Browsing through visual novels is akin to navigating a minefield at times. Often you're forced to pick your way through dire cliché ridden failures to find a few surprising gems hidden away among them. Beyond Eden thankfully falls into the latter category, as it makes a few revisions to the normal formula. You're not simply attempting to woo the affections of a lover, but also destroy their family in a Victorian era revenge plot.
The character you play as, Alex, is effectively a villain from the outset. Many of his early decisions are cruel and manipulative, which leaves you with the difficult task of navigating your way around many social encounters. However, the politicking never goes too far and, after a point, you are given the choice between actively pursuing your revenge or a more passive route, which might leave you in a position of power. It’s a difficult yet well-handled choice thanks to several key dialogues, and is further enhanced by the artistic stylings of the game. These build towards an archaic yet emotive atmosphere befitting the setting.
The game also offers a surprising level of replay value thanks to each route retaining two-sup routes to reflect how you behave in each relationship. Some can naturally end quite badly, while others will lead to more than a few unexpected outcomes in key situations. It's a fun bonus, which helps to elevate the tediousness of replaying certain scenes over and over again while you try to explore another relationship. With that being said however, it is clear that it limited the more traditional strengths found in these games.
A key failing of Beyond Eden is a distinct lack of choice and control over several routes, which creates a sense of feeling as if you are being railroaded along a certain story. This becomes increasingly obvious with a few key endings, which often seem to end in tragedy despite your best efforts. A few would have been fine, but several are so misleading you end up asking yourself how you could predict that. Plus, and it has to be said, one romance option is far younger than your character, which is a very uncomfortable aspect despite the strong plot. Yes, this is a result of its Korean origins and you don’t have to follow that route, but that hardly helps.
With all that being said though, Beyond Eden is a surprisingly engaging experience. Between the murder plots, family conspiracies and some very well executed twists in the romance options, there's a great deal to like here. If you can stomach a few excessive anime-esque moments for a good story, set some cash aside for this one.
BEYOND EDEN / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: STUDIO PIEPLUS / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW