Developed and published by Salangan Games, Zeliria Sanctuary is a Visual Novel about friendship, adventurous encounters, emotions through the universe, and also about a super powerful hamster. I mean, a Rat! Sorry almighty Humkey, please don’t evaporate this review!!! We have C-Rations for you! (^^,)/
Maxx is our protagonist, a soldier on the line of duty, that to insure his father’s expensive health treatment, goes under a very dangerous teleportation test. The ending result doesn’t go as planned, and while everyone thinks the poor soldier has simply evaporated, Maxx was actually teleported to a strange and alien planet. Waking up to the strange voice of a fluffy purple rat, Maxx confusingly discovers the strange creature’s name, to be Humkey, an advanced alien, that can communicate telepathically, and only Maxx can actually see him. Despite Humkey’s obsession with military combat rations, his scientific knowledge is outstanding.
After some introductions, Maxx learns he is in the planet Zeliria, once the planet of the Humkey and many of his kind, the Salagans, but while conducting experiments, a war happened, and they had to flee. The planet remained and its nature kept growing, and so did its inhabitants, which are very resembling to humans. This strange land is now ruled by two distinct factions, the Umari, a powerful race with beautiful cat-ear girls, and the Zelirians, a kingdom that lives on what earthlings would call the medieval ages. These two distinct races are at war most of the time, but each has their pride and honor. Maxx will meet Leeka, a rejected Umari brave warrior with cute cat-ears, Velga, an honorable Zelirian knight, and many others in an unforgettable journey where everyone believes Humkey to be a deity among the mortals.
Zeliria Sanctuary is available in Russian and English. The English translation is quite good, and has been improving significantly this past few months. No errors or misspellings were noticed, and if anything, an extra coma could be used here and there, but overall it has a professional translation. Dialogues and narrative were done with great care to maintain the original words from Russian while preserving the same expressions.
As for the narrative itself, it is a mix between an emotional adventure with some dramatic events, but also some humour around the corner. Each character becomes easily familiar, and with their distinct personality, it’s impossible not to enjoy, as they become a part of you through their charismatic ways. The storyline is engaging, but quite long, so if reading is a pleasure, this title will reward you with amazing moments. There’s a huge emotional deal within the events occurring in this adventure; there’s sorrow, loss, misery and a detachment from many of human feelings, that in a way, Maxx feels, but those feelings are completely alien to some of those living in Zeliria. The narrative follows almost psychologically the emotional side of a human-being on a planet filled with death, pest, and a moral code that splits the citizens based on their class. Maxx will, at times, show mercy, friendship, and demonstrate the meaning of human existence, such as to care for one another, and show an appreciation of life.
If anything, in a twisted but logical way, we can theorise about how Humkey would be God, and Maxx his messenger, showing the brutal, arrogant, and radical barbarians how to stop the war, and enjoy life, such as teaching them how to harvest without deadly sacrifices. To heal the sick instead of fear the plague, and even do whatever it takes to save a life of a useless peasant. In such a brutal world, Maxx will no longer be a soldier, but will represent a peaceful change to Zeliria, one that Humkey himself didn’t want to embrace, but through emotional connections he learns what it means to care for this long forgotten place.
Visual Novels may look simple, but they still can introduce interesting gameplay elements. Zeliria Sanctuary is an option based game, where wrong decisions may end with the protagonist dead, or worse, enslaved by a sexy cat-ear girl, and forced to work till the final day comes. But if chosen correctly, Maxx will reach the end of the game, with as much people saved as possible, and in a nice relationship with one of the girls, or maybe all of them. With luck, players can even unite the kingdom and unleash peace! Some on-screen decision choices still allow players to save and reload, while some others don't, and unless there's a previous saved-game, you can't save in the decision-menu. It’s a welcome option, and forces players to try different routes in several playthroughs. There are several endings available, and more will be unlocked it seems. Accordingly to the developers, more content will be added for free in future updates. At this point, it’s a +10 hour game, but this can increasingly grow in future updates.
The game world offers a large variety of information, as backstory, but also about Humkey, his people, his past and pretty much the whole history of the planet. Such information doesn’t come without the proper Codex, a digital tablet-form object where players can read about all sorts of things; objects, animals, beats, wildlife, food, and even characters. They can be consulted in the codex to learn more about the alien life that awaits Maxx. In a way, the game almost acts like an RPG, but without its direct gameplay factor. We gain knowledge of a world map, the geography surrounding the tribes, the wars happening, and even gain the option to engage side quests, which means more adventures!
Visually, It’s a pleasure to see such a beautiful environments in Zeliria Sanctuary. The otherworldly feeling, the exotic forests, the earthly-like atmosphere but more enchanting, with a sparkle of magic surrounding it. Character renders are hand-drawn, and show interesting expressions, particularly Humkey, that always puts a smile on your face, and as for other characters, their facial expression change, but vaguely. Backgrounds are amazing and they are a mix of classic realistic with detailed traces, and handmade traces in unique scenes. Special moments are beautifully portrayed like they were an expensive canvas, surrounding the moment with a mystic sensation. To add even more content, in some specific story-related events, a comic will be available, so players can read and learn more about the events at Zeliria. The main menu and overall layouts are based on futurist looks and fits perfectly, as it was expected!
The base game does not feature nudity, but a DLC called "Extention Pack" is available for free, that adds full nudity to characters.
Soundtrack displays a fascinating approach, compiling a set of different artists, and even a couple of songs are available, including a beautiful lullaby sang by Leeka. Other tunes display moments of happiness and sadness, from synthetic waves, to some guitar riffs, and many more. Music is always within a melodic reach, and not much repetitive. Dances between the suspense of the sadness, and the strong motions of friendship and hope. A beautiful ending song will make you shiver, even if you don’t understand Russian. Other sound effects are also available, such as laughs, cries, and screams. Developers commented on a possible voice-over cast, but at this moment, we just don’t know.
Zeliria Sanctuary is a fantastic and intense Visual Novel, with large amounts of content in a surprising emotional side, and filled with unexpected adventures. A Visual Novel with a large selection of choices, and fan service to go with, in a mysterious and alien planet!