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Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a Slow but Intriguing Visual Novel

Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review

Though I don't play them as much as I used to, I have a great appreciation for visual novels. Not only do they give me a reason to read more, but the addition of a soundtrack and occasional background sound effects also makes me feel as if I'm narrating an audiobook that no one will ever hear. However, for many players who are used to the blockbuster AAA experiences, visual novels are looked down upon for not offering a lot of value. I'm happy to say that while Hermitage: Strange Case Files doesn't have voice over or 3D cutscenes, it is the most involved visual novel I have played in a long time. It may not be enough to convince someone who was previously averse to games in the genre to start enjoying them, but it is still a good place to start. I am currently on Chapter 2 at the time of writing this but considering that I am a few hours into the game now, I'd say this is a mix between a full review and first impressions. I won't be giving the game a rating, but I can speak with pretty good confidence about my thoughts on the game.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a mystery visual novel from developer Arrowiz that was originally released in Chinese back in 2018. Now, thanks to the help of publisher Giiku Games, the game is getting re-released in English. Due to the nature of the narrative, I won't say much more about it other than the fact that you play as a store manager in a bookstore where the customers seem to have strange problems. First things first, the translation here is impressive. It's not all perfect, but having worked on a few visual novel translations in the past, I can't help but appreciate the effort put into this translation, especially considering the size of the game.

Let's talk about the actual story and writing. The game has an intriguing premise that presents itself rather suddenly. At the start of the game, it can feel as if you're joining a conversation mid-sentence and it can take a while to get past that. And the game's slow narration doesn't help either. On the note of pacing, the game can often feel very slow, with lots of descriptions put into each scene. And because of the game's lengthy runtime, it can be hard to play the game for long stretches of time without feeling your attention start to waver. That being said, even with the lack of nuance, the writing is still good, and the game's long word dumps are scattered with bread crumbs of clues.

And you'll need to pay attention to those clues carefully because at the heart of Hermitage: Strange Case Files is its deduction system which presents you with a (vague) question or statement and asks you to use the clues you have in your notes to back it up properly. Along with talking to people to get information, Hermitage also allows you to scour fictional online threads, listen to news reports, and more. While you can't just take out your in-game phone at any time and start messaging people, the game has a decent amount of variety to it that keeps the game from being too stagnant. And, at times, it's even used to elevate the mystery. I recommend using the game's multiple save function to your advantage so you can go back to certain parts of the game if you want to do things differently.

The game has a pretty strong aesthetic with a muted color palette that suits the tone. From character art to text bubbles, Hermitage's presentation feels cohesive and deliberate. The game has no voice over, which means that the game's length is subject to change based on your reading speed, but there is a background score that plays softly while you read. All this is to say that none of the game's individual aspects will take you out of the experience. And if the game's slow narration and verbose writing don't scare you in the opening hours, there is a lot to enjoy here. Plus, with multiple endings, there is a ton of replay value.

If you're looking for an interesting detective visual novel that's not quite as logic-heavy as the games in the Ace Attorney series, Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a great option. It offers a unique mystery that's held back by pacing issues that can be speedbumps for certain players. Hermitage: Strange Case Files is out now on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A game code was provided by the publisher for review. I played Hermitage: Strange Case Files on the PlayStation 5, but I can only imagine how much better it would have been on the Nintendo Switch, where you can walk around freely and play anywhere. If you are playing the game, be sure to check out our clue guide to know what to say and when to say it.

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