. The redemption for past deeds, the importance of familial relationships and the importance to move forward despite the pain of doing so are touched upon.
Man of Sorrows.
I personally found 'fault milestone one' a very engaging first part of a visual novel and am eagerly waiting for the second episode, especially because the novel ends on a pretty delicious cliffhanger. If I have one complaint, it's that the pacing is a bit off. The infodumps are distributed very unevenly throughout the text, and the second part of the novel is comprised mainly of flashbacks and infodumps. I think, a lot could have been done in order to make the pacing more bearable, but I'm no writer.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
Still, those quirks in no way ruin the game.

Graphically the game looks nice, but there is lots of place for improvement in the subsequent milestones. Backgrounds are a bit dull, and there is only a few locations of significance. CGs are really pretty, but sprites still look a bit amateurish. On the other hand, the music is a really strong element. It fits the atmosphere and sounds positively epic. There are a few technical oversights, the main of which is that the prologue scene plays way too fast, and it is impossible to read it at a normal reading speed. The prologue is actually a video and it seriously needs to be retimed for proper enjoyment. There is also quite a large amount of typos still left in the latest build, and it's obvious that Sekai Project needs to hire a new quality testing team.
Happens to everyone after imbibing a tad too much of C2H5OH.
I also found the behaviour of Sekai Project highly unprofessional regarding this title. fault is available both on Steam and Humble Store, but while Steam received at least four patches during the December of 2014 alone, those same patches were only introduced to the Humble version... five months later. If you are prepared to sell your product on two different outfits, you commit to treat them equally and provide support for both versions. Obviously Sekai Project forgot that.

Anyway, some minor quibbles notwithstanding, 'fault milestone one' is a great, albeit short, linear visual novel and I hope its creators will not fail in providing us with further adventures of Selphine and Ritona.
P.S. What the fuck is wrong with those unpronounceable surnames in this VN? This is one of the more annoying western fantasy tropes.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Official English site
Buy the game on Steam (DRM-free).

Final Verdict: 81%


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