Kismet's Review of Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds


Menu screen of Shadow Bonds

All images on this page are from the Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds demo by RascalDevworks

This demo was the second one I tried when I first got into visual novels, and it remains one of my favorites. I discovered it through Kickstarter and I quickly fell in love with it. I backed the project and have wanted to get them more money ever since. Here's why:

The demo is a standalone introduction to Sigh of the Abyss, and it's no small demo! It has distinct branches, more than a handful of unique characters for you to meet, and a number of endings. Needless to say, I played the hell out of it.

The main character is an Envoy of the Abyss. What does that mean? You get some ideas, but a lot of mystery remains (which is a good thing). The Abyss grants her magic powers and may give her more, but she hasn't fully accepted her connection to this mysterious, otherworldly force that speaks to her in dreams and visions. There are still important choices for her to make about how her life is going to go. (Yes, this is an otome, but that's the kind of VN I seek out most.) In the meantime, she gets paid for reading messages for the people of the city who don't possess that skill.

The demo is set in Carolise, a lovely Mediterranean city state on the coast. The setting is Renaissance and often bathed in sunlight, but Sigh of the Abyss is definitely a dark fantasy tale: magic is real, the gods are real too, and all is not well. You start the story by bumping into a young man who's desperately running away from someone. When that someone catches up to you, he binds you and the young stranger together magically as a punishment. To figure out why, you need to learn more about the young man, who calls himself Ornell. To find a way out of the bond, you must turn to your friends, each one more interesting than the last.


The MC using shadow magic

The MC using shadow magic on the streets of Carolise

I absolutely adore the art for this game! It's Western style (my preferred mode) with watercolor touches that make me want to frame some scenes and put them on my wall. I don't just mean the CGs; the everyday scenes are lovely, too. And I'm not exaggerating - there's one CG in particular that I would pay money to get a print of.

The characters each have their own styles while looking like they belong to the same milieu. Each one has distinctive details (jewelry, tattoos, scars) and body language. Some of their expressions are just great (like Ornell's scared faces, which always make me chuckle). There aren't a ton of poses and animations are simple, but I didn't mind that.


There isn't any voice acting in the demo, but there will be in full VN; that's the main feature the Kickstarter was meant to fund. I didn't miss voice work, but I won't mind it. The music is original and you can bet your bottom dollar I kicked in for the original soundtrack that's planned for it.


Basic Features

The demo has some helpful features, including a log of what you've read before, the ability to hide the UI (so you can take screenshots without it), and a codex that expands upon the setting, one reference at a time. It's also nice that you can access the codex from the menu screen; you don't have to load the game to review it. I didn't notice any accessibility features, but that doesn't mean there won't be any in the finished novel. I was impressed by how polished and complete it felt, and I had no problems using anything.

When you first start the game, there's a screen to customize the main character. You don't get to affect her appearance, but you do get to supply her first name. You also get to choose relationship preferences: you can be open to romances with men or women or everybody. If you favor men or women, however, characters of the opposite gender won't flirt with you, which might be a nice thing for a number of players. Finally, you put points into her abilities, which are split between physical, shadow magic, and mind powers. Your rating in these abilities affect the options you have available in certain scenes later on, which is cool.

Characters & Relationships

The 4 possible love interests - Alpheon, Marane, Malec, and Sylas - are very different people from each other, and the writing does a good job of making it seem like they've been friends with the MC for a good while. They already care about her, but they have different ways of showing it. This basis in friendship is an excellent feature. They aren't always flirting or pushing for more; you can have conversations about serious things. There are also intimate moments which are touching without being sexualized, and I was surprised by how much I loved that. (A fifth love interest was unlocked by backers during the Kickstarter but he isn't in the demo.)

Part of this is because romance is optional in the demo. That's right - you don't have to romance anyone if you don't want to, and I didn't find it hard to tell which responses lead to more intense feelings in the characters. I don't think it will be easy to become entangled by accident. I know this is a concern for some folks, so it bears mentioning.

Malec, the MC, Ornell, and Sylas

Malec, the MC, Ornell, and Sylas in Malec's curio shop

In addition, there's an ace in the pack: Sylas the street urchin. A romance with her won't be a sexual one, though it's sure to have sweet moments. I'll admit, I've heard about how ace relationships can work, but I haven't seen many in real life. I was charmed by how Sylas operates, purely as a friend as well as someone who'd like to be closer to the main character, without it being about sex.

The potential love interests each have their own lives to lead, with their own secrets and concerns to take care of. There are a couple of characters who aren't potential love interests, but they're still engaging and interesting to learn about. I backed the Kickstarter because I want to know these people a lot better.

Choices & Endings

The demo offers a good number of choices, and they come up on a fairly regular basis. There's a major branching point, and depending on which option you choose, you'll get to see new scenes and meet characters that aren't all available in other branches. There are three endings with variations on each, and all of this together means that the demo has great replay value.

Content Warnings

The demo's content warning is: "This game may contain content not appropriate for all ages, or may not be appropriate for viewing at work because of the following: murder, suicide, text-only descriptions of gore, blood on screen, implied nudity, sexual innuendos, coarse language, legal alcohol consumption."

There's a character you can meet with some gnarly scarring and a route that leads to some blood, but it wasn't gory. None of this bothered me in the least, but your tastes may vary.

Unique Systems

Aside from the abilities you get to put points in, there's also a system for shaping the main character's personality. The various responses you have to choose from reflect the four humors, so the most friendly is sanguine, the most aggressive is choleric, etc. If you choose one type more than the others, you'll see it on the MC's character sheet. I'm not sure if it affects how characters respond, but I might play again to find out.I always love being able to choose from responses that are markedly different in their tone, and I really enjoy being able to affect how the MC presents herself, so this worked very well for me.

Consider Me a Fan

I'd hoped the Kickstarter would take off more than it did, though it did meet some stretch goals and it's hard to get the word out for a project. I want to help RascalDevworks get all the attention and money they need to make the finished project everything they want it to be. I want to go wherever they'll take me, meet whoever's there, and see what happens!

The Kickstarter ended in April 2023, and the full novel is in development, with projected release early in 2024. Right now, I don't know a way for you to give the developer money or I'd provide it. In the meantime, please try the free demo, wishlist the full game on Steam, and spare them a kind word if you like it.


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