Have You Played… Long Live The Queen?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Halfway between visual novel and ultra-specific RPG, Long Live The Queen is a surprisingly brutal matter of trying to stay alive when everyone – and everything – wants you dead, through no fault of your own. Unless you consider your own birth to be something you did deliberately.

In the past I’ve called it a Sansa Stark simulator, and while admittedly Long Live The Queen’s young regent-to-be has a whole lot more guile and agency than Ned’s eldest daughter typically displays, this is still very much about a innocent being targeted purely because of the family she happened to be born into. Long Live The Queen is an increasingly tense juggling act, as forces from within and without steadily rise in number and threat. Choices about who you dance with, whether you focus on improving your own physical skills or courtly decorum and how you allocate the kingdom’s budget will all come back to bite you, and will all lead inexorably to a grim fate. Until you work out the right sequence of events, of course. There’s repetition, but that’s also the fun of it – gradually learning how to become the best monarch you can be, and how to roll with every unexpected punch, be it literal or political.

It’s fascinating, compelling, and a thousand times crueller than those breezy screenshots might suggest.

Long Live The Queen is out now (and has been since last Summer), either direct from the devs or on Steam.

37 Comments

  1. thedosbox says:

    Happy to see this on the list. Playing through to “achieve” the different failure scenarios is hilariously compelling, even if you’ve managed to achieve the “success” ending.

  2. LuckyLuigi says:

    Or from GOG here if you hate DRM like me.
    It IS possible to win different ways and sometimes the wrong choice or blunder can work out well later. The game is cleverer than you think.

    • welverin says:

      Steam isn’t DRM, there are DRM options, but they aren’t required and Long Live the Queen doesn’t use them.

      • Tacroy says:

        It’s weird how many people don’t realize that a ton of the games on Steam will happily run if you just go in to their directory and run the executable, even if Steam is not even on your computer any more.

      • JoeyJungle says:

        Thank you for correcting him, seeing people who think all games on Steam have DRM is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

  3. mlaskus says:

    I really disliked this game due to it’s design.
    It relies extremely heavilly on accumulating knowledge on subsequent replays. On a single playthrough you are not given enough information to make any sensible decisions regarding the development of your character.

    Oh, it’s week 7 and you didn’t spend any time hawking, fighting or training magic?(I don’t remember specific examples, but this is close enough) Too bad, you die in a fixed event that required having at least one of these skills.

    Developing skills is also extremely unintuitive, apparently you are better at learning some skills when depressed. Wot.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      As a contrary opinion: As alluded to in your own post, many (most?) deaths are preventable by any of at least three skills, often more. The classic example being the (vague spoiler alert) deadly gift you receive at one point, which can be prevented by any decent amount of divination (“oh, an omen, better watch out”), dog handling (your dog saves you), poisons (recognise the problem, find the cure), and/or knowledge of trade and whatnot (“this obviously can’t have come from where it says it came from”).

      I found that success generally came by specialising in a few skills, then being careful to pick options that make use of those skills. I’m not going to try to climb a ship’s mast if I’ve never practiced climbing, I’m not going to go to the parade unless I have some decent skill to show off, etc.

      I think my main complaint would be that I wish it had a New Game Plus mode that gave you an initial boost to skills you’d already developed in previous games, and/or made you focus on skills you hadn’t. Or even just dynamically hinted at skills you might want to develop to see alternate endings. It’s all too easy to get into a rut of knowing what skills you need by what dates but then never trying any of the others, any of which might have worked just as well to save you.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        That’s not really disproving mlaskus’ point, I think. Which is (if I’m not mistaken) the following bit:

        It relies extremely heavilly on accumulating knowledge on subsequent replays. On a single playthrough you are not given enough information to make any sensible decisions regarding the development of your character.

        Or, trial and error.

      • mlaskus says:

        You haven’t really addressed my point. There is about 30 skills in the game, could be more, could be less, doesn’t really matter. Unless you’ve played the game already, you have no idea what skills will be useful and what level should you develop them to.

        You stumble blindly through evens until you die or reach some other failure state. You now know that in a few events you need to have some skills to succeed. So you restart and readjust your minmaxing. I feel nauseous just thinking about it.

        It also, has the horrible, horrible system linking your emotions and dialogues you choose to pursue in between events to skill gains.

        Core gameplay is all about trial and error and min-maxing stat gains. It’s like playing Guess Who with a few fixed scenarios, except you are playing it all alone, no one is laughing and sometimes you lose even though you’ve figured it out because you did not adjust your numbers optimally.

        The thing is, games like this don’t have to have such brain dead gameplay. Way back when, this genre was established by the likes of Princess Maker. The thing is, that thing also relied heavily on trial and error, but it’s rules were mostly logicall(contrary to LLtQ), there was randomness changing the game up a little on each playthrough and it was rich enough with choices that you could wing it and have a satisfying experience on your first go.

        • mlaskus says:

          Actually, let me recommend a different game that I think scratches a similar itch, while being vastly superior in pretty much every respect.

          Cinders, takes the story of Cinderella and expands on it a lot – it adds multiple layers to most characters. The game is more of a visual novel than a stat heavy Princess Maker kind of game, but it still allows you to explore the world and story on multiple replays taking you to completely different end points.

          The game focuses very heavily on conversations and building relationships with other characters. I’ve found it extremely satisfying to see how people reacted to my actions and how Cinders’ relationships with them developed.
          I recommend it a lot, especially if you don’t like min maxing and making decisions without any context like in LLtQ.

          moacube.com/games/cinders/

        • hanakogames says:

          Just a note – I love Princess Maker dearly and have written Princess Maker clones before. This -isn’t- one and was never meant to be one. They’re barely even in the same genre.

          LLTQ isn’t meant to be balanced or fair, it’s meant to murder you repeatedly so you can laugh about it. If you don’t find struggling against ridiculous odds and cute out-of-the-blue death funny, this is probably not a game for you. If you want a game that treats all your choices as equally good ideas and carries you through to the end no matter what, even if you decided to spend your entire education riding horses instead of learning how to rule a country, this is not a game for you. Tastes differ!

          It’s also intrinsic to the design that there is no randomness. Because there is no randomness, everything is possible from the beginning and always was possible, based on your choices. More importantly, every character action that’s going on behind the scenes – and this is a game where every NPC has an agenda and is working towards it from the start – all of that was going on in every previous game, whether you noticed it or not. For the right kind of player, suddenly figuring out that X is the traitor who’s been trying to murder you, and they’ve been doing that in EVERY SINGLE GAME, even the ones where you thought X was your best friend and made X the heir to the throne… that Eureka moment is worth everything.

          In a game like Princess Maker where the plot is practically nonexistent, randomness is fun. In this case, randomness would ruin everything. Every named NPC has a backstory, a family history, an interrelation with the other characters, and so on. No one randomly becomes good or evil. Because nothing is random and everything is consistent, you can answer the question of “What would have happened if?” What would have happened if you’d gotten your magical powers early enough to use them in the very first battle? What would have happened if you’d detected the traitor early and had him/her executed? How would the story change?

          There are a LOT of different ways things can turn out. There are many paths to victory. People have found solutions I didn’t realise would work, and I wrote the thing!

          But yes, summing up. If “learn through hilarious death” sounds like no fun to you, this is not your game.

          • mlaskus says:

            Thank you for responding, it’s always cool to interact with the developer.
            I really wanted to like your game but it frustrated me a lot. As evidenced by the comments section a lot of people enjoy it and that’s cool. I’ve felt it needed pointing out that the game can really irk people like me.

            I don’t really want games that won’t let me fail, but I get irritated by having to learn everything through trial and error. Having to replay hours of stat grinding to get back to where I failed and try again.

          • hanakogames says:

            No problem. Sorry it wasn’t fun for you!

          • HadToLogin says:

            “it’s meant to murder [woman character] repeatedly so you can laugh about it” – and RPS endorse it, that’s funny.

        • Oakreef says:

          Dialogue choices and the events that happen tend to affect your mood much less than the activities you get to pick at the end of each turn which are entirely within your power. But yeah the game is very much trial and error. That’s not a fault or a good thing. It’s just how the game works and that won’t appeal to everyone.

    • AngoraFish says:

      This game is absolutely infuriating and I couldn’t agree more strongly, however to elaborate.

      Long Live the Queen is a piece of interactive fiction masquerading as a life sim, and suffers horribly from this pretence.

      Skills are only noticeably used to pass skill checks associated with tightly scripted events that occur in the same week and same order, every single game. For example, you might need to have Economics skill level 30 in week 4, and Decoration skill 40 in week 6 to trigger a significant event chain. This means that if you happen to randomly level these skills up in the reverse order the event chain simply never triggers, even though the only difference in your skill “build” is a couple of weeks.

      Tight timeframes mean that there’s little opportunity for nuance, exploration of skill trees or character customisation. After a few play-throughs, the game inevitably becomes a process of “level skill X to prepare for scripted skill check Y in week Z”, then “level skill A to prepare for scripted skill check B in week C”, and so on.

      It gets worse, however, as skill checks are so rare, and the skills so numerous, that you can find yourself unknowingly levelling useless skills for weeks beyond the time the last skill check in the game has occurred for that particular skill.

      Furthermore, in many cases, skills have no noticeable purpose and presumably only come into play in certain dialogue trees that can unwittingly be closed off even though the game makes no effort to prevent you from continuing to level these skills thinking they might have some future purpose.

      Finally, for something that is presented as a life sim, about relationships and personal development, with little meaningful warning and with only a couple of trivial ways to avoid it, we learn in week 35 that we have instead been playing an economic and military simulator all along – that the failure of a 14 year old girl to prepare for scripted events in weeks M and N has fundamentally influenced a kingdom’s economic development and military preparedness over a period of barely three or four months.

      Life sims work best when the story being told is the player’s, not the developer’s. Consequently, life sims need to be as unscripted and open ended as practical in order to allow the player’s unique story to shine through meaningful customisation, emergent events and improbable outcomes.

      Unfortunately, all that’s happening in Long Live the Queen is that traditional interactive fiction dialogue trees have been obfuscated by an abstract series of player-chosen numbers presenting an initially misleading illusion of player agency, although in practice it is only the developer’s story that is actually being told.

      • hanakogames says:

        Again to clarify – people have found routes through the game that even I didn’t know existed. There is not one single story here. There are quite a few, and the pieces can be put together in different ways by the player.

        You can win the game with no economic or military preparation at all. In multiple ways.

        Is there a way you think I can more strongly indicate that this is not a game about ‘relationships’ and ‘personal development’ – other than the existing game trailer and game description which already emphasize difficulty, political maneuvering, and repeated death?

        • mlaskus says:

          I think you misunderstand why exactly both of us disliked the game.
          The difficulty is hardly an issue, the repeated deaths wouldn’t even be very frustrating if not for the ridiculous, arbitrary and boring skill progression – focusing on min maxing through repeated playthroughs.

          I didn’t have much of a problem playing the game, I think I’ve had a reasonably successful attempt on my fourth try or so. I survived and the kingdom seemed to be doing OK.

          Having so many skills and absolutely zero indication which of them would be useful, almost no room to make mistakes due to very tight schedule is simply bad design. Though, I guess if you designed the game with masochists in mind then it’s fair enough, you did succeed at that.

          • AngoraFish says:

            100% agree with all the above.

            Initially I really enjoyed the game, and even got the Steam badge. I have six hours play time, which is more than 98% of my game collection.

            This should be exactly the kind of game I love. I certainly didn’t mind the dying, and that part of the game was made extremely clear up-front in all the reviews.

            As it turns out, the game is actually just a process of reverse engineering the programmer’s predetermined trigger points.

            I should say, however, that the game would suffer even more from a translation into more traditional choose-our-own-adventure style interactive fiction. A young girl inventing the printing press and modern economics? And having these change the course of the universe in a couple of months? I mean, seriously…

          • Rizlar says:

            The thing is, all of these criticisms are based on the game not being what it isn’t. It’s not a life sim or whatever. It’s not a game with gradual stat progression. Cause and effect isn’t supposed to be intuitive. The stats only really exist as a way to unlock different routes, not something to raise for the sake of it. It seems a stretch to even call the process min-maxing, it’s more like juggling.

            Fair enough, neither of you enjoyed the game. But you can only criticise it so much for being a game you didn’t like, the things you complain about are either based on misapprehension of what the game is, or touch on the very heart of what LLTQ is, ie. apparently arbitrary skills letting you explore storylines through trial and unexpected death.

            Anyhoo, been thinking about this for way too long now, so I’ve had an idea for something that might make the systems easier to engage with. Games like Papers, Please and some JRPGs have branching story trees where you can follow the different decisions made, rewind and pick different paths etc, eventually mapping out the whole possibility space of the game. LLTQ is probably too chaotic and complex to make a single, readable and cohesive tree, but if you could rewind through a specific playthrough and create new branches when you want, creating your own trees within the possibility space of the game, this may go some way to helping people feel more in control of their experience.

            I imagine this is pretty much what people end up doing anyway, with multiple saves and notes on what happened and when. A visible tree integrated into the game would make it very easy to explore and keep track of everything.

          • mlaskus says:

            That’s a good point. I do realize the game is not a life sim – but the way it uses stats is highly reminiscent of those.
            Which I feel is an extremely poor way of structuring the branching of what is essentially a visual novel.

            Inklestudio’s Sorcery uses an approach similar to what you’re describing. It actually allows you to rewind the story to any point in time whenever you want and explore different branches.
            link to inklestudios.com

            I also really liked the way in Cinder, whener you’re replaying it, you can have the game automatically skip over the scenes which you’ve already seen play out this specific way.
            link to moacube.com

            Choice of Games, while they do vary in quality a lot, are pretty satisfying to explore. They rely heavily on stats and reward consistenty role playing a character.
            https://www.choiceofgames.com

          • hanakogames says:

            ‘Consistent’ is an interesting choice of words (er) because that’s actually one of the things that I occasionally have problems with in certain ChoiceOfGames stories and other RPGs with, say, a Karma meter.

            It tends to bother me if the ‘right’ way to play a game with choices is to pick the same thing every time. It feels like it defeats the point of having multiple decisions if the only right way to play, mechanically, is to make a decision at the beginning and stick with it all the way through. Especially if the game goes out of its way to try and make “blind good” and “blind evil” equally rewarding and just a matter of personal preference, but “depending on the situation” something that should be avoided at all costs. There are times when that makes sense from a story perspective, but there are other times where it bothers me to be pushed towards extremes.

            That is, of course, a matter of personal taste and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on that.

          • mlaskus says:

            I agree, the Choice of Games don’t use a particularly smart approach to this problem, but it does work well in the well written ones.
            In the good ones, because they do vary in quality a lot, the choices are not obvious, but you are supposed to play to the strengths that your character has already developped. It’s easy to mess it up and end up at a failure state but it doesn’t feel arbitrary.

    • sokolov22 says:

      I am curious about how you feel about platformers and adventure games in general (and in some ways game in general), most of which tend to be about repeated playthroughs and accumulated knowledge. Are there games that don’t reward you for playing again? If I play Starcraft the first time, I am going to be terrible, and I will lose/die/whatever. And how many times did you die on Mario or Zelda at each new location until you figured it out? Is that not a similar thing?

      Personally, I LOVE when games reward me for learning, rather than punish me for doing so – such as in LIMBO, which teaches you things and then uses that knowledge AGAINST you.

      • mlaskus says:

        That is a fair question.
        In LLtQ I’ve felt punished for trying to learn the game – I hated having to redo the skill learning bits.
        In Mario(the NES variant, I presume) I’ve died hundreds of time before I reached the real princess, but every time I’ve died I’ve felt like I’ve learnt something new while the simpler parts of the game became almost completely automated for me. The systems in place may have been simple, but they were elegant and required a degree of mastery to get through consistently.

        Starcraft, while not a game that I particularly enjoy, also uses a different approach. The game itself is not very sophisticated, the challenge comes from learning it’s systems more thoroughly than other players – which is not a constant, but rather an evolving challenge.
        Where a visual novel is a fixed challenge that never changes so repetition is more grating.

  4. iridescence says:

    Big problem with this game for me is it’s pretty easy and fast to beat it and get a good ending . Once I did that I didn’t really feel like playing again to try to see the other endings but if you’re that sort of completionist it’s a good game I guess. I got it on sale and was done with it in 2 hours. Had I paid regular price it would have been annoying.

    I wish they had randomized stuff a bit. It’d make future playthroughs a lot more palatable if the game events didn’t unfold in the same order all the time.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I thought about playing this (because the idea sounded lovely and I liked the art), but a lot of the descriptions of the game sounded like it’s mostly a long repetition of try and error, and I don’t think I’d enjoy that.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, pretty much. Dying over and over again is still very entertaining, there is a lot of variety in how stuff plays out and I don’t think there is just one path to success. Lots of events only seem to appear if you have learnt certain skills or made certain choices in the past.

      Keep meaning to go back to it and try to win (not die). Got pretty far by focusing on one specific set of skills but ultimately I needed some other edge. Really don’t want to look up a guide though, since that would ruin it.

  6. Oakreef says:

    Yesss. Great fun. Anyone who plays it should know what they’re getting into though: The game might seem like it randomly throws stuff at you at first but there is actually no randomness in the game at all, just branching decisions. It’s very much a game of trial and error and memorizing what skills you need to pass upcoming tests as you progress.

    Dying is usually entertaining in itself though if you have a dark sense of humour. My favourite is if you get a “partial success” on battlefield medicine when struck by an arrow.

  7. Entitled says:

    Just played it last week. Great fun. Similar to visual novels, running through a route is relatively easy, but actually discovering the way to all the paths can truly be called a “playthrough”.

  8. MartinWisse says:

    Yes, I have played it. In principle this would be right up my street and I don’t mind the “discover optimal strategies by dying a lot” but ultimately the gameplay was too repetitive to make me want to play to the good ending.

  9. Niko says:

    I was a badass princess who survived two assassinations, won a war with little losses, but then ate some poisoned chocolates and died.

    • someloser says:

      those blasted chocolates, that and lung-arrow got me almost every time

  10. pund says:

    It’s very agreeable for a few hours, then you complete it & you never look back.