And of course, gotta share my review of The Reaper's Dead Smile here.
The Reaper's Dead Smile Review
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No happy endings as we define them, not even bittersweetness. Markus has the happiest endings so far (Project Mayhem ending where you are the leader instead and get approved by him with the hope of him returning and his true special ending).
One for Randal that's kind of meh is where you side with Andrei, make a deal with Lazarus and let him kill Andrei afterwards choosing to look for Randal. You have to make your headcannon that MC will find him one day and maybe have a happily ever after.
Heath will always be tragic, either he disappears, cuts himself off from reality or well, becomes an angel.
For Markus you just side with the different factions for the three endings - Mavvar, Golgotha, Iscari. For the special ending you have to meet the requirements of playing through the Iscari ending and the special endings for Randal and Heath, also you have to play as a Golgotha to see red choices popping up, which you have to select.
What a long but passionate answer! And I have to agree with all your points because that's just how I felt after I spend 20+ hours on the game, trying to find a good solution.
I'm the usual Otome player but I didn't expect this game to be typical sweet and soft, I prepared myself for a hell ride and twisted romance, I read the warnings and everything. I simply liked the concept and the promised content, intrigued by the demo and updates but never did I expect a gut punch like this. Playing through all routes and endings only to be told that nothing mattered and enduring so much emotional pain without any relief. I had one guilt trip after another and even felt so bad romancing the dudes that I just became friends with them only to realize that the ending is technically the same. Players felt bad playing the game. Players felt like they played the game wrong. Players had a therapy trauma session on the freaking game server.
Even a kickstarter sponsor and beta tester regretted their choice to support this project. On Steam the game already has a rating of 6/10, many raising the same concern and bitterness about the endings and the outcomes. Some theorized it's for shock value and to pull a sneaky on the players instead, well, congratualtions, you got your reactions devs, but I will be honest - you shot yourselves in the legs. Many potential customers and fans now turning away or regretting their purchase, even swearing to never buy a game from you again. And the people of tomorrow will read the reviews and comments, immediately turning away and thus losing all the money invested into it. How did this even turn out like this? The prequel is even happier and that is BL only, how did this following one turn out so frustrating? Many expectations crushed, not only from Otome players buy also those who enjoy psychological horror - where is the dark comedy in this? It ends up in a tragedy anyway, labeling it as Drama isn't the same thing. Optional romance - It says that but really, you will feel uncomfortable and awkward, not in the funny way.
So many bad endings, making you responsible for deaths and destruction, suicide and homicide and then you only get a lazy mindf*ck of an ending. A new experience and not for anyone, I get it, but what kind of niche masochists are you looking for? In the end even the masochists want a satisfying, even if not good, end. Sometimes being experimental is not always good, especially because how the game was marketed. As if lead astray after waiting so long for it, not for the romance only but the influence you were promised to have in it. This is basically a linear VN where only the last choices really matter, a story you could have told in a Kinetic VN with a set MC. I mean, to get the special endings you have to be the same house as your mentor - so much for being anything you want.
The only way they can save this is to add better endings, step up the optional romance and/ or make the choices really worth their impact. Many already ask for a DLC to fix this or to get more information and closure about the events afterwards.
Heck, I even investigated on the hidden meanings in the BGs, CGs and ending titles!
I really don't want to stop anyone from playing it, it was in a sense still an unique experience and story with great assets - from the art, the backgrounds, the music and the writing but I wouldn't give this more than a 7.5/10 because of this major flaw.
I have to agree that the endings are really depressing and there isn't even a bittersweetness in them. I spent a lot of time, trying to figure out to heal our mentors or some sort of calm ending that doesn't lead to destruction or a broken guy. While I'm aware about the genre Drama and Psychological, I felt like the Markus Special Ending was - as a friend agrees - kind of lazy? Like an easy way to weasel out why things happened and why the choices had the effect they had. I felt like the real choices that mattered were the ones which faction we choose.
Ending spoilers and basically repeating what former poster said
The common endings are 1. If you get killed by a certain sewer dweller (you can avoid this by running away or as Mavvar you can survive by fighting back), and 2. If you're not high enough with a faction and get killed after announcement (this was also a huge bug in the earlier version)
The most endings for the guys are obvious: The faction you choose at the end - Saorise, Randal or Andrei. Making up three endings for each guy. Randal has one more with your own rebellion which you can achieve by deciding to make your own house (balance your reputation above 50 for each house, convince Randal to join you, Markus will mention that you have to infiltrate the houses... I suggest if you have problems with one house to help Andrei, so you meet Morgan who offers you to boost your reputation with one house in exchange to introduce her to Andrei. Figure out the rest.)
Then we have the romance/friendship endings for Heath and Randal (technically his faction ending). Easy as said, romance them. Markus will go away no matter what.
Finally the three special endings, which you can get by taking the red choices - to see them you have to be the same house as your mentor. Prepare to be shocked, cry or well, disappointed.
Endings spoilers end
All in all it was a great game but as many other players I share the same empty feeling after spending over 20+ hours on the game and waiting so long for its release. I also tried to figure out what the devs tried to convey with the hidden messages (like to try investigate on the texts you see in the backgrounds or CGs (Randals biker jacket saying in Latin "The world wants to betrayed." or something) and endings names of the guys (John 1.5 for example, a bible verse) as well the song playlists you unlock once you acquire a special ending) but I wracked my brain with the choices already.