...or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bad Ending.
TL;DR: Despite its brevity, Steadfast makes good use of time and scope; especially in regards to what it tells and what it doesn't. It could stand to be smidge longer or a bit more polished. It's interesting use of multiple endings (maybe unintentionally) takes jabs at VN storytelling.
Another VN producer once said on shorter, "static" Visual Novels
"[...] going forward I believe we will see more [shorter and non-branching] projects being done (and succeeding) than [longer and with multiple path ones]."
When he said that, it's my belief that projects like Steadfast is the sort of thing he meant. The length of this story rarely detracts from it's quality. Small things like Finn's family whereabouts and his sexuality are initially presented without overbearing exposition. There are many examples in this game of implied things that are only brought to the foreground when the narrative calls for it. Some of the few flaws within the story that are a side effect of the aforementioned briefness, happen as characters choices have too heavy an impact on the narrative; another case of that happening is the sheer speed at which things happen. I believe the pacing could be made a bit more palatable with just a little more text. Overall, this story is a great example of being brief without leaving much out.
For what it does with its length, I must say that I find the relative "lack of polish" in this project distracting. By that I mean things like how uneven the use of music is sound effects is, and the redundancy of the character indicator and miniportraits. Feels like the creators are holding back for this project in specific, which would be fine if there weren't nuggets of quality irregularly placed throughout. Having Will drawn with an asymmetric design and having his sprite flip all the time stuck out like a sore thumb (even if his scar has a narrative importance, could have been more smartly designed, or having different sprites of different facing poses).
I’d like to briefly mention also the characterisation through text. At first I thought Finn’s monologues having that over-poetic vibe, was a great way to get into his head… and then it is revealed that Will’s (who is supposed to not have high poetic skill) are the same. The inside voices of the characters can really give an unique look (insight, if you will) on their identity. I feel like the indiscriminate use of poetic language blunted somewhat the potential it could’ve had.
Undoubtedly what will stick with me for the longest about this project is its use of multiple endings. It’s just how it goes back and undoes what happened or how differently things play out; the wording and the presentation are what really elevate the prospect from novelty to greatness. The promise of a better second ending, gives one hope of a happy ending; mostly the desire comes from the reader wanting a good resolution for the characters, despite the game itself making it very clear that it’s probably not gonna happen regardless. All that culminates in the third ending that can only be accessible by fighting the game’s intention. That leads to a bittersweet ending that’s great for the characters, but, from the reader’s perspective, can be seen as too fantastical. That said, the fact that the handful of choices that they (not the player) make in such a short time has such a big impact somewhat curbs the effect it could really have. The way it’s in the game as released is nothing to be scoffed at, however.
And those are my thoughts on the game! I hope that made sense! I really liked it and thus, hope it can be even better. Anyone who has questions about this text can just let me know.
If you were forced to sit through this you can blame MinoAnon for showing me the game.