Raised to Succeed
I wanted to start this review by saying that I haven’t played a game like this one in a while. Having thought about it, however, I’m not sure that I’ve ever played a game like Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator before. Not exactly, anyway. Why’s that? Well, there are several reasons, really. The gameplay and story are both undoubtedly unique in their own right. But, when it comes down to it, I think the biggest thing that sets this title apart from others of its ilk is how much time—both in-game and in real life—is needed to get through it. Raising a child is a challenging and imperfect process, and, while Ciel Fledge doesn’t require quite the amount of effort that raising a real-life child does, it certainly does its best to emulate it.
Fallen from Grace
Set in a futuristic dystopia, Ciel Fledge follows the story of a young girl named Ciel, who was found on the surface world (you know, where we live now) after falling from the recently destroyed Ark 5—one of a handful of man-made utopias floating far above the Earth. Although (somehow) physically okay, Ciel is left without her memory, and, with nowhere to go and no one to look after her she is sent to the player—a resident of Ark 6—with the declaration that they must watch over her for the next ten years, after which she will be an adult capable of leading her own life. Of course, that won’t be easy. As if suddenly becoming a parent isn’t already stressful enough, the state of the world, and the Arks floating above it, is at the whim of the Gigant—an unspeakably powerful monster—and several other unknown threats as well. Happy parenting!
One of the unique things about Ciel Fledge is how important the story is to the game itself. That’s not to say that other simulators don’t have important stories, but this game’s story feels… different. Not only is it basically fleshed out enough to stand on its own sans simulator elements (which I’m not vying for, don’t worry), but its pacing is way, way slower than most sims out there. This game clearly wants you to feel the weight of what’s going on—both in terms of how you’re raising your daughter, and in the quickly changing world around you—and it has no trouble making sure that you don’t rush through things, and most importantly, that you actually care about the decisions that you make.
It Takes an Ark
I’m sure that the name of the game gave it away already, but, just in case it didn’t, Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator is a daughter-raising simulator. And all that you need to do is spend 10 years of your in-game life—or between 20 – 30 hours of your real life—to do it! Sounds simple, huh? No, of course, it doesn’t! And it definitely isn’t. The bulk of the gameplay revolves around you, the player/parent, planning out each week in Ciel’s life. In true simulator fashion, stats are, by and large, the name of the game. Metaphorically speaking, anyway. Stats can essentially be broken down into two groups; main stats, and sub stats. Main stats are, not surprisingly, fundamentals such as Strength, Intelligence, and Imagination (which I’ve actually never seen in a game before), and dictate everything from how well she does in battles to (along with a few other things) what kind of ending you’ll get. Sub-stats, then, are specific proficiencies—ranging anywhere from empathy capacity to dancing capabilities, to military prowess—and have more specific. Yet, oftentimes just as important, passive beneficial effects that grow as Ciel becomes more proficient with them.
As with many simulators, players can boost Ciel’s stats simply by sending her to various activities—but Ciel Fledge is a little more complicated than that I know that I’ve already said it, but allow me to repeat it; as far as simulators go, Ciel Fledge is pretty hefty. And that means that you’re in it for the long run. Generally speaking, helping Ciel become proficient with skills doesn’t just teach her abilities; it also unlocks new jobs and classes for her to attend. And these, in turn, unlock even more activities. Yes, it’s cyclical, but cyclical in that way where you continuously say “just one more week and then I’ll stop playing the game and go do something productive” only to realize that several hours have passed without you having even noticed. Seriously, it’s really addicting.
By this point, you might be thinking, “well, I can just power-level certain stats to max and breeze through the game!” But you would be wrong for several reasons. First, Ciel’s stats cap fairly early when she’s young, essentially forcing players to quickly jump from one thing to another (unless you really just don’t care, in which case I’m not sure why you’re playing the game). It feels kind of tricky on the developer’s part, but it’s also kind of cool that there’s a natural-feeling way to get the player to explore their options. Secondly, Ciel’s main stats (but not her sub stats) decrease by a small margin at the beginning of every month. I’ll be honest with you; this was the only part of the game that I didn’t like. Like, it got really annoying fighting this. But it did force me to make sure that I was jumping in-between activities more often than I otherwise would have been—so kudos to them for getting me to do that, I guess.
The School of Hard Knocks
Fighting might not be the first thing you think of when you hear “daughter raising simulator,” but boy that didn’t stop Studio Namaapa from loading up Ciel Fledge with skirmish after skirmish. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. While Ciel Fledge does, technically speaking, have a lot of fights—even going so far as to include a few honest-to-goodness JRPG elements—the “fighting” that you’re doing isn’t exactly standard. Rather than choosing commands or mashing buttons, Ciel Fledge‘s brand of combat is based on what essentially boils down to a simplified match-3 game. For Ciel to execute an attack, players must create “sets” by clicking on three cards of the same element (at least, I’m assuming they’re elements). While the element of the card itself doesn’t affect Ciel’s attack, it does build up “stock”—the game’s form of MP—which can be used to perform any number of techniques that Ciel has learned throughout her journey. Admittedly, combat does take some getting used to at first, but it shouldn’t take long before you’re lining up sets like a pro and having a blast while doing it.
It’s also worth mentioning that engaging in battles within the world of Ciel Fledge aren’t always life-or-death situations (although the important ones generally are). In reality, battles come in three different varieties. First, are Fight Battles, which consist of actual fights and actual danger. As with most other games, your goal is to reduce your opponents’ HP to zero while making sure they don’t do the same. Second are Score Battles, which work the same as Fight Battles but task the player with reaching a certain score, or, in later cases, keeping it above zero as it steadily depletes. Unlike Fight Battles, these also rely on a number of different stats—, especially Charm. Finally, there are Quiz Battles—the least normal of them all! Quiz Battles ditch things like dealing damage or racking up points in favor of specific tasks, such as executing a certain number of sets of a specific element, or executing sets without shuffling or making mistakes. If these were the only thing that this game had to offer, I’d probably get tired of them. Fortunately, they’re used pretty sparingly in comparison to the other two, which allows them to spice up things quite nicely.
Running Through Relics
To wrap up this review, I’d like to talk about one more thing: exploration. Remember how I said that humanity (or most of it, anyway) lives above the Earth’s surface? That’s because Earth is a giant hellscape at this point—a hellscape that needs to be charted. That’s where you come in! Or, instead, that’s where Ciel comes in. Have you ever played Monster Rancher? Like, the old ones for the PS1? Remember how you could send your monsters off for a couple of weeks to let them train in hazardous areas to get stronger? Okay, well, replace the Suezo or whatever it is that you’re picturing with a 10-year-old girl. That’s basically what exploration is, mechanically speaking.
Yeah, it sounds bad, but it’s not quite as terrible as you probably imagine it to be. First off, exploration, despite it being a relatively expansive portion of the game, is almost entirely optional. I, for instance, didn’t start sending Ciel down to the surface regularly until about my second-to-last year with her. I probably should have done it sooner. But I didn’t. And I was just fine. Secondly, Ciel doesn’t have to go alone. Acting as a literal instance of “my friends are my power!” Ciel can take up to 3 companions with her—the better friends she is with them, the more useful they’ll be. Honestly, exploration is really dangerous. You risk severely injuring Ciel if you don’t know what you’re doing, and then can (obviously) put a hamper on the whole “being a good parent” thing. However, when you are prepared, exploration is a whole lot of fun. You never know just what you’ll find out there, and, so long as you’re prepared, the rewards—be they rare items or massive stat gains—are almost always worth it.
A Brighter Today, a Brighter Tomorrow
Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator is one of the best indie games that I’ve played in quite some time, and was some of the most fun that I’ve had with a simulator like this since I played Long Live the Queen. Sure, it’s not perfect. It’s probably a little too long for its own good, and I could see people getting tired of its repetitiveness if they don’t know what they’re in for. But all of those things are fairly trivial; they don’t really matter in the long run because they’re so small. What does matter is that this game is fun. Plain and simple. If you’re in the mood for a quality simulator, then you need not look further than this one.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch; Developer: Studio Namaapa; Publisher: PQube Games Ltd.; Players: 1; Released: February 21, 2020; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher