August 1st, 2033-
The deep sea pleasure cruise, <SHEEP III>, with over 50 passengers on board, sinks.
And four days later-
“There are two survivors. One of them is Katagiri Hitose, a grad student.”
“And the other one is…”
The completely forgotten <other survivor>.
What happened in the four days until they were rescued?
What lurks in the depths of the sea?
And… who is the survivor?
A closed off submarine, and open mysteries.
This is a VN with no correct answers.
Shamelessly taken from VNDB since it’s a pretty good summary
Anyways, Dei Gratia no Rashinban was created by Catalyst Game, a doujin group and was released in 2015. The game was created as a homage to Ever17 and the writer doesn’t hide that, Dei Gratia itself has several small references to the Infinity series though it doesn’t go farther than that
3 routes for about 20 hours, only like 10 CGs and 24 music tracks. The art isn’t that bad but the lack of CGs is pretty annoying especially since the CGs that are there aren’t used well, the OST is original and solid for a doujin game, the final ending song is vocal.
Now to be clear, Dei Gratia despite what its setting looks like or despite its meta narrative twist isn’t similar to Ever17 or an Infinity game, at all. Where in Ever17 the Sci-fi twist is the plot, in Dei Gratia everything exist to push the thematic and the characterization of the cast, everything feels much more organic. The closest game I could think of is Himawari.
To go a bit further, Dei Gratia focuses on 3 ideas, the notion of sin, the notion of faith and the notion of causality, the 3 big themes are weaved organically into the actual plot and sci-fi elements focusing on the concept of evolution, both biological and “historical”
Dei Gratia which means By the Grace of God refers to 2 things in game, the famous Godless florin and the boat that found the phantom ship Mary Celeste.
The theme of faith is presented by 2 ideas, the faith to an inner moral consciousness as presented by Kant and the faith to the divine law as presented by Simone Weil. Both of those beliefs are presented as compatible, Simone Weil thought that even if the universe was under the “net” of God morality itself was only a matter of attention and determination. The protagonist himself and the rest of the cast are constantly assaulted by the weight of their own choices and their own sins holding onto their various faiths (to the divine, to their inner rules, to society, to family) as if holding at a last straw.
These sins are the results of their own choices and that theme of causality is pushed to its bitter end. But can the choices of a small group of people do anything against the march of history?
The ship Mary Celeste was a ship found adrift by the Canadian ship Dei Gratia with nobody aboard. No proof of violence on the boat, lots of food stocked. There was never any explanation for what happened on that ship.
But in the end does it matter? History and fiction already took its fate upon themselves, Conan Doyle even wrote a small story about it, rumors and stories repainted history and the Mary Celeste will forever be famous for that.
So obviously Dei Gratia can be pretty heavy, it seems to be categorized as a suspense or thriller but while it does have elements of both it’s definitely an experience completely alien compared to every other “closed off” VNs I did. The writer managed to create a feeling of slow pressure and solitude that goes against most titles of the genre.
Some people complained about the lack of 盛り上がり even by the end but personally I thought it was exactly what the game needed.
Now I won’t mention anything else about the plot since I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s definitely solid, the concept of evolution isn’t something you see every days in VN and it’s definitely developed and used pretty intelligently, the structure of the game itself is something to behold and the way to enter the last route is just… The characters are pretty good too, the game has no romance so the heroines are actually allowed to be used in some pretty “unusual” ways at times
It’s not perfect obviously, the writing is surprisingly solid, they took years to write it and it shows but it can still be a bit amateurish, prepare to see 最早 a million times. I’m also still not sure some of the meta elements were integrated that well into the game. And in the end it also lacks that little “something” to be at the same level as a Himawari (may be bias due Aqua), the lack of 盛り上がり and of obvious catharsis definitely make something that isn’t for everyone though.
Still thinking about the final rating, I could give it more.
Definitely the best doujin game after Himawari and JQV so play it