Demo Review: Solar Echoes: The Star Legation

VN Game Den received a request through our Review Form from the developer to review the demo of Solar Echoes: The Star Legation.

Solar Echoes is a science fiction tabletop RPG with an upcoming visual novel tie-in called Solar Echoes: The Star Legation. The developer is currently seeking funds through a Kickstarter campaign to add partial voice acting to the game, and a demo is now available. You play as Trey Donovan, a man whose actions on a planet of exiles brought him to the attention of humanity’s leadership, who now wish to make him their representative on a mission to unite the various interstellar races. Although he’s reluctant, they make him an offer he can’t refuse.

The premise requires some suspension of disbelief. You need to accept that an exile with no experience interacting with aliens is chosen for an interstellar diplomacy mission to visit alien races humanity doesn’t know a whole lot about (and can’t share too much information with him, because that might bias him), some of which are at war with one another, to convince them to join a new alliance. If you can get past that, The Star Legation has the potential to be a fun sci-fi adventure.

You meet two aliens in the demo, both of whom are very different from one another, as well as a human woman named Sarah who will be in contact with Trey as his liaison. She is one of the two possible romance options in the full game. While it’s a little disappointing that in a sci-fi visual novel, the only romance options are both human, your choices should still influence your relationship with other characters. I don’t have a solid feel for the characters yet from the demo, but I did enjoy Trey’s interactions with the alien pilot Daeon, whose unfamiliarity with human idioms leads to some amusing moments.

One selling point of The Star Legation is that it features RPG elements in addition to the usual choice-based visual novel structure. Early on, Sarah asks a few questions about Trey that let you choose his skillset. For example, you can choose whether you studied cybertech or engineering and whether you’re good at persuading people or at discerning their motives. Although these factors don’t come into play in the demo, they should open up more variability in the full game. There is also one point in the demo where you need to click an object in the environment to proceed, but since it only occurs once and the description doesn’t mention adventure game elements, it seems unlikely to be a common thing.

In addition to choosing your skills, there are several points where you have dialogue choices to make. The impact of these decisions isn’t apparent in the demo, but near the end I had to choose whether or not to intervene in an argument between my two alien companions. Choices like this should influence character relationships, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the full game (which will feature 5 main endings and 32 total ending variations), especially once more characters are added into the mix.

The music is good and fitting for a space adventure, and as I mentioned above, there is currently a Kickstarter campaign to add voice acting. The initial goal will only add voice acting for the two possible love interests, Sarah and Kaori. While that is the base goal, stretch goals include the possibility of voice acting for Trey during the romance scenes, and even full voice acting for the entire cast.

Moving on, I have mixed feelings about the art. The backgrounds look good, but something about the character sprites seems a little off to me—especially Trey’s sprite when he changes expressions. It’s especially strange since he’s the main protagonist. On the other hand, there are many beautiful shots and great cinematic moments that help bring the visual novel to life.

While Solar Echoes: The Star Legation has a somewhat shaky story premise, the demo introduces enough of the potential conflicts the characters may face along the way for me to be intrigued about where the story will go. The plot direction isn’t clear yet, but here’s hoping it expands into an exciting space adventure.

You can download the free demo for Solar Echoes: The Star Legation from Steam or itch.io, and you can also check out the voice acting Kickstarter campaign here.