Steam Prison is the latest otome game from localisation company MangaGamer. The game is by HuneX and Dramatic Create, who released it in 2016 for Windows. In 2017 a PS Vita version was released with an additional route. In the game you play as an 18 year old police officer in a land called the Heights. After a successful promotion and getting ready for your upcoming wedding, life begins spiralling. You’re framed for your parent’s brutal murder and sent down to the Depths. A land which you’ve grown up learning is primitive and violent. Once you arrive, everything you once knew is challenged as you experience a world so different from the one you once knew.
Number of Romance Options: 5 guys
My play through order: Eltcreed –> Ulrik –> Adage –> Ines –> Yune –> Grand Ending
First play-through time: 7 hours
Total Play Time: ~20-25 hours
Steam Prison is a visual novel game, with progression through dialogue and action choices. After the main common route, the game splits into two different story routes, a third is unlocked after completing a certain ending. From these story routes you then branch off into your chosen love interest. I have to admit, I had really high expectations for this game’s story, and boy were these expectations met and exceeded. The history behind the Heights and Depths was so unique, and immersive. After one play through, I felt like the world was familiar to me, and I was eager to learn more. Each route not only dealt with the love interest’s conflict, but also provided clues and information on the murder of the heroine’s parents and the world at large.
World building and character backgrounds were uniquely threaded throughout the story. But the most ingenious way it was done, was the various character endings. A lot of the time in games, bad endings have a bit of a ‘oops you died, try again’ feel. While in this game it was still ‘oops you died’, or ‘oops he died’, it wasn’t something you felt frustrated about. Every ending, good, bad or great had important information that the others did not. Helping you piece together the story. In one of Adage’s bad endings we get a deeper insight into an antagonist’s past, in an alright Ulrik ending we learn more about his father. No time or sentence is wasted, every single scene fits together to create the history and characters of Steam Prison.
However, the shining crown of the game really goes to its characters. Love interests and side characters each had their memorable quirks and intrigue. Occasionally, the game will change to the POV of your love interest. I particularly enjoyed this change during the Bodyguard route, with Eltcreed and Ulrik. The friendship between the two of them, seen through their perspective added a really interesting dimension to their character. As I mentioned above, different endings will highlight new information on a character, but different routes will do the same. You get to learning the workings behind the scenes of various characters.
To finish up the incredibly positive talk of the game, let’s look at the music and art. Out of all the music, I absolutely adored the game’s ending song. It was all the more emotional hearing it for the first time straight after Eltcreed’s route. I also enjoyed the character designs, even the side characters caught my interest. I almost hate myself for finding Sachsen (first photo) attractive, his design is actually one of my favourites. Scenery and backgrounds were crafted with great care, and the CGs were beautiful. However, I did find that the heroine always looked shocked in CGs, which I’ll discuss further below.
I have to be honest, I pretty much loved everything about this game but the heroine. She should be everything I love – a career woman, who can hold her own and stands up for what she believes in. But, she is so unbelievable naive! The character is 18 years old, and she doesn’t know where babies come from nor how they are made. The game tries to explain it by saying women don’t leave the house in their final month of pregnancy, but that’s still 8 months for a pregnant women to be outside living life. This ended up being compounded when she interacted with love interests, ultimately turning into a double edged sword.
On the one hand, it made me incredibly frustrated with her immaturity. In Adage’s route they pretend to be a married couple and she constantly asks him “oh are we going to have a baby too?”. Like can you not understand the idea of ‘playing pretend’? On the other hand, I hated how the love interests had to ‘teach’ her love and kissing, especially in routes where the LI was significantly older. Perhaps the worst route for this is Eltcreed’s. By the end of it, I couldn’t even tell if she genuinely loved Eltcreed or was just going with the flow. Their interactions felt incredibly cringe and dubious. Because she’s constantly so unsure of what’s happening, a bunch of the CGs are just her looking shocked when a love interest kisses her. You can only look at so many (O_O) pictures before it gets boring. Even one best ending CG had her shocked face, which was super disappointing!
You can brush this criticism away by saying ‘oh the Heights had strict censorship’ and ‘oh her parents were so overprotective’. And yes, I agree, it makes sense for her to be so naive when she first gets down to the Depths. I can also appreciate how her lack of understanding is a reflection of the Height’s censorship and control over its citizens. But by at least the 3/4 mark of the game she should have gained some sense! I shouldn’t be wondering at the end of a route if she really knows what she’s signed up for.
However, I don’t completely condemn the heroine. While her nativity annoyed me to no end, she wasn’t completely ignorant. Just as the plot, and relationships progress, so too did I see character development within her. Being thrown into the Depths, everything she was ever taught was questioned. Yet, her ingrained prejudice doesn’t stop her from doing her best to learn about the people from the Depths. Nor does it stop her from acting against injustices. Even when the odds are staked against her, she will protect those that need it. As far as otome heroines go, she’s one of the better ones, but gah!! I seriously just wanted to hand her a sex ed book and send her on her way.
Overall, Steam Prison was an incredibly well crafted game. However, it was slightly let down by an immature heroine. The naive, clueless in love trope is okay for awhile, especially when it fits into larger societal commentary. But, at some point, the heroine needs to become more assertive. I felt that in a majority of the routes this just did not happen. Despite this, the other aspects of the game, art, music and story all came together to create an enjoyable and unique playing experience.
Article contains affiliate links. Thank you to MangaGamer for providing me with a review copy of the game.
Answering Some Questions I’ve Seen
I’ve seen two common questions crop up about this game, so I thought I’d quickly answer them here.
1. The Steam page describe the game as ‘dark’ and has a content warning – how graphic is it?
The game deals with dark themes, to give examples: a female side character has to sell herself to survive and other characters are tortured. For the first point, the female character speaks of it, but it is not described / depicted. In terms of the torture, murder, bloodshed etc. again, nothing is shown, however there are ‘splashes’ of blood on the screen, description and screaming.
2. Where’s Fin’s route?
Fin’s route was added to the 2017 PS Vita release. MangaGamer deals with PC games and as such only translated the PC version of the game (without Fin’s route).
I hope you find the above useful. If you’ve played the game, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments!