This week is Christmas, and I’ve spent a lot of time lounging around my mom’s house since we both have time off. She mentioned she wanted to play a new game on her phone, so I introduced her to her first dating game, called Regency Love by Tea for Three. Since I hadn’t played it before either, we both downloaded it and dug in for a couple days. When my sister came to visit yesterday, she joined in, too.
It takes about two to five hours to play through the whole game, depending on how fast (and how much) you read the dialogue. That’s also assuming you finish the game with a proposal. There are loads of side storylines to pursue, which could take much longer.
Set in the Regency period, the game feels like a Jane Austen-style romance. You choose your name — I was Sophie Jennings — and then start exploring your surroundings.
There’s a map that shows you all the places you can go. If a location is highlighted, it means there’s something to do there. In town, you might shop for a new dress or run errands. At home, you receive visitors. Various other estates throw balls or fancy dinners, and at times you can take a walk in the woods. All the while, you run into locals, including potential suitors.
To unlock something to do, you sometimes need to spend Motivation points on lady-like pursuits. These talents are Reading, Music, Dancing, Riding, Needlework, and Drawing. Depending on what you put points into, you might unlock a shopping excursion, a day painting portraits with a friend, or a dinner party where you soon realize you’re discussing literature with the newest Mr Husband Material.
I made Sophie adventurous and glamorous. She enjoyed a life full of new experiences — even a little drama. Points went primarily into Dancing and Riding, with a sub-focus in Needlework since she loved fashioning dresses for parties. With people around town, she flattered when it would get her somewhere, but wasn’t afraid to show sass if someone was acting annoying, boring, or just full of themselves.
The game is intriguing for its historical setting and dialogue. The trouble is actually figuring out who the real suitors were. I met a few men who either married other women later or disappeared on me entirely. For instance, I wanted to pursue the soldier Mr Graham after meeting him at a friend’s house and then chatting with him at a ball… but he never showed up again. After finishing the game, a little online research revealed that he is not a suitor in the main game. (You can pay extra for him, though.)
In other dating sims I’ve played, my flirting and conversation skills helped me unlock more information about each character. I felt I had options, which is most of the fun — getting to choose who you like and then go after them in a (mildly) realistic way. Some men were more stubborn than others, and you could upset them so they didn’t want to see you anymore… but I figured out what each one wanted.
In Regency Love, that sort of sensibility is just not present. Apparently the suitor Mr Curtis — a sour, pretentious Mr Darcy-type character who looks like Severus Snape — likes sass, because no matter how much my Sophie tried to dissuade him from pursuing her, he kept showing up at her house, taking her for walks, showing up at balls to talk to her more. Toward the end of the game, the town started gossiping about Sophie and Mr Curtis as if they were a couple, even though Sophie had never actually encouraged him. It was frustrating trying to get rid of the guy.
Meanwhile, the game really pushes you toward one of the suitors, Mr Ashcroft. His story is much more involved than either of the other choices. You get to know his sister. You meet more of his family. You learn of past heartbreak and scandals that made Mr Ashcroft the over-protective, rather serious man he is. I enjoyed the story enough to pursue his romance — it felt natural — and Sophie ended up marrying him in the end.
The thing is, my mom also ended up with Mr Ashcroft, in spite of trying to win over Mr Curtis. And then my sister played the game and got nearly to the end of Mr Ashcroft’s romance too, even though she tried everything in her power to pursue someone else.
My sister was interested in Mr Digby, a shy, bumbling young man who has a crush on the protagonist. But he pulled a Mr Graham and disappeared on her, leaving her to engage with the other suitors, Mr Curtis and Mr Ashcroft. She didn’t want to — she avoided their advances — but whatever happened to Mr Digby?
After refusing her other suitors, including Mr Ashcroft, she received a call from Mr Digby, and just like that, he proposed. It was a marriage by default. You don’t even get to see him most of the game, and then at the end, he comes around if you refuse the others? That’s just a lazy romance, in my opinion.
Besides that, the proposal from Mr Digby and his epilogue both mention Mr Ashcroft. Digby says he will overlook the protagonist’s romance with Mr Ashcroft. Later, Mr Ashcroft sends the protagonist a card of condolence after her mother dies. And according to this epilogue, the marriage to Mr Digby is “comfortable at best,” and it points out that the protagonist feels she missed her chance at romance. Hearing about that ending frustrated me. Poor Digby. I mean, my sister wanted the guy, barely caught him, and then was practically reprimanded for it with an epilogue promising a listless life.
Of course, these opinions are just based on my family’s playthroughs of the game, and it’s very possible I missed something. But three games is certainly a better indication of how things go than a single one would be!
I tried to replay the game, but the romance options are so limited that I ended up dropping off after about an hour.
From the sounds of it, Mr Curtis and Mr Ashcroft are the only “loving” suitors, and Mr Ashcroft is the clear favorite who is very hard to avoid. It’s cool that the writer(s) put so much energy into Ashcroft and his romance path… I just wish they had done that with the others and made the whole act of romancing these characters more exciting and intuitive.
On the plus side, the game presents many non-romance quests to check out. There’s a mysterious hermit in the woods, a new school whose proprietor is remaining anonymous, and a chance to play matchmaker. I enjoyed getting to know characters like Mary Earlwood. Ellie Ashcroft’s arc is especially rewarding; when you meet her, she is a shy 15-year-old with no friends, but by the end of the game, she enjoys the outdoors, asserts herself even without her brother there as chaperone, and is brave enough to debut at a ball.
There are also several mini-puzzles that earn you Motivation points. For instance, you can solve hangman puzzles based on romances from the era. You also answer trivia quizzes about the Regency period. Many seem to be related to where you place your Motivation points — put them into Music, and you’ll get a trivia question about Mozart, etc. — but the trouble there is that the same ones come up again and again. It makes them easy, if slightly boring, ways to earn Motivation points.
The sheer volume of historical fiction content makes the game worth playing once or even twice. The most disappointing part of the game is the actual romance, but if you’re prepared to fall madly in love with the well-done Mr Ashcroft, then go enjoy the next few hours!