My Lovely Daughter is an intriguing video game. As soon as you start the game, you’re given a clear disclaimer. The developers at GameChanger studio want this game to upset and horrify the player. It’s an ambitious game that carries with it an important message that will make you stop and think.
You play as Faust, an amnesic alchemist who desires to revive his dead daughter. To do so, he creates homunculi which take the form of young girls. Faust must raise these girls like he would his own daughter to develop their affinity. Only then will they suitable for the ritual to revive his real daughter.
It is understandable if you meet this game with a level of scepticism. Many games attempt to use shock value as a storytelling device. However, this does not do justice to what the story of My Lovely Daughter accomplishes. It’s a commentary on the horrors of domestic abuse and negligent parenting that is a major issue in reality. This game is not about escaping to a magical fantasy world. It’s about facing the sick truth that is the world we live in.
You create homunculi using five different ingredients: water, wood, clay, iron and meat. You combine them to form unique homunculi with different appearances and personalities. The girls can have one of four characteristics: sadness, joy, anger and fear. It’s important to strike a balance between all four as you will need them.
Your final goal is to revive Areah, Faust’s daughter. Every full moon you can perform a special ritual to infuse a soul into Areah. The soul is powerless on its own, it needs affinity. Faust collects this affinity by murdering the homunculi he creates. By balancing the four characteristics, Faust hopes to return his daughter to her old self.
It’s isn’t so simple though. To build affinity with the Homunculi you have to take care of them. This entails playing games with them or buying them gifts. Faust’s shows fake affection to trick his homunculi into feeling safe and secure. The game doesn’t make this process easy. When you go to sacrifice one of the girls, they start to cry and plead for mercy. It’s heartbreaking and will make you sick to your stomach.
My Lovely Daughter has other ways to break your spirit. Faust needs funds to keep his expensive alchemic operations going. While raising his girls to increase affinity, he also puts them to work. The people of the nearby town seem to know Faust and are privy to his homunculi services. You can assign your homunculi to jobs specific to their characteristic to earn money. The trade-off is that they lose affinity when sent to work. If their affinity reaches a certain low point, they will run away from home. Faust feels no remorse as he puts his creations through immense psychological abuse. If you’re faint of heart, it can be difficult to play through these harsh scenarios.
This is the main gameplay loop of My Lovely Daughter. You make homunculi and set them to work for money. With that money, you can buy resources to create more homunculi and repeat the cycle. This is the weakest aspect of the game and what makes it a chore to play. The repetitive cycle gets boring after only a few hours of play. There’s no variety in the game to break the monotony.
This also hurts the story in the long-run. After playing for a few hours there’s a pattern of creating a new daughter and sacrificing her. While shocking at first, it becomes less effective as a storytelling device. There should have been a greater focus on developing each daughter. If they had more distinct personalities the sacrifices would be more difficult.
On a more positive note, My Lovely Daughter boasts a fantastic gothic aesthetic. The colours make the game look like an old book which is a great touch. Despite the focus on dark and violent themes, there actually isn’t a lot of gore here. You’ll see some blood stains after a sacrifice. There are also some pieces of artwork showing the murder.
Alongside the unique visuals, you have a brooding soundtrack. The music is there to slide into the background and add a layer to the atmosphere. In this regard, they have done an excellent job. A game such as My Lovely Daughter doesn’t need a bombastic orchestral soundtrack. Music is a more subtle affair which is perfect for the context and themes of the story.
My Lovely Daughter fits in the category of games that aren’t about having fun. The focus on conveying message means that some other aspects take a hit. In this case, it happens to be the gameplay which becomes stale and repetitive. However, if you want to broaden your worldviews, then My Lovely Daughter does an excellent job.