Visual novels can be very hit and miss for me, especially since I don’t do a whole lot of reading anyway. If they offer some genuinely intriguing stories with cool characters and neat art, then yeah, I’m all in. But if they’re boring slogs that don’t really engage me and go on for a bit longer than they need to… well… that can be torture. Hermitage: Strange Case Files falls somewhere in the middle. Whilst it has its moments where the spooky occurrences kept my eyes glued to the screen (or words if we’re being technical about it), there were also plenty of occasions where I found myself fed up of reading its overabundance of text.
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Hermitage: Strange Case Files’ tale takes place in a peculiar bookshop known as Hermitage, with players taking on the role of the unnamed Store Manager as he looks to assist the folk that come in looking for books. A lot of the books they’re looking for are linked to strange (and often seemingly paranormal) events that are taking place, which piques his interest and sees him trying to help unravel the mysteries himself. Unfortunately, he can’t leave the shop so has to do all of his sleuthing from there, but some in-house investigative work as well as the assistance of some of his contacts go a long way in helping get to the bottom of each case.
You can expect plenty of sinister undertones throughout the adventure, with a Lovecraftian-style twist found in a lot of the game’s occurrences. Fortunately, Hermitage is home to plenty of knowledge that can handle this sort of thing, whilst the Store Manager is pretty experienced in the field too…
As a fan of the paranormal, Hermitage: Strange Case Files’ tale really resonated with me. I loved seeing what peculiar events I’d have to investigate next, whilst the different characters that the Store Manager met all brought with them their own unique personalities and outlook on the events taking place. There’s a heavy emphasis on gathering clues too, with the player having to tie these together in interactive-investigative sequences – your deductions can affect the outcome of events in-game, so you’ll have to be on the ball and try to get them correct if you want a smooth ride and to get the best ending. It’s a cool idea that makes the player feel more involved in each case, especially when browsing through online forums or checking out books to find any pieces of information that might be missing. I liked it.
“There’s a heavy emphasis on gathering clues too, with the player having to tie these together in interactive-investigative sequences – your deductions can affect the outcome of events in-game, so you’ll have to be on the ball and try to get them correct if you want a smooth ride and to get the best ending.”
One of Hermitage: Strange Case Files’ main issues is that it’s very, VERY, wordy. Now I typically like plenty of information in visual novels, especially when it comes to expanding on the lore or history of the world, but there were too many instances here where pointless information was given or descriptions dragged on a lot longer than they needed to. Even the most basic of interactions went on for a long time, and honestly, it just felt like I was wasting my time reading through it all. It’s not as if the game is small either, with players easily spending over twenty-hours seeing it through to its conclusion.
The wording could be a little weird in places too. It’s clear throughout that Hermitage: Strange Case Files was translated to English, with some peculiar mistranslations and grammatical errors present as you progress through the game. In fairness, there was nothing that felt especially awful or erroneous, but mistakes were easy to pick up on thanks to the sheer amount of reading that the player must do. It’d probably be a bit more forgivable if there was voice acting, but the game doesn’t have that to rely on, which is a bit of a shame.
“Now I typically like plenty of information in visual novels, especially when it comes to expanding on the lore or history of the world, but there were too many instances here where pointless information was given or descriptions dragged on a lot longer than they needed to.”
Whilst flawed though, there were plenty of times when the writing really hit the mark – especially with how sardonic the Store Manager can be. There was plenty of tension built up through chapters and I really wanted to see how events would play out, whilst the mystery behind the Store Manager’s incident that has left him unable to leave the bookshop kept me invested too. It’s clear that Hermitage: Strange Case Files does get a lot of things right with its storytelling, but there’s also a lot of time spent reading unnecessary waffle.
I was a big fan of the visuals though, which felt stylish and had hard dark edges that felt befitting of the more sinister vibe. It changes up art styles in places too, which gave a neat twist to the events that are displayed in-game – it looked good throughout and there were plenty of eye-catching illustrations that stood out to me, whilst the HUD was neat and almost Persona-like in style. The only real issue with the visuals came with the fact that players will see a LOT of the same things over and over, but it’s something that’s commonplace in visual novels so it can’t be held against the game too much.
Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review
Hermitage: Strange Case Files offers a neat story with some cool investigative elements, but its incessant waffling may put off some players. It’s WAY too wordy at times, and whilst it is nice to have plenty of information, it goes a bit overboard here and often left me bored of reading. It’s a shame too, because there’s plenty of intrigue to be found across the game’s mysterious cases, whilst piecing together clues always felt satisfying.
Whilst it has its flaws, Hermitage: Strange Case Files still offers plenty of decent storytelling that will appeal to visual novel fans. Just expect to go through lots and lots and LOTS of text before you reach the ending.
Publisher: Giiku Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC