{Otome Review} Heaven’s Grave~Blackcross & Taylor {18+}

Heaven’s Grave follows Arha (name changeable), a shrine maiden in a small village. The sun sets for multiple days, then comes back and stays at dawn, and just keeps moving randomly. Then water begins to dry up, etc. Soon three Nakami (Gods) appear in her shrine, all in human form, and need her help leading them to the First Temple in order to save the world from the impending apocalypse.

I do want to make this clear: I was contacted by the developers and sent a free download of the game in exchange for an honest review. Getting the game for free did not deter any negative reactions or make me write a 100% positive review, as you will see below.

General Information:

  • Where to get: itch.io page/Steam
  • Cost: $16
  • Love Interests: Three (male)
  • Endings: 7
  • First play through time: About two hours
  • Time to get all endings: About 6 and a half hours (with a cat)

The first thing I noticed was my antivirus program kept detecting the game as being a trojan XD. So, I had to deal with that. Obviously, no, the game wasn’t a trojan. Just know that your antivirus program may have some difficulties with the game.

The title screen for the game doesn’t have the name of the game on it, which isn’t necessarily bad, just a bit odd to me.

My next slight annoyance was that when it’s time to choose the MC’s name, her original name is not in the box. I don’t self-insert, and I like my MC’s having a name, so I actually looked up her name, Arha, and put that. It would have been nice for her name to default there so I didn’t have to go and look it up.

There were a few small spelling errors and the like, but nothing really noteworthy other than a character said “petty” in its slang form, and I doubt that’d be a term given the time period the game seems to take place in (though it’s a fantasy world I believe, so who knows).

The game has a self-voicing feature that I accidentally found out about. If you press V (on Windows anyway), it will turn on a robotic voice that will read the dialogue and what character is speaking. It was great to have a feature for anyone with poor vision or something else that would require sound.

The scroll-back feature was a bit wonky. I could never figure out what made it decide how far to scroll back, but usually it only scrolled back 5 or so lines. There were a few times where I wanted to re-read a scene, but since it only scrolled back about five lines, I couldn’t.

The game features “sounds” and “music,” but they overlap. So if the game has some flutes in the background, and you go to turn down the music, it might actually be a sound effect. This was only really a problem when some sounds would be louder than others, like the INCREDIBLY LOUD  wave sound, and then you’re scrambling to figure out which you need to turn down (and upset your cat as you physically jump from the loudness lol).

A lot of the generic sprites are reused, which is nice since it allows for more side characters to appear. However, I didn’t realize this, so for the first few times sprites were reused, I thought old characters were coming back. That might just be me being dumb though XD.

The lady on the right is one of the generic sprites

This game has one of the fastest skip features I have ever experienced. It was incredible, and only a step behind a “skip to next dialogue choice” button.

The CG artist appears to be the one from The Rose of Segunda, so the CG art is really soft and pretty. It was a bit jarring having the sprites look so different form the CG’s, though. Some of the CG’s are of nature, and they are GORGEOUS.

Okay, now onto the general story progression. The game can be summarized really simply:
walking>camping>catastrophe>repeat

The whole game follows that basic format with slight deviations (walking>camping>walking>camping>catastrophe, etc.) Now this has some downfalls and some benefits. The biggest benefit is that the player gets to see Arha and her guy interact almost constantly. This allows for character growth and for feelings to grow as well. The biggest downfall is that the same things keep on happening over and over again. Most of the game takes place on roads or in forests, so though there are a lot of backgrounds, they’re usually really similar (like multiple backgrounds of a forest), so we don’t even get a change in scenery that often.

To emphasize just how much this structure is true, the guys sit down at camps so much, they all literally have sprites for sitting down.

I found that really funny XD.

This plays into probably the biggest problem of the game. The routes are very same-ie. Once you’ve done one, you’ve done the majority of the others. This is worsened by the prologue. The prologue takes about half of the play time, and having to go back and redo it for each route only to get mildly different scenes got a bit annoying. Since the game follows that basic format (walking>camping>catastrophe>repeat), all of the routes feel almost exactly the same. Sure, the catastrophes are different, but they’re usually not that different. You may see one town be destroyed on one route and another town destroyed in another route, but since the player has no connection to either town, they might as well be the same (and could very well be the same since Tai and Kien’s routes follow similar literal paths to places).

The endings are also all very similar. The good ends are similar to each other and the normal ends are similar to each other. Since there’s three guys, the events in the ends kind of triangulate among them, and even after only seeing one ending, I feared the others would be about the same, and yep, I was right. All the bad endings are the same. The game also has an endings list, but it’s just the name of the ending, so it took me a bit to realize which endings were what.

I didn’t really like any of the endings? XD I suppose it’s the nature of the game, but I wouldn’t consider any of the endings actually “good,” at least if I interpreted them right, and considering all the endings are basically the same, that made me not like any of the endings. I’m very much an “I want an absolute perfectly happy ending” person, so I went in knowing I probably wouldn’t like the endings that much, and the game is clearly not happy from the description, so I can’t fault it too much for its depressing endings.

Something I was not expecting was for this game to have an OTP. No, it’s not stated, but Kien is clearly highly favored in the game in terms of Arha just liking him in general, romance, CG’s (he had more sexy ones lol), and he’s the reason I added 18+ to the title of the game. So yeah, even though the game presents itself as not having an OTP, Kien really is. The other two routes, while they have some romance, can’t even compare. The romance for Tai and Suiza is very slow-burning.

All of the Nakami were brought down to the mortal world, and if any of them die, whatever they were guarding disappears, goes into disarray, etc. This was a really neat concept, though it got kind of confusing sometimes. One event made me assume that this wasn’t taking place on Earth as like…I don’t think the planet would be able to last at all after that… so I feel like it has to be a different planet or an alternate Earth.

There were a few funny things I thought of while playing that made me laugh during terrible times. So they’re always traveling, but the game implies they aren’t walking that fast. They’re just casually strolling as the world’s ending. And almost every time they camp, they make a fire. In the forest it’s to scare of animals, so fair, but on the road, what’s it going to do? For some reason, those two thoughts just tickled me lol.

I actually did guess a big end-game plot point very early on, so I was super proud of that XD.

Finally, onto the characters.

Arha

Arha is great. I was worried she’d be demure since she’s a shrine maiden, but no, she has some sass. Very quickly she blows up at the Nakami (justly so). She’s willing to put up with physical burdens in order to aid the cause, but not avoidable burdens such as the Nakami squabbling (mainly Suiza lmao). She was a great main character as she was such a good combination of sass and genuine kindness despite the terrible situation.

As a shrine maiden, Arha is not allowed to touch the dead. This includes animals, so she isn’t supposed to hunt or eat raw meat, but once it is cooked, then she can touch it and eat it. This poses problems given the situation. Once she is forced to accept that she can’t abide by this any more, there are descriptions of her murdering animals. Now, I can appreciate how it helps show her character. It does. She’s distraught as she’s describing it, and her being distraught is what’s making her think of it in so much detail. However, it was terribly depressing, even more so then the human deaths (to me at least). So I can appreciate why it was there, I just personally didn’t want to read it. Suiza even calls her out on this, “So once it is cooked, it is no longer dead?” Yes, give me that sass, Suiza.

Suiza

Suiza is the Nakami of water, and he’s very haughty, looking down on humans and…well, everyone. Most of the arguments are started by him lol. I went in expecting to like Suiza best, and I was half correct. I was  the most attracted to him and I enjoyed his personality the most, though I didn’t like him the best as a character overall. Suiza’s route differs from the other two as Arha goes one way with the other guys, and with Suiza, she goes the other way. It felt like Suiza’s route had the most death in it? Maybe since it was my first route, I was shocked by all the carnage, so now I assume it had the most.

Over the course of the route, we get to see Suiza really become a better person, and I genuinely don’t think he would have gotten much better had Arha not been with him. Him and Arha argued the most (as expected), but that also made their relationship fun as the constant sassing was entertaining.

Tai

Tai is the Nakami  of the sun and the leader of the Nakami (though there is a higher being than him). Due to this, he is used to acting as a leader and does so throughout the game, often being the voice of reason. He was the most boring of the three as his conflict was him being stressed over being a leader in a situation where he can’t control anything. Tai and Arha have a bit of chemistry early on, at least on his side.

(It was at this point I had to halt the review to hold a cat that needed love.)
(The cat has sat down now.)

Anyway, Suiza gets the short end of the stick here. Arha and Tai have chemistry that she acknowledges, but she doesn’t acknowledge it with Suiza for a REALLY long time (like, end-game). Overall, Tai was an okay character, but he was more bland than Suiza, and his route wasn’t as interesting as Kien’s.

Kien

Kien is the OTP, as said before, and he is the Nakami of nature. He immediately has the hots for Arha, so their chemistry is there from the get-go on both sides, even from the prologue. His route becomes romantic way sooner than the other two, so his route felt more in-line with what one would expect from an otome game. I went in expecting to like Kien the least as initially, I found him the least attractive (since Tai and Suiza got sassy looks in the prologue), but by the end, I thought he looked better than Tai, and he became my favorite overall character. A lot of this is due to his less dramatic personality. Much of Tai’s and Suiza’s routes are focused on how they look down on others (including Arha), whereas Kien doesn’t nearly as much, and he seldom looks down on Arha. In both Suiza’s and Tai’s routes, there is a dramatic moment between them and Arha caused by about the same thing on both routes, but in Kien’s route, the reason is completely different as Kien isn’t acting high and mighty and is looking at the situation for what it is. I was for thankful for a change, and thankful that at least one of the Nakami wasn’t falling for people’s crap.

Since Kien controls nature, him and Arha travel through the woods most of this time. This means that their route focuses more on animal predators instead of bandits and what not. This route wins in the romance department, and I ship them. They’re super cute together. As I said, he’s the reason I labeled the game as 18+ (not graphic or really even described, but you know it happened). I was shook, especially considering how slow-burning Tai and Suiza’s romance was, and they never got anywhere near this level. One thing I found really unrealistic is that they bang, but then, they just walk for hours in a forest.

??????

Now, I’m certainly not the most educated when it comes to banging, but I’d imagine she’d be feeling at least mild pain??? She was already in pain from general wear and tear and walking all the time, but now her…ya know…hurts, too??? Don’t get me wrong, it made enough sense, and I got why it happened when it did, but goodness, consider her……….ya know. Especially since it’s basically confirmed her first time.

Play Order:

I would recommend Tai>Suiza>Kien. This leaves Kien for last and starts you out with the most boring route. Plus, Tai and Kien’s routes share similarities in some parts, so breaking them up is nice.

Should you play?:

In case my very long game progression discussion wasn’t clear, this game is very much plot-oriented instead of romance. There isn’t really much romance at all in Tai’s and Suiza’s routes, so if you want romance, then this game is not for you. The overarching plot of the game was interesting, though the execution could drag on a bit sometimes (walking>camping>catastrophe>repeat lol), so I’d catch myself wanting to put something on in the background or take a few minutes break to recollect myself. Some of this was also caused by the game being depressing. The game is really sad. There isn’t really any happiness here other than Arha and her guy getting together. I feel like this game would be better as just a straight VN without any romance, or at least the romance not being a focal point and it just being a story of survival and trying to save the world.

If you enjoy apocalyptic stories or otome games that have a lot of plot (at the expense of romance), as well as don’t mind how sad it is, then this game would be great for you. For anyone who wants a light-fluffy game, first, the plot description should be enough to know it’s not lol. But I’ll confirm; it’s not. This game wouldn’t be for you. If you want your otome game to have happy endings (beyond the MC and her guy getting together), then this game also wouldn’t be for you.

As someone who generally prefers my otome games to have a lot of plot (even at the expense of romance), but, also wants happy endings, there was only so much I could enjoy the game. All the guys were okay enough, the plot was fine, and some of the journey was fun, but much of the game was ruined by my dislike for all the endings and how same-ie a lot of it felt.

So would I recommend the game? If you’re someone like me, then no. If you view a happy ending as needing more than just the MC and her guy getting together, then this game, and most depressing otome games, are not for you. But, if that doesn’t bother you, and you can look past some of the same-ie aspects of the game, then there’s an interesting plot and fun characters, you just have to dig past the sadness and repetition to find them.

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