I got this request months ago and while I’d like to say that the reason it took so long to review this game was because I was busy with real life obligations that wouldn’t be entirely true. The truth is, at first glance Up Until the End just didn’t grab my attention—the premise was definitely unique, but the art really didn’t do it for me, so I pushed it further and further down my list. I am not proud to admit that I judged this game before even playing it, but I am human and while reviewers strive to be impartial, it’s not exactly an easy thing to do.
So, with the prospect of being stuck at home indefinitely due to COVID-19, I decided to revisit Letitia Lambrechts debut visual novel, Up Until the End and I will admit that I owe her an apology for waiting so long to play this game. It’s not perfect, but, I may have been too hasty in judging Up Until the End, it is a rather enjoyable and inventive story that is worth the playthrough!
This was supposed to be an ordinary day, in an ordinary life. But it isn’t.
You were in the town library, reading a good book when…You don’t really remember. You know you passed out. When you wake up, you are surrounded by flames !
Will you get out of danger? Will you create bonds with your companions? And maybe, will you find love on the way?
Up Until the End has its weaknesses, but most of those can be attributed to this being Letitia’s first big project and I have no doubt that in time she’ll smooth out those kinks in later game releases. In the game you step into the shoes of a young woman who unwittingly finds herself on the run with a group of strangers after surviving a mysterious fire. Little is known about the cause of the fire and why she and her companions are being hunted, and that makes for a much more engaging story, because you are experiencing the events of the story alongside the characters and not with the usual inherent omnipotence granted in most visual novels. You’re just as in the dark about everything as the characters, so their fears and frustrations are your own and it’s not hard to really feel for the characters as they struggle to come to terms with their circumstances.
However, while I found the slowly evolving mystery element of the story quite unique, I will admit that it made the plot a bit hard to follow in the beginning. These characters are put through hell, but without any context it’s hard to be fully invested in anything aside from the characters themselves and that is one of the game’s strengths. The first half of the game is spent introducing us to the characters: the MC, Amanda, Matt, and Erika. More than anything, Up Until the End is a human drama and Letitia does a good job of fleshing out all of her characters—many of the choices you make throughout the game don’t just move the plot along, but rather shape your relationship with each of your companions. An action made in the heat of the moment can have long lasting ramifications on your relationship with certain characters for the rest of the game. There was a point where the MC and her companions were under attack and Erika, a young girl, stops to ask you what she should do to help you guys get away. There was a sense of urgency during that situation, so I brushed her off and from that point on she stopped coming to me during tense situations, choosing instead to go with either Amanda or Matt. It’s the little details like this that really make a story shine because the choices aren’t just a means to an end, but a way of adding depth.
By the time you reach the end of the game you form a bond with each of these characters, and it’s nice to see these relationships develop over the course of the story. It’s very rare that I find a game where I don’t hate any of the characters, but I can honestly say that I genuinely enjoyed each character in Up Until the End. I was invested in their individual story arcs and let’s be clear, characters can die in this game, and I was so attached to these characters that I went out of my way to replay a few choices just to save someone’s life because I wanted them to have a happy ending!
There is an optional romance plotline, between the MC and Matt. You can still achieve a happy ending regardless of whether or not you choose to pursue a relationship with Matt. In most games with romantic plotlines, how successful you are with the romance is directly linked to the “best” outcomes. So, to have a game where romance is an actual option and not a requirement is refreshing! But, I did enjoy the romance between Matt and the MC, the pacing was good and it developed naturally without detracting from the actual story.
While Up Until the End does have romance, it isn’t a romance game. It has action, adventure, suspense, mystery, drama… there is literally something for everyone! The story hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until you reach one of the many unique endings. For a debut title, Letitia displays some considerable skill and I can’t wait to see what more she has in store for us in the future!
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