It’s safe to assume that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all pretty hard, especially when it comes to developing our relationships with other people. So imagine my surprise when I found out that the developers over at Serenity Forge had decided to make a game based on this exact premise.
Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing is a standalone mini-sode reminiscent of the original title, Half Past Fate. It was developed by Serenity Forge and published by Way Deep Down, and will be released on February 14th, 2021, for PC and Switch. The PC version was played for this review.
Covid Dating 101
Romantic Distancing’s story may remind you a little of your current life. Robin and Stephen meet by chance at the electronics store where she works and a few days later are thrust into a global pandemic that forces them to stay inside for their own safety. The two decide to make it work anyway and begin having virtual dates to compensate for their inability to meet in person.
Because it is a mini-sode, the story itself is not that complex or long, but it is made interesting by the charm of the two characters and how well they interact with each other. Stephen is a mix between a music lover and a jock, and Robin is your typical punk girl, purple hair and all. They have the same taste in bands and find out they have even attended a few of the same shows, although they missed each other back then.
I really enjoyed reading through their interactions. Stephen’s airhead personality was eye-rolling at times, but the way Robin was a bit snarky yet sweet about it kept me laughing. It also helps that you get to experience and see the story from both angles (the game switches back and forth between the two).
My only gripe with the story is that it doesn’t let you escape its premise, even at the end. It feels a bit depressing when making your way through it, especially if you’ve been struggling with quarantine blues like I have. On the bright side, both Robin and Stephen feel very relatable in the way they react to their evolving experience.
Romancing Distance is a decision-based game. You are prompted to choose your responses during certain parts of the story. The game itself is only about an hour long, so there aren’t really a lot of opportunities to choose your dialogue. In fact, thinking back on it there were probably about twelve-ish prompts split between Robin and Stephen.
While making dialogue decisions is the bulk of the gameplay, you do have the ability to guide Stephen and Robin around and explore their surroundings. During their first virtual date, the game prompts you to show the other person around your home. I had fun walking around and interacting with the different rooms, and so did Robin and Stephen if their commentary was any indication. There is also some additional dialogue and information you can gain from looking around.
I am a fan of visual novels and dating sims so choice-making gameplay is actually fun for me, but for people who like something that is more engaging and reliant on what they want to do, this might not be the game for them. Romantic Distancing has a story it wants to tell and it’s pretty straightforward about getting you there.
Romantic Distancing has a pretty cute 2.5D pixel art style. I enjoyed the colorful visuals, as it helped bring the limited world to life. One of my favorite parts about it was the level of detail found in each room. The shrine in Stephen’s living room especially took me by surprise.
The soundtrack on the other hand was a bit more subtle. There wasn’t anything about it that I didn’t like, but the track featuring chipmunks was probably the only one that stood out.
A Bit Too Real
Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing is not a boring game, but I do wonder if it was a necessary one. I use games as a form of escapism, so I’m not really sure if I want to actively play a game where I am also living through a global pandemic that won’t let me leave my house or see the people I love.
On the bright side, what Romantic Distancing tries to do it does well. Exploring the colorful environment and making decisions was enjoyable, although I wish there had been more of it. Serenity Forge also did a great job in creating characters that are fun to read about. Robin and Stephen’s interactions kept me engaged and I was curious to see how their quarantine romance would develop the entire time.
Ultimately, I am glad I gave Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing a try, but I am also thankful that it was short and hope that maybe in the future there is an update where the couple gets their in-person happy ending.
Review copy provided by Way Down Deep for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.