S.EXE: Matches and Matrimony

By Cara Ellison on February 14th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a DOOMBRINGER.

Hello!

My dear friends, on this Valentines Day I shall teach you the ways and arts of attracting undesirable mates from the Jane Austen dating sim Matches and Matrimony.

I found this delightful Ren’Py Princess Maker-type Jane Austen thing on Amazon, starved of western dating sims as we are, and unlikely to date a pigeon. You play a not unrecognisable Elizabeth Bennet character, and there are several suitors from across three Austen books to seduce into marriage, with nine different ‘endings’ up for grabs. First up is the Zelda rule: when given the opportunity to type in your name, always give the most absurd proposition. This, though you might be an elderly 28 years old, will still be hilarious on the hundredth time it pops up. The more earnest your protagonist is, the funnier it gets, and this Jane Austen thing is the most earnest thing I’ve ever played.

Matches and Matrimony largely functions on a similar ‘education’ strategy as the more in-depth and slightly more complex Long Live The Queen, which means you can choose to improve yourself out of the six passtimes that Regency ladies were allowed to take part in: studying the arts, reading a book, going visiting, going outside (heaven forbid!), doing needlework, and finally, if all that was too much EXERTION for your bepetticoated doomlegs, you can have a nice rest to regain your energy. (Perhaps Regency ladies read books whilst on a horse or something).
The idea is to make yourself fit for a certain suitor by playing the stats each week or ‘chapter’, learning the skills that will have you be the most desirable. I particularly liked the ‘virtue’ stats that can be increased, as they are recognisably the things that Austen herself emphasised most: willpower, wit, talent, kindness, propriety and sensibility. (Energy is what you spend on education.) As in Long Live The Queen, you cannot know before the story progresses what will be most desirable by the hottest/haughtiest/mutton-choppiest suitor, so you have to be prepared to either adapt or just play through more than once. The narrative loosely follows a Pride and Prejudice slant, but integrates characters from other books. And of course, there’s one guy who has to turn up.
I AM VERY STERN AND HAUGHTY THIS MAY BE MY SEX FACETEN THOUSAND POUNDS A YEAR! My word. I can feel my loins become aflame at the sound of it. I also hear he has huge tracts of land. Yes, it’s Regency society’s neg champion, Mr Darcy. But how to snare him? It will be difficult. For there are other hazards on the loose.
Oh bollocks. It’s Mr Collins. Sound the creep alarm.
Each chapter, the narrative is affected firstly by your skills and talents (if you can play the pianoforte, for example, by being skilled in the arts, you may delight the room with your fine playing) and also by your narrative decisions (you may choose to take part in tasks, or negotiate tense conversational situations) which will then affect how those around you regard you. Lydianne has the face of a velociraptor.

Would you like a betIn the beginning I found it quite difficult to not get married, which is perhaps some sort of cruel estimation of how incredibly fucking attractive DOOMBRINGER is. Or perhaps it’s just a measure of how sexually frustrated Regency men were. You’d think this wouldn’t be the case, because the tight pants that were around in this time probably restricted quite a lot of the blood flow to the crotch. In any case, I spent rather a lot of time trying to get Mr Collins to fuck off of my property.
He did not. I spent ages telling him I wasn’t interested and it made him more interested. (Is… Is that how it works?) I think he thought I was negging him. I basically told him to go and jump under a horse and carriage and he commenced the biggest DOOMBRINGER boner I’ve ever seen. My willpower stat was too low: Jane Austen had a lesson for me – no willpower and you get married to Mr Niceguy Collins. URGH. So I restarted, determined to marry Darcy.
I’ve read THREE BOOKS this week and been outside TWICE. My willpower stat is off the CHARTS. I’m amped on my own wilfulness, I’m spouting so much cheek I’m basically rash. The next week I went outside EVERY SINGLE DAY. I actually just took that pretty pink dress and LIVED OUTSIDE IN DIRT for five days. I practically BAYED AT THE MOON: ‘COME GET ME DARCY I AM THE MOST RAY MEARS LONGBOURNE BINT YOU EVER SAW COME GET THESE FINE DOOMBRUNG THIGHS’.Scared the shit out of Mr Collins. ENTAIL THAT, COLLINS.

Only Darcy was no where to be seen, and a dashing Captain Wentworth appeared. My cousin Lydianne became hysterical and jumped from a high building in front of him. This apparently made Captain Wentworth very excited about me? But then something went wrong. Time passed and I became an extremely witty, extremely willful, and quite a talented lady, who never married.
Perhaps I underestimated this game somewhat – in the beginning, I thought it was about getting married. But it turns out that if you’re careful, you can become Jane Austen instead.

This game has dorky illustrations, a particularly odd way of animating dancing (couples sort of ping across the screen as if on an elastic band) and the writing is somewhat tonally wrong for an Austen-based adaptation – it’s not witty enough by far, and it’s not a particularly masterful approximation of her sentence structure. It’s not particularly replay friendly either – sometimes the skip button doesn’t work and rereading the text can become interminable. The music is somewhat like being in a garden centre at the end of hell. The word ‘sennight’ is shamefully worshipped, and Denny looks like an extra model from Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s structured in such a way that negotiating people and suitors is actually sort of difficult and attempting to land a man (or…’ending’) of your choice is actually quite a bit more complex than you initially imagine. But one or two playthroughs demonstrated to me that Jane Austen deserves more than a cursory adaptation; she’s more socially incisive than many game systems or strategy games, she’s wittier than Psychonauts. She probably deserves at least a fully fledged RPG with Emily Short at the helm. Or perhaps this might satisfy us? We shall see.

A happy Valentines Day to you, good friends, from myself, and the irresistible DOOMBRINGER. I wish you the most Jane Austen of outcomes, and I hope you ever avoid your Mr Collins.

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46 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Arren says:

    Well-written, as always. Looking forward to the next embed!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Is DOOMBRINGER perpetually pouting? What an odd facial expression. It’s like you’re kind of satisfied with yourself but not enough to tell other people about what you just did.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It’s all in the eyes and the eyes say that she’s peering out through a slit in the blinds at those damn street kids making noise with their hoola-hoops and skateboards.

    • Geebs says:

      Based on the first picture, I was convinced this game was about Kingseeker Frampt’s sister.

  3. SillyWizard says:

    COMPLAINTS ABOUT FEMINISM AND STUFF!

  4. Carcer says:

    If you’re going to talk about Matches and Matrimony and go ahead and link-drop Hatoful Boyfriend then you must at least give some credit to Angie Gallant and the adventures of Balls (or Bollocks, or Cloaca) Mahoney. FAT BIIIIIIRD

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Dear god, what is that abomination afore me on the frontpage of RPS? Was it once human? Is it some kind of alien mimic trying to communicate with a NOPEing engineer?

  6. Grygus says:

    “Is… Is that how it works?”

    No! No. Sometimes.

  7. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    ‘Scared the shit out of Mr Collins. ENTAIL THAT, COLLINS.’

    Read that at exactly the wrong moment, laughed and red wine came out my nose.

    My nose hurts now :(

  8. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    I’ve read THREE BOOKS this week and been outside TWICE. My willpower stat is off the CHARTS. I’m amped on my own wilfulness, I’m spouting so much cheek I’m basically rash. The next week I went outside EVERY SINGLE DAY. I actually just took that pretty pink dress and LIVED OUTSIDE IN DIRT for five days. I practically BAYED AT THE MOON: ‘COME GET ME DARCY I AM THE MOST RAY MEARS LONGBOURNE BINT YOU EVER SAW COME GET THESE FINE DOOMBRUNG THIGHS’.

    I might have only understood 2/3 of this but I was in stitches nonetheless. Good show.

  9. somnolentsurfer says:

    Completely off topic, but is it just me, of have Steam added ‘feminist’ to the profanity filter in their tagging system? I swear half the games in their valentines sale had that tag yesterday…

    • Premium User Badge

      AngelTear says:

      They have removed the tag, not sure if it because it was controversial (and big corporations want to stay perfectly neutral of anything remotely political or polemical most of the times) or because it was being abused and used either as an insults or as a joke (I remember some “feminist” games included Gone Home, Hate Plus, but also Nba 2k11)

  10. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    I hope you ever avoid your Mr Collins

    This might be difficult; looking at those illustrations it would appear that I am Mr Collins. So much is suddenly clear to me.

    • LionsPhil says:

      My deepest condolences if you look anything like the creatures in these screenshots. I hope they find a cure some day.

    • Premium User Badge

      amateurviking says:

      What are your opinions on the Lady Catherine de Bourgh?

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        I have none, sir, though my brother Philip is betrothed to her sister Chris, a most unusual-looking lady indeed.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Congratulations on looking a lot like Ben Franklin, I guess.

  11. Meat Circus says:

    Mr Collins just made a creamy muck-muck in his breeches.

  12. Vinraith says:

    Funniest thing I’ve read all week, kudos Cara!

  13. Premium User Badge

    steves says:

    I had just stopped laughing at “bepetticoated doomlegs” when I got to “THE MOST RAY MEARS LONGBOURNE BINT YOU EVER SAW”.

    You are a genius.

  14. cjlr says:

    Cara is powerfully correct when it comes to character names.

    I have spent over 15 years naming video game protagonists Max Power.

    I still giggle like there’s a nitrous oxide leak every time.

  15. Spacewalk says:

    I can imagine Raptor Face shrieking like a condor as she descends upon her prey man, meal or competition.

  16. The Dark One says:

    The idea of one’s low willpower stat dooming them to marriage is pretty horrifying. Thanks for the existential crisis, Cara!

  17. The Random One says:

    Mr. Darcy mention detected. Obligatory meme deployed. Have a nice day.

    Also, maybe the reason reading a book tires DOOMBRINGER Benett so much is that she’s reading the really heady, Gravity Rainbow level stuff. You never know!

  18. Lemming says:

    “Scared the shit out of Mr Collins. ENTAIL THAT, COLLINS.”

    Well done for making me laugh out loud at 3:20am! (sober)

  19. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    Well, I got to the “COME GET ME, DARCY” bit and jhst woke up my housemate laughing. Well done.

    Also, I can vouch for the naming rule. Dragon Age 1 & 2 where much improved by my playing as characters named KILLBASTARD and Gaylord, respectively.

  20. SuicideKing says:

    Cara might just be the most entertaining writer on RPS. I had a grin(FACE) throughout the article.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    It’s good that some Jane Austen fan works get that Austen didn’t particularly like Georgian England, in the same way that a lot of steampunk misses the bit in Michael Moorcock’s work where the British Empire and Victorian Britain were actually kinda sucky for a whole lot of people. The idea of flouncing around in dresses and having rich men fawn over you might appeal to some people, but that’s like saying piracy was exciting and adventurous – there are a whole lot of edges sanded off the mythos.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      While that’s true, it always seemed to me (although I’ve only read a mere smattering of her works) that Jane Austen never quite disavowed her culture—it was Gregorian, you say? See, I find the history and society of English nobility so insufferable that I can’t say I quite internalized that—and so I find myself in relation to her what any actual Socialist is to Obama.

  22. WladTapas says:

    GODDAMN that Mr. Collins! Do I need a 10 foot pole here?

  23. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    You may well be right that Austen deserves a more complete and complex videogame adaptation. However, I’m pretty sure I’d never play it. The two or three Austen books I’ve read just cemented for me how I find the entirety of Victorian culture insufferable—and while her prose is fantastic and she does often satirize or interestingly examine the culture, she never entirely breaks with it, and by the end of each novel I remember finding myself hating every single character. Every. Single. One. (Well, not that they remained single—-heyooooo!). I even despised Elizabeth Bennet by the end of Pride & Prejudice, and I actually rather liked her at the beginning.

    Now, if it was a game where I could play Elizabeth Bennet or such a character and it was freeform enough to let me break the narrative and just go around punching smug, repressed Victorian aristocrats in their smug, repressed faces? That I could get behind.

    • JanusForbeare says:

      Now, if it was a game where I could play Elizabeth Bennet or such a character and it was freeform enough to let me break the narrative and just go around punching smug, repressed Victorian aristocrats in their smug, repressed faces? That I could get behind.

      Grand Theft Carriage: Saint Andrews.

      Do want.

      • foop says:

        Clearly, the world of Austen is crying out for a first-person, open world shooter. With dancing QTE mini games.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Jane Austen died before Queen Victoria was born!