[A copy of my Steam review, written before the release of Act II]
A well written and engaging visual novel with a fictionalised historical backdrop.
I originally played the demo of this game (basically the first chapter with far less polish) a few years back, looking for otome games that went deeper than just pursuing your crush of choice and then living happily ever after.
And all I can say is that this game delivered that, and delivered it in such a way that I've been loyally following the development ever since.
As stated before, this is a more polished release than the one I played before, and I think it is worth the money asked. Act I is a bit on the short side, with the promise by Studio Elfriede that future chapters will be longer.
I must admit to missing the old CG art, but the new art is still serviceable. The backgrounds are simple and drab, which works well with the bleakness of the war.
The writing is where this game shines. Varied characters with different reasons for signing up for the war (or not doing so, as the case may be), not all of them necessarily likeable. I notably like Elfriede, our protagonist, a lot. She actually has a better idea about how the whole thing will turn out than most of the people in her home town, but assumes that she must be overthinking things when almost everyone else is so excited for the war. She has her funny quips (mostly in her internal monologues) early on, but doesn't force them into the later, more sombre scenes, where they would feel out of place. I do hope that her sense of humour comes back in future acts, though, to alleviate some of the heavy mood once she gets more used to the general atmosphere in the trenches.
I wholeheartedly recommend this game (though if you hate episodic releases, you should probably hold out until it is finished), as long as you can handle a story where your favourite love interest might not make it to the end.
Because We're Here - Act I
A downloadable game for Windows, macOS, and Linux
Because We’re Here is a bittersweet otome dating sim in an unforgiving WW1-inspired setting.
It's a narrative-driven episodic visual novel. This is the first of four acts.
Can you find love amongst doomed youth?
1915, Wesslinger National Calendar. The Great War rages on.
As neurotic Postal Corps volunteer Elfriede Rauss, you walk the trenches with the men of a lost generation. And amidst the chaos and brutality of the front lines, you encounter an obstacle that you are absolutely and categorically not prepared for: love.
However. Love can be a difficult thing to hold on to at the best of times. And these are not the best of times...
- A Horror-Tinged Anti-War Epic - Act I sets in motion a twisting trench-opera of conflicted loyalties and life-changing decisions. This opening act features 20 pieces of original CG art.
- Romance a Diverse Array of Bachelors - 16 love interests in total, spanning childhood friends, aristocrats, corporals and cowards. (Act I introduces 11 main characters.)
- Discover a Rich WW1-Inspired Setting - Journey across the distinctive towns and battlefronts of the First Lassallian War.
- Master the Battle of Wits System - Argumentative boss battles that pit your emotional literacy and persuasive power against enemies and allies alike.
Estimated playthrough time for Act I (Never Such Innocence) is roughly 3 hours. (55k words.)
Act I is a significantly-updated version of the early WIP demos from 2015 and 2016.
Act II of Because We're Here is out now, with Act III expected in 2020:
All Because We're Here purchases on Itch include a Steam key.
|Platforms||Windows, macOS, Linux|
|Release date||Jul 19, 2018|
|Tags||Alternate History, Anime, Dark Humor, Dating Sim, Female Protagonist, Otome, renpy, Story Rich, War, World War I|
|Average session||About an hour|
|Links||Steam, Devlog, Twitter, Ko-Fi|
In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $5.99 USD. Your purchase comes with a Steam key. You will get access to the following files:
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[A copy of my Steam review, written before the release of Act II]
My heart has been blown to bits. Ripped to pieces on the barbed wire. Bled out in no-man's land. I can't remember the last piece of media that left me so shattered.
Despite knowing from the start (for years, now, since the early demos) that the trenches are a terrible place to find love, the power of the characters and the relationships forged between them drew me in anyway. Perhaps it’s alright to just like one or two, I rationalized things. Surely their odds are decent in such a large cast. But I didn’t learn my lesson from Act I, and Act II proved me wrong in all the worst ways.
BWH’s greatest strength, after the charisma of its characters, is the impact made by its twists and turns. This is a story that leaves you breathless, destroyed, emotionally gutted. That’s not to say that the narrative loses its value once the initial shock wears off - there’s still more, going back to discover other routes and see the details overlooked on the first reading. On a meta level, the structure of the game also adds to the experience. The “Battle of Wits” system never distracts from the plot - rather, they are implemented organically and enhance the reader’s emotional investment with their flexible uses, from straightforward confrontations to Elfriede’s struggles against her own fears and insecurities to, worst of all, some battles that she just can’t talk her way out of, no matter how much you wish she could.
It’s not for the faint of heart. More than anything else, BWH strives to illustrate the horrors of WWI, and I can only imagine how much worse things will get in the last two acts. The content is shocking, the art is bloody (though not gory, despite the implications of some passages), and death is ever-present and indiscriminate. But for lovers of tragedies, or those who just can’t help but hold out hope for their favorites (like myself), BWH is a game that simply must not be overlooked.
(Review cross-posted from Steam.)
Thanks so much for the wonderful game. =) You're awesome!
[Reposting my Steam review here: tldr, I really really enjoyed this and highly recommend it!]
I first encountered this visual novel a day before it was released, and immediately I was excited – I love historical settings, and WWI doesn’t get nearly enough media attention, and the characters looked very varied and setting-appropriate, so I had high hopes. Having played the first act now, I can say that the VN delivered everything I wanted and more.
Firstly, this is a very well-researched story. Everything from the details of the trenches to the many different wartime roles that were available to the different kinds of reactions people had to the war – and how they changed over time – are replicated here perfectly. But it doesn’t feel either overwhelming or confusing – apart from a brief explanation of the political history of the war early on, there’s no exposition, instead allowing the reader to familiarise themselves with the world by watching it unfold. It’s worth noting now that this story isn’t technically based on the real WWI – the countries and their geography are different, with some interesting results – but if you want something that captures the spirit of WWI in a very personal, in-the-trenches way, I can’t fault it.
The art also contributes to the feel of it. While I actually wasn’t super fond of the CG art, the sprites are very well-drawn and expressive, and fit very well into the setting despite not being hyper realistic. And the music is perfect – from the very first scene, the usage of traditional classical music perfectly expresses the dramatic moment, and other scenes continue, whether it’s upbeat folk music for the scene where everyone is just so darn excited to sign up to go to war, or sour dirges for when things inevitably go to ♥♥♥♥.
And as I’d hoped, the characters are all very different, reflecting a broad range of attitudes towards the war, and towards each other. You have the eager young lad determined to prove himself a hero, the draft-dodger who is castigated by the townspeople, the lout who just wants to beat some heads of the other side… but they don’t end there in those boxes, either. Even over Act I, we see very quickly how the war affects people, sometimes in drastic ways. Things change, and in a very real way.
The romantic system is also worth a note. It’s kind of a mix of the traditional ‘choose dialogue options your character will like’ system and the more modern ‘just straight-up pick the person you want to date’ option, but with a very unique twist – once you pick a character to get on their route, you’re not locked in. You can totally change to get onto someone else’s route later, if you decide you like them better. Which is good, because there’s going to be even more love interests introduced in Act II (beyond the 10 already available!!). I really like this idea, allowing for more flexibility over your route choices, while still making your dialogue options feel like they matter (as you can’t get on someone’s route if they don’t really like you much).
Then there’s the Battle of Wits system – interestingly for a war game, the real gameplay is actually in debates, where you will have to choose the most persuasive or most accurate response in order to win an argument. But it does actually make sense in such a thoughtful vn, set in a time when people were starting to drastically change how they talked and felt about war. And it works well – both times it comes up in Act I, it makes a lot of sense how it would have an impact, and the choices were reasonable if you thought about it. (For what it’s worth, I got a perfect score… except on the coup de grace of the Elfriede vs Elfriede match. Which was instantly reloaded, because I myself probably would’ve been a draft dodger, given my cowardice :P)
But I’ve been dancing around the real reason this VN left such an impression on me. WWI wasn’t like any war that came before it, or really any after it. People really went in thinking it’d be a gallant, noble affair, over by Christmas, but it was the opposite in every possible way. It was dreary and dark and cold and depressing, unartistic and lifeless. And that truth hovers in the background during the first half of the story, through Elfriede’s cautiousness and dramatic irony, but when the second half comes around, it becomes clear that this game is not ♥♥♥♥ing around. The author understands this war EXACTLY, and through her writing, manages to communicate every bit of the hopelessness and tedium of it. But that’s not left for only the characters to experience. Be warned: characters will be injured, and maybe even die – and maybe even your favourite. In recent years, I’ve become skeptical of the writing choice to give character’s stories an early and unexpected end for shock value, but this is the perfect setting for it, aligning fully with the tone and themes of the setting and so subverting the expectations of a romance game to tell a true, realistic story. Because this stuff did happen. If you don’t think you could deal with that, knowing that your love interest is not safe, then this isn’t the game for you. But if you want a story that will punch you in the gut and deliver something you probably haven’t seen before, please do play it.
I should at least mention the few things I didn’t like. As I said, I found the CG art weirdly amateurish compared to the sprites, in a way borderline inappropriate for the setting. As this is Act I, not all of the characters get much attention – for a couple, it’s hard to see how Elfriede could have developed any positive feelings for them by the time it comes to pick a route, but that’s just a structural problem. And I could see others finding this Act too short for the price point, but as someone who measures stories more by impact than time taken, I am completely satisfied.
In short: this is a very well researched and written story with a wide variety of interesting characters well developed, which captures an atmosphere that isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. It is dark – the creator doesn’t consider it a borderline horror game for no reason – but it’s not so merely for shock or edginess points. These are events that really happened, for real reasons, and every sentence of the story exudes that. And that means that, even in between the awfulness and misery and tedium, there was also friendship, and laughter, and love. To what extent the latter will win out over the worst of the war will only be revealed over Acts II to IV, and I for one will be there on day one.
I want to say I love this game. The plot is great, the writing is fitting, the characters are all extremely likable, and the MC has a lot of personality for an otome game. I'm sure it will be great once it's complete.
That said, Act I is just an introduction to the world and (some, not all) ROs. The story is just barely getting started by the end of Act I. When it ended it left me feeling frustrated, for a number of reasons. (THAT ending, aargh.)
If the other Acts hold up as well, this could easily become the best otome game ever for people like me who like their dating sims on the angsty side.
I definitely want to see how Elfriede's story continues.
Thanks for your kind words! Yep, the story arc for Act I could be considered an in-depth introductory chapter, whereas Act II focuses mostly on Elfriede's experiences now that she's made it to the front. (Incidentally, Act II is also the longest episode, ha.) I hope you enjoy it when it's out~!
[I bought this on Steam because it was available there first. This is a copy of my review from there]
A neat WWI-flavored game that deals with a heavy topic: how people are able to live meaningful lives in a world menaced by something as meaningless as war. Of course romance is an option, but it's not the only one. There's a fair amount of humor to balance out the mood, which is nice, and the writing quality is good; I took a number of screenshots to show my friends in IRC, which is my usual yardstick for how much I enjoy a game's story. (Also, "please calm down" should be a choice in all dating sims.) Characters are complex and there's a great variety of them, so there's sure to be at least one to suit anyone's tastes. Gerhardt was my personal favorite, but a few others (like Wolf) unexpectedly grew on me. Walter's route is also a fantastic idea that took me by surprise. The Battles of Wits are enjoyable, although they're a bit on the easy side. I'm eagerly awaiting the second act.
Impressively well-written, every line is so informative so efficiently in a quaint old-timey dialect, the heavy topic is carefully balanced and accentuated by much-appreciated humour that always hits and is very endearing to characters that are already very likeable and whose roles are a great, varied portrayal of pretty much every type of person that could be in this situation and really do feel like their own individual with thought processes that are well-founded. Elfriede is a lovely, silly yet smart protagonist and a breath of fresh air in the otome genre, or any media for that matter. Revolving the story around the instigator to the south is also a refreshing way of handling a topic many are familiar with. Uniquely charming and thoughtfully crafted.
There is a lot of interesting characters in here. I liked it quite a lot, it's both hearthwarming and heartwrenching story. I cant wait to see next act.
Is there a demo available?
There is no Act I demo, as it was difficult to cut out a short chunk that worked outside of the narrative (or was in any way representative haha).
(There used to be some 'demos' a couple of years ago, but only in name - they were more like extremely unpolished WIPs of the entire act. More info on that here, if you're interested in the glow-up. ^^)