Developed by: ALICE IN DISSONANCE
Published by: Sekai Project
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: Out Now!
This might be the first visual novel I’ve reviewed! Whilst I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the genre, I do dip into it now and again. It’s quite relaxing to enjoy an interactive story that isn’t too intensive gameplay-wise, and recently I’ve found the fault games to be fantastic examples of that. Not that visual novels cannot be complex; take the branching parallel worlds of YU-NO, or the clever fourth-wall-breaking tricks of Doki Doki Literature Club.
However, the fault games are kinetic novels, putting the full focus onto a linear story without many deviations, mixing in fantasy, adventure, and even a little sci-fi. In this review, I am going to be talking about the first game, fault – milestone one; this game was originally released on PC back in 2013, but a lot of the visual and audio aspects were revamped in 2018. Following this, the game released on Switch and PS4 in 2020, and the Switch version is the one that I played!
-WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE EARLY PORTION OF FAULT – MILESTONE ONE AHEAD-
A Story to Tell
Our two main characters are Princess Selphine and her Royal Guard Ritona, who form the classic pairing of a more outgoing, friendly type and a cool, reserved character respectively. There’s much more depth to their relationship than that, though, and we see it develop at a well-judged pace throughout fault – milestone one. Upon starting the story, we’re immediately thrown into the action; their Kingdom of Rughzenhaide is under attack, and things are looking desperate. The invading forces, which include the charismatically dangerous duo of Koko and Mharie, have reached the heart of the Kingdom and are hunting Selphine down. Koko and Mharie are an intriguing, villainous mirror to Selphine and Ritona, with Koko the impatient one and Mharie amusingly morbid about everything. With the Kingdom in flames and our main characters fleeing, the situation looks dire; things only get worse from here, with the enemy leader Melano arriving.
It’s an intense opening – and ingenious, as it establishes crucial traits of the main characters. For example, we immediately recognise Ritona as skilled and selfless, putting her life on the line to protect Selphine. If not already apparent, the character dynamics are a major reason why fault – milestone one works, and from the start I was fully on board. Another key factor is the character designs; simply put, they’re fantastic. The game is presented in an anime style, and the strong colours, bold lines, and vivid expressions give each character a strong identity. It’s the type of anime approach I like, where character heights and proportions are closer to reality (like, say, Your Lie in April or Steins;Gate). This whole game is a visual treat, with lively backgrounds bringing those character portraits to further prominence. Occasionally, there’ll be a full-art screen to show a notable moment (a staple feature of visual novels), and these are invariably stunning – and the game knows it, as there’s a gallery for viewing them again should you so please.
Some of these art screens are during this initial confrontation, as Ritona uses Manakravte to defend Selphine. In the world of fault, Manakravte refers to the use of Mana to tap into various abilities. People who can do this are known as Manakravters or Kravters, utilising Mana from both the world around them and inside themselves. Depending on the person, Manakravte might be almost instantaneous, or it might take a long preparation; furthermore, Mana is split into five types, and it takes extra talent to use more than one. Ritona, for instance, is a Dualkravter and can use both Pyro and Terra Manakravte at speed. Manakravte is an in-depth system with a considerable amount of in-game lore explaining how it works in society, and this gives plenty for fans (and the rest of the fault series!) to dive into.
Despite the efforts of Ritona, this early sequence is a losing battle. So, Ritona uses a last-gasp escape tactic to teleport Selphine and herself to a far-off land, getting them to safety against the odds. Well… Relative safety. They arrive in Kadia, far away from Rughzenhaide, with very different rules and norms when it comes to Mana. Kravters are rarer here, and the absence of Mana in the environment makes it actively harmful to the Mana-conditioned bodies of Selphine and Ritona. This immediately upturns your expectations and provides unique challenges for our main characters. Essentially, their new target is to somehow get back and reclaim their home, whilst also exploring their new surroundings. As a result, the over-arching plot of the Rughzenhaide invaders is largely unreturned to in this game, instead left to be picked up in later entries in the fault series. Therefore, your enjoyment of milestone one will largely come down to your investment in the Kadia section of the story, which forms the majority of the game.
About A Girl
The Kadia-set portion of fault – milestone one focuses on a mysterious, blue-haired girl named Rune. This is where I’ll stop talking in detail about the plot, due to spoilers! Rune is one of the first people Selphine and Ritona run into, and essentially becomes a third main character. Just like Selphine and Ritona, her personable qualities and distinct design are a strong addition to the cast. The introduction of Rune brings intrigue for various reasons, and just like the Manakravte system, it feels like thorough thought went into planning out her story. However, some backstory sections spend extended time away from the main characters in the present, occasionally to the extent that I found myself eager to get back to Selphine and Ritona.
In fact, the pace of this middle act is my biggest issue with fault – milestone one. Whilst I like what they do with the overall story of Rune in relation to Selphine and Ritona, milestone one does sometimes let itself get bogged down in exposition. To be clear, this criticism is almost exclusively in reference to the flashbacks and the less-developed side characters within them. Though the game isn’t overlong at a length of around five hours, a slightly stricter edit might’ve improved the flow of certain scenes and allowed them to fit more elegantly with the present-day Selphine and Ritona story. Once fault – milestone one does get back to focusing on the present, things noticeably pick back up, and the story continues to be both fascinating and entertaining.
The bond between Selphine and Ritona is the main driving force. They have an interesting relationship where Ritona is responsible for Selphine as her Royal Guard, adding a hierarchy for their very real friendship to navigate around. It’s done in an authentic way, with plenty of interesting character beats based around that unique dynamic. In amongst all this drama and angst, there’re also plenty of whimsical and funny moments. Usually, they’re centred around Selphine being shocked, excited, or… Hungry! You know, classic expressive anime stuff – and the alleviations of intensity are welcome breaks in tone. As well as this, the game doesn’t let itself drift into excessive or forced fanservice scenes. Any hints of romance are handled tactfully in this first game, and I hope the rest of the fault series continues in that vein!
As aforementioned, fault – milestone one is an intentionally linear kinetic novel, with a distinct story to tell. There’s only one player choice during the whole game, which only changes a few lines of dialogue immediately after it. Despite the lack of branching paths, the game keeps the inherently text-heavy screens engaging. It does so by ensuring plenty of the full-art screens are peppered in, as well as screens that utilise clever camera movements; the use of zoom-ins and side-to-side pans add extra energy to proceedings. In addition, the actual text is delivered from various perspectives. Other than dialogue the characters say out loud, we also get internal thoughts and narrative interludes. Breaking up the conversations this way makes sure that despite much of the game being spent reading, the presentation of it doesn’t get repetitive.
No Fault of Mine
Whilst I’ve mentioned that fault – milestone one is part of a series, I actually didn’t realise this until I played it! Therefore, I was slightly surprised to not get a full resolution to the Rughzenhaide invasion arc from the start of the game. It’s something to note, as I imagine the reaction to this thread being unresolved will vary from player to player. Personally, I am fine with fault being split up this way; milestone one has a complete arc when it comes to the story of Kadia and Rune, and the climax to that is very rewarding. Meanwhile, the overarching Rughzenhaide plot is there as a tease for the future.
Frankly, these five-hour-ish cinematic games are very much my taste nowadays, as I talked about in another post. This game and the sequel fault – milestone two side: above are £13.49 digitally on Switch (and less on PC), which is solid value for the experience as far as I am concerned. In terms of extras, it’s basically what you’d expect from a visual novel, with a well-arranged gallery for the art screens and music tracks you’ve unlocked. That’s pretty much it… Personally, I’d have liked to see more here, such as concept art and work-in-progress pieces from development.
After talking so much about the visuals of fault – milestone one, it’s important for me to talk about the music as well, because it brings so much to the game. The music compliments the nature of each scene beautifully, and does so across a range of tones and emotions. Music is often overlooked when praising the building of a fictional world, and the soundtrack is oh-so-pivotal here, just as much as any Manakravte lore or striking background art. I particularly enjoyed the jovial tavern theme! The music, visuals, and narrative work together to craft a compelling setting, one that I quickly got absorbed into.
World-building is an aspect milestone one nails, and the game excels as an opening for a new franchise. It sets up the larger world mystery, whilst also giving us time to care about the main characters and get invested in the smaller-scale stories of Kadia. Between Rughzenhaide and Kadia we get to see two extremes of this world, and that only leaves you eager to discover more locations. I bought this game as a physical copy via Limited Run Games, and frankly I’m now sad I only got the standard version instead of the Collector’s Edition which came complete with art book, soundtrack, and more. That should be an indicator of how this game left me excited to seek out more of the fault universe!
fault – milestone one is just the sort of game I’d recently been looking for. It’s ideal for cosying up in the evening and diving into a world of fantastical magic and wonderful characters (only made better by the handheld mode of the Switch). The rigid linearity is a strength as far as I’m concerned, as it allows the game to tell a confidently formed story within an exciting and imaginative world, despite a little too much exposition during the middle portion. Also, the visual and audio design are brilliant, and key elements in bringing the world to life in such an engaging way. There’s a case for the climactic moments being unsatisfying rather than tantalising, but as someone who has already downloaded the sequel, it’s safe to say that for me it’s the latter! I can’t wait to see what else the fault series has in store for me…