As games evolve and become recognized as an artistic medium, more games are released that strive to push the interactive element in order to create a more compelling experience. My Lovely Daughter is one of the most compelling and dreadful experiences I’ve had with a game in a very long time, and that is exactly the type of emotion that the developers are trying to evoke. At its core, My Lovely Daughter is a simple and somewhat basic tycoon game, but the gorgeous art style and bleak story drew me in. The atmosphere and themes made me want to see the game through to the end despite the unpleasant emotions I got from having to kill off so many of my synthesized daughters.
My Lovely Daughter is not a happy game and it makes that clear from the get-go. The game begins with a message that it’s designed to disturb and upset the player, and that is exactly the type of feelings I got. I grew a genuine attachment to the homunculi as I progressed through the game; I named them, made sure to give them all sorts of gifts they’d like and even tried to exclusively send them to jobs that they would enjoy. Yet, there was the constant feeling of dread prevailing over me as I watched them level up, only for them to hit the max level and have to be executed so that their next sister can take their room.
My Lovely Daughter puts you in the role of Faust, an amnesiatic alchemist who wakes up in his home with a splitting headache and a mummified daughter. Confused and terrified, Faust discovers that his daughter’s soul is trapped inside of a cauldron of sorts and all of the notes that he gathered over the years are gone entirely. Luckily, Faust remembers just enough to be able to create an alchemical circle — with the assistance of his trusty notebook — and creates a homunculus in the form of a little girl. Faust quickly proceeds to kill this homunculus, despite all of her begging, in order to extract her “soul essence” and it only gets worse from there. Faust must now order around and nurture various different homunculi in order to inevitably kill them and take their essence and inject it into his daughter to save her.
Gameplay of My Lovely Daughter is a basic tycoon game. You manage your homunculi’s affection levels through giving them gifts and making sure to send them out on jobs that they’ll enjoy. As they work, they generate money which you can spend on either buying more gifts or resources to make more homunculi in an endless loop. Occasionally you will get requests from villagers that will give you more gold if you acquire certain materials, and you may even get some interactions with them if you help them out enough. Once you get home, the innocent slavery takes a backseat to the much more sinister homicide which you must perform, as you have to manage your gift giving and slaughtering in order to infuse the homunculi souls into your daughter’s. Gaining affinity with the daughters rewards you with various letters of their experiences throughout the town, making the whole situation much more pleasant when you have to chop them in half or electrocute them. Doing so will increase the amount of that affinity available for when you give your daughter her soul, which can only occur once every 4 weeks. The mechanics are simplistic, which can be seen as a detriment, but I think it can actually works well to make the game accessible for players who may simply want to experience the narrative without having to struggle with min-maxing tycoon elements. As someone who enjoys these types of games, I found the gameplay fun enough to get through while suffering the blows to my emotions that it provided.
The dreary artwork and music set the tone extremely well from the start, with the game constantly playing melancholic tracks as you are out on in the town or anxiety-inducing ambience when you’re at home, ready to execute your next “daughter”. Every execution comes with the crying noises of your daughter and a picture of exactly how their execution took place — accompanied by a vivid description of how Faust felt and how they died. I remember tearing up when the first couple of daughters had to be killed to get resources for villagers, and that sensation lasted throughout — despite thinking I’d eventually get jaded to the whole game, I still didn’t ever want to kill the homunculi even if it was for the greater good. The villagers themselves aren’t much better, as they each feel morally corrupt and accepting of Faust’s awful practices. Learning about Faust’s backstory through the book and villagers doesn’t make the emotional distress go away either, and nearly every aspect of this game feels designed to make you feel hopeless and distraught.
My Lovely Daughter is the perfect example of a game not intended exclusively to be fun. The gameplay by itself is fun enough for me to continue onwards, but there is much more a sense of distress as I go through the game and its various endings. I felt the effect that the game was trying to convey through the narrative thanks to how incredible the presentation was. My Lovely Daughter may not be a game for everyone, but the people who will enjoy this type of narrative torture will find a very well crafted game that I’ll unhappily return to.
- Creepy atmosphere and artstyle
- Engaging dark narrative
- Fun tycoon gameplay
- Repetitive after a while
- Content may be too disturbing for some