Developed by Studio FOW, Subverse is an erotic sci-fi parody with many genres attached to it. In simple terms, it is a visual novel that mixes turn-based grid combat and Shoot ’em up action, spiced with RPG elements. Offering a decently entertaining story to follow and addictingly enjoyable gameplay, Subverse delivers a fun time to be had but can be a hit and miss in many places which makes it a tricky game to easily recommend in its current state.
Currently in the first phase of Early Access, this review solely focuses on the first Act of Subverse’s story and gameplay.
Table of content:
- The Review
- Adult Content
To understand what kind of game we are talking about, it is good to remind that this is a project which managed to raise over two million dollars in crowdfunding via Kickstarter, and because of it, is held to a higher standard as something that needs to deliver a solid product to its fans who paid good money based only on promises.
Far too many games have failed in Kickstarter despite sufficient backing, and despite Subverse’s overwhelming support, there were no guarantees on its success. Studio FOW, better known for its work in NSFW 3D animation, has never made a game before, which only gave more reason to be concerned by many. But with hired skill from which some are from mainstream AAA development circles, suddenly there was hope for Subverse to stand out and be the promised high-quality product it claimed to become.
Subverse can be described as the first true Adult RPG experience mimicking the likes of high-quality mainstream games that are not seen in the world of adult games to date. It is not nearly as good by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a lot better than what the current market has in store. Missing any real competition in the AAA or even AA adult game sector, Subverse thrives without having to try too much.
Despite a low entry bar, thankfully, the game shows a lot of effort put into it… Just not two million dollars worth of effort, unfortunately. Having said that, it is important to note that Studio FOW is not asking anything close to a AAA price for their product, and because of this, there is a lot of forgiveness that can be given for its shortcomings.
Introduction to gameplay
Embark on a grand adventure through space with the majestic Mary Celeste spaceship and its loyal crew of sexy waifus! You follow the story of “Captain”, a rebel man hiding behind a mask and panties on his face. When an evil empire tries to stop all fun in the galaxy, a group of rebels arises to overthrow them.
In Subverse, you will be exploring the galaxy using a holo-map from your ship and choosing different locations of interest that provide either Shoot ’em up action or Turn-based combat. Between missions, the player will be spending time inside Mary Celeste, making upgrades to their battle assets and talking to the crew. As the story progresses, new waifus will be introduced, some of whom will join the Captain’s cause and some who seek to harm him.
The story is told through a visual novel format, along with some short cinematic scenes to elevate the experience. Characters are displayed during dialogue with an abundance of animations to guide their personality and emotions, and to top it all off, all characters are fully voice acted!
As an adult game, Subverse delivers Pandora mode which is just a fancy word for an NSFW gallery, accessible from the Captain’s quarters. By completing missions, you earn tokens that can be spent in Pandora mode to unlock lewd scenes featuring recruited waifus.
A decent story worth following, Subverse has an “epic” tale to tell which follows a group of rebels on their way to overthrow an evil empire called Imperium that threatens to remove excessive sex from the galaxy by eliminating those who they deem too filthy by nature. Trying to keep the galaxy pure and in order, the Imperium has many enemies opposing their ideals, not just our heroes.
Like a bad porn movie, Subverse does not try to stand above them but rather continues the tradition of creating cheap excuses to jump into sex just to remind its audience what they are essentially there for.
Subverse is a parody at heart and as such, much of the story is written in a corny dialogue not to be taken seriously. Despite leaning heavily towards comedy, unfortunately, there are hardly any jokes that land. Actually, there are hardly any jokes at all. Much of the dialogue is just a pissing contest between characters, seeing who can say more funny-sounding curses or sexual words in a single sentence. This type of child-like language copy-pasted across all characters tarnishes what makes each character unique.
Aside from great looks and voice acting, it can be somewhat hard to find favorites based on character personality as everyone seems to talk in the same manner spouting dirty words left and right without trying to be much different or even clever about it.
Once the novelty of high-quality character models and backgrounds wears off, the story can sometimes feel a little exhausting for not being able to make its audience laugh nor giggle in the slightest. Whether this is necessary for an entertaining experience is up to player preference, but despite the lack of good comedy, the story is still amusing to follow thanks to great visuals and charming lighthearted atmosphere.
Cinematic cutscenes are a great highlight of Subverse that makes the story so interesting. Each major visual novel moment is guided by a short cinematic. They act as a great way to further visualize the almost static scenes in which visual novel sections provide an actual story. Excessive use of blur effects can be seen used to hide mistakes and low-quality assets throughout some of these spectacles but despite this small gripe it feels absolutely amazing to be able to enjoy cinematic cutscenes in an adult game at all, something that is long overdue.
The game introduces many colorful characters, some of which can be quite outstanding by design and voice acting, yet among diamonds, there is a small handful of characters that can make players either cringe or facepalm hard. When meeting such characters, it is difficult to tell whether these are misunderstood jokes by the developers or cheap placeholders subject to change for the final version. The latter is more likely, but what comes to the current Early Access, they can leave a bad taste in players’ mouths as they are right now.
Voice acting for the most part is top-notch but there are those whose voice is a complete disaster in casting, giving a voice to a character that sounds nothing like the character displayed on the screen. Luckily this experience is not a major part of the overall story, but when these scenes occur, they are painfully hard to ignore.
Despite offering smooth body animations and voice acting, characters during visual novel cutscenes, unfortunately, do not have mouth animations, thus taking away a major part of immersion. Though one can learn to adapt and enjoy the story while ignoring the lack of mouth movement, it is still something that will never fade away completely from the player’s mind, always reminding of how much better the scenes could be had the developers spent a little more time on them. Whether Studio FOW will offer mouth animations for the final product is yet to be seen.
Subverse is a hybrid that provides two types of gameplay, one of which is turn-based grid combat on planet surfaces.
Before each mission, the player is given an option to choose between any recruited waifu able to do combat, each varying in playstyle. Lily for example is a long-ranged sniper capable to deal damage from a safe distance and provide buffs to her manticores, while Killi is an up-close-and-personal type of fighter capable of piercing through multiple targets standing in line and counter-attacking counter attacks. These are the only two waifus provided in the current Early Access but they are more than enough to introduce players to the combat.
Though very repetitive in nature, the turn-based battles can still be fun and addicting, providing an excellent level of challenge, not being too hard but neither giving victories on a silver plate either. As is to be expected from a quality turn-based combat, the player needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their units. In Subverse, one can not simply rush enemies hoping to win but must plan each turn carefully in order to not make critical mistakes leading to a crushing defeat.
The AI is not always smart enough to make the best decisions on whom to attack, and sometimes it even wastes its turn by simply moving and guarding when there is an excellent opportunity to take out units near death. These moments can make players roll their eyes in sigh but luckily the AI is not prone to these types of mistakes far too often to ruin the experience.
Choosing which enemy to take out first is not always a clear pattern easy to memorize, there are many variables in the way making each situation unique depending on multiple different factors. Mastering the Grid combat is a rewarding feeling, something that becomes more interesting over time when unlocking new waifus and manticores. With a little bit of polish, it can easily become one of the key highlights of Subverse easy to recommend for the fans of turn-based strategy.
Manticores are bio-weapon creatures that Lily works on Mary Celeste in her laboratory. These freaks of nature can be used in Grid combat to provide strength and numbers for waifus to survive their battles.
Each manticore is unique, able to bring something new to the battlefield that can shape players’ strategy of how to handle their enemies. Right now, there are not that many manticores available but enough to get the point across of a complex battle system yet to unfold.
Shoot ’em up
The second mission type in Subverse besides Grid combat is SHMUP-style space battles in which the player gets to pilot F3NIX fighter spaceship with differing firing modes depending on the chosen pilot before each mission.
These SHMUP missions are often fought in circle-shaped arenas in which enemies spawn across the battlefield in waves. There are a handful of dazzling enemy variations, none providing a real challenge alone but in waves, they can create interesting attack patterns to evade and overcome.
Unlike Grid combat, the SHMUP missions lack any real challenge. They are fun, yes, but after a while, as these missions become repetitive with nothing new to see, no longer can the player ignore just how empty the space arena can feel while constantly waiting for enemy reinforcements to arrive multiple times during the same mission. More often than not the player is able to wipe out each wave before they can even have a chance to group up to face the player as a large unit.
To amend the repetitive nature of these SHMUP missions, Subverse sometimes changes things up by providing boss battles or mission structures that truly shake things up and deliver fun spectacles worth waiting for.
Controlling the F3NIX spaceship is an absolute joy, one of the smoothest experiences one can wish for from a SHMUP game. Thanks to the amazing controls, SHMUP missions can feel very addicting despite the repetitive nature of fighting the same old enemies over and over again. Again, with just a little bit of polish, for the fans of Shoot ’em up games, Subverse’s take on this genre is something not to miss out on!
When recruiting Killi, the player unlocks a dating feature in which the Captain is given an opportunity to build a relationship with his crew. Typical to many dating games, spoiling waifus with gifts is an easy and simple way to win their hearts. This is done to raise an affection meter that in return affects their devotion status.
With enough devotion, new dialogue options become available that advance the character’s personal story. What these stories hold inside is yet to be seen, but the idea seems interesting enough to wait and see in which direction it develops in future Acts. Right now, the system is just an empty shell not worth going further into.
When starting out your adventure in Subverse, you are already the commander of a massive cutting-edge space cruiser waiting for sexy waifus to populate it throughout the Captain’s journey. Inside, there are several rooms which to visit with a simple click of a button.
Each room acts as a point & click area in which the player may engage in conversation with a member populating it, or make upgrades to their battle assets like waifus, manticores, and the F3NIX spaceship. Mary Celeste is a place to spend time in between missions, one that players can always look forward to for more reasons than one.
The concept of Mary Celeste is a solid one and does its job according to its simple design to act as a fun little hub area. A small gripe comes in the form of annoying loading screens when selecting rooms to visit or when talking to different characters. Though the loading times are a short one, repeating this action several times in a single visit to Mary Celeste can start to weigh heavy on the player’s patience. After all, there is very little to do in each room before moving on so the loading screens can seem like almost half of the experience.
Subverse Adult Content
Unlike many adult games, Subverse’s adult content is not necessarily the main spectacle as the game stands strong even without it. Having said that, it is a very delicious bonus on top of everything else that only gives more reason to get excited over the game!
Subverse has 12 major waifu characters in total, some of which are yet to be introduced in later Acts, and even though not all are yet confirmed to take part in sex scenes, the Captain’s harem is promised to participate in all the filthy action.
Currently, the player can enjoy DEMI, Lily, and Killi in Pandora mode where the developers have provided a handful of lewd scenes to unlock for each character. More scenes are confirmed to be added later, so these are not all that the game has in store for these specific characters.
As is to be expected from Studio FOW production, the adult scenes are high-quality, one of the best that one can find in the world of adult games in the current market. Without playing it carefully, the developers have gone all-in not holding any punches in providing a hardcore experience where the waifus get to enjoy all sorts of filthy sex with Lily’s manticores.
For those seeking vanilla content over hardcore, Subverse strikes a fine balance in pleasing both audiences. Even though the story sometimes introduces sex scenes as part of the adventure, ultimately it is up to the player to decide what type of lewd content they wish to unlock and view. No specific type of adult content is forced upon the player, the choice is yours!
Accessible from the Captain’s quarters by clicking on Captain’s bed, you can enter the Pandora mode which acts as Subverse’s Adult Gallery. In this section, lewd scenes can be purchased using Pooter points that are character-specific earned through leveling up during Grid combat & SHMUP missions.
Each character has entirely unique lewd scenes to unlock in which either the Captain or manticores take the center stage pleasuring waifus or vice versa. Unlocking lewd scenes is always an exciting and rewarding moment as the adult scenes truly are worth all the trouble that the game puts its players through!
Once enough scenes are unlocked, the player can then combine these scenes so they can be viewed and swapped between in a swift without having to return to the main gallery screen. There is also a possibility to save favorite scene combinations, as well as use the random option for the game to decide what lewd scenes the player shall enjoy from their available collection.
Even though the Pandora mode does not offer anything that players have not seen before, it is an excellent gallery mode providing a reason to return from time to time during the campaign and even after having completed the game.
Despite its lack of content in the current state of Early Access, Subverse can already be described as a must-play experience thanks to its high-budget appearance which truly focuses to deliver fun gameplay on top of a decently interesting story to follow.
Studio FOW has broken the endless cycle of cheap-looking adult games with no real gameplay inside and for that they deserve all the praise there is to give. However, unfortunately, even despite all the praise, recommending the game is not that simple. Studio FOW still has a lot of work to do in adding more content and tweaking gameplay to make Subverse worthwhile for those not wishing to experience a lackluster product waiting to be finished.
By purchasing Subverse in Early Access on Steam, you gain access to all the future Acts with no extra cost, up until the game is finished at which point the price is raised. If lack of content is no problem to you and all you want is to get to see what Subverse can offer, there is no reason for me not to recommend the game for you. For everyone else, it may be best to sit and wait for the game to be finished.
The current version of Subverse can be completed with all its available content in around 5-7 hours.
Stay tuned for future Subverse reviews as more Acts become available! To learn more about Subverse, check out the official trailer.