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Visual Novel / Solstice

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Solstice is a visual novel by Moa Cube, the same team that has brought us Cinders.

In the Far North, amidst the ice and snow, a city with architecture reminiscent of Central Asia stands upon the hot springs beneath the earth. A magical dome protects it from the harsh environment. Two outsiders - Galen, the healer, and Yani, the technician - arrive at the same time, ostensibly in order to temporarily use their respective skills for the benefit of the merchants who ruthlessly rule this place. All of a sudden, a local madman disappears, and, since the city has been isolated for the winter season and is now barely populated, this leaves a very narrow circle of suspects. Our two heroes begin their investigations, but as the mystical Solstice event draws near, they may find out more than they would like.


This page contains spoilers.

Solstice provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Depending on player choice, Galen's poisoning of Lev can be this; he intended to give Lev an antidote, but wasn't able to find him in time.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Slava and Istvan, also Yani and Sem, if she takes his route. Both women even lampshade this.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Constance has tan skin and wears Arabian clothing, with Indian jewelry, but her name is Latin and her features appear to be Caucasian. Her real name, Inge, is Germanic, and she says that she's from the North.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Yani. She looks East Asian (probably Han Chinese, judging by some hints) and is a methodical engineer.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: One of the prevalent themes in the game and the outcome for different characters in different endings.
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  • Becoming the Mask: Kasiya was ordered as part of his compact with Istvan to grow close to both Yani and Galen, which can potentially lead to him beginning a romance with the latter. He comes clean towards the end of the game, citing this trope as the truth of his feelings.
  • Bedlah Babe: Constance rocks this look.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Laura has this relationship with Istvan. He made her stay up all night while he mumbled about the occult.
  • Berserk Button: Sem, the Master of the Kennels, hates when people disrespect the dogs.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Laura's horrified response to Yani's assumption that she was sleeping with Istvan.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The game doesn't have a lot of moral high ground. All of the characters have done/will do some pretty awful things - though some are, arguably, worse than others. But, at the same time, all of the characters are broken and most of them are driven by fear and desperation.
  • Black Widow/The Bluebeard: Kasiya says he's seen a lot of cases of spousal murder.
  • Blood Knight: During an optional dialogue with Kasiya he claims to have sought out violence and war for its own sake.
  • Break the Cutie: All the NPC have undergone this long before the start of the game. Our protagonists undergo this during the game.
  • Break the Haughty: Istvan reportedly had a woman's nose cut off because he felt annoyed by her attitude.
  • Broken Bird: Laura and Sem. Kasiya may be one, too, though he is certainly better at hiding it.
    • Constance has been one likely since childhood, and this fuels her desire to see the city destroyed.
  • Butt-Monkey/Cosmic Plaything: Poor Sem.
  • The Caligula: Back when Istvan used to be competent, he was cruel, ruthless and bloodthirsty. Now that he is officially retired, he is cruel, ruthless, bloodthirsty and obsessed with the occult.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: If you imprison the most innocent suspect who has already suffered a lot and who is already despised, thus making an easy scapegoat out of them, you highly increase your chances of getting the "best" ending.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: People laugh at Laura for being reliant on Tarot cards. However, when you replay the game, you will notice that the reading that she gives to Yani in an optional dialogue in Chapter 1 spells out the plot.
  • Culture Equals Costume: Slava is Slavonic (most probably Russian), and her outfit reflects that. The Inuit Yakone still dresses after her tribes' fashion, despite being a citizen now. Arguably, subverted in case of Constance.
  • Dead All Along: Lev's body is found three weeks after his disappearance, but his death was on the same night he went missing.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone really but Yakone is a standout example.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: No matter what choices you make, some characters will suffer, some of them yet more than the others.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sem tried to stab Yakone for even suggesting they have a dog fight for entertainment.
  • Downer Ending: All of them. Literally. It doesn't even matter which one you get.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Every character has something wrong with them: their attitude, their life, an act they committed, a secret they harbor, all of the above, etc.
  • False Utopia: The City is beautiful, rich and prospering. However, it runs on a system of contracts, which is basically a fancy name for slavery, maintained by the oppressive and immoral Merchant Families. It is also built upon the sacred hot springs stolen from Yakone's people, the natives of the place. Some of the dialogue towards the end suggests that the City was conceived as a meritocratic utopia and then Went Horribly Wrong, but the character may very well be an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Fiery Redhead:: Zig-Zagged with Kasiya. He can be harsh and was a proud Blood Knight in his backstory. However, characters like Istvan are even more temperamental and he's fairly calm and congenial in his introductory scene. He also shows more vulnerability and insecurity if you take his romance path.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Yani and Yakone. They both live in a city with unexplainable weather phenomenon, which makes people hallucinate vividly and gives them extraordinary abilities while it lasts. Yani's people developed technology that relies on something suspiciously similar to spells, and Yakone's people have all-and-out magicians. Believing in Kala, on the other hand, is a step too far.
  • The Ghost: Several.
    • Istvan's guards get a few mentions but we never see them.
    • Yani makes snarky references to the chancellor who sent her to the city and the caravan driver who abandoned her but neither makes an in-game appearance.
    • It's implied that there are more residents in the city than the main cast but they are never seen.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Implied with Yani. She named him Mr. Putty.
  • Going Native: Sem and Kasiya join the tribes in different endings.
  • Golden Ending: Deconstructed, as the "Jewel of the North" ending also changes the least (as in, nothing) about the city's corrupt power structure. Those who played Cinders, where being the "Fair" or "Machiavellic" Queen was better than being the "Good" Queen, might find this familiar, but Solstice takes it even further, making you wonder if the Bad Ending is the real Golden Ending and vice versa.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: 4 male citizens and Galen to 4 female citizens and Yani.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Yakone states that only wisewomen can lead her tribe and perform rituals during the winter because its power is feminine. This apparently reverses during the summer.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Laura.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Istvan.
  • Hysterical Woman: Slava acts like this when her husband goes missing. She's canonically referred to as hysterical.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Constance, the courtesan and the bathhouse owner. Actually a Deconstruction.
  • History Repeats: The "Lifeless Technology" ending.
  • Incest Subtext: May be present with Istvan and his brother. It's hinted that they used to visit Constance together, and when his brother died, Istvan went on a true Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Besides, Istvan's brother was apparently addicted to white myrrh, and, if Galen chooses to conduct a ritual involving this drug, he and Kasiya will make out, intoxicated by the fumes, even if you have been nothing but rude to Kasiya before.
  • Informed Attribute: You keep hearing how terrible and cruel Istvan is, but the worst thing he ever does in-game is simply imprisoning a person who has accused him in front of the crowd of a crime he didn't commit, and the city's prison doesn't even look that terrible. The citizens also consider him an efficient ruler, but he has a couple of astonishingly Too Dumb to Live moments.
  • Just the First Citizen: Istvan is officially retired. But only officially.
  • Kill 'Em All: The "True Winter" ending.
  • The Killer in Me: The "Secretive Killer" variant of this trope plays out with Galen, who is revealed to be Lev's murderer. Whether Lev's death was an accident Galen regrets or a deliberate decision made out of pragmatism depends on player input.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Sem. Though, considering his environment, he's just the one who doesn't bother hiding his freakiness.
  • MacGuffin: Kala. No one knows what it is, but many want it. Badly.
  • The Medic: Galen.
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty. Galen is the most obvious one. Then there's Istvan, the de facto ruler of the city, whose name is the Hungarian pronunciation of Stephen, which means "crown", and may be a reference to King Saint Stephen of Hungary.
    • Yakone is an Inuit name that means "red dawn". Red dawn is often regarded as a bad premonition and red is also the colour of fury. Yakone is fairly furious and feisty. Also, if you choose to escape with her, you get a Non Standard Game Over.
    • Lev is the Russian male name, meaning "Lion", hence the title of Chapter 1 - "Tracking the Lion". It's also the first name of the Russian literary giant, whose name is normally romanized as Leo Tolstoy and who has been obsessed with religion and mysticism for a very long time to a point of becoming excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church and leaving his family to pursue spiritual development shortly before his death.
  • Minimalist Cast: The game only has ten characters.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Galen, who murders Lev and, depending on player choice, can be responsible for even more terrible deeds.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Gender Inverted with the two player characters. Galen is a doctor and Yani is a mechanic.
  • Multiple Endings: Par for the course. Namely, four main endings with 2 to 11 variations of each.
    • Jewel of the North - Both the city and the springs are saved.
    • Lifeless Technology - The city is saved at the cost of the springs.
    • Clear Waters - The springs are saved at the cost of the city itself.
    • True Winter - Neither the city nor the springs are saved, and everyone subsequently dies.
  • The Needs of the Many: Another recurring theme.
  • No Name Given: Istvan's brother, who is also a Posthumous Character.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Istvan, thanks to his purple outfits and high rank.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Congratulations. You have saved both the city and the hot springs. Now what?
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Istvan with his stylish purple attire.
  • Red Herring:
    • Istvan is undoubtedly a horrible person responsible for much misery in the city, but he isn't Lev's killer (Galen is) and he isn't the saboteur trying to destroy the city (Constance is).
    • Carries into the game's climax: when the player is presented with the game's final choice - confronting Istvan during his massive experiment that seems to be tearing the city apart, or going looking for Constance after she wandered off after falling ill - many would naturally choose to confront Istvan. While this will affect Istvan's character ending, the subsequent confrontation with Constance (the real saboteur) has bearing on which of the game's Multiple Endings the player receives.
  • Romance Sidequest: Both player characters have a single love interest - Kasiya for Galen, and Sem for Yani - but the option to initiate a romance with either one of them is just that.
  • Sadistic Choice: At the end of Chapter 3, when you have to decide, which one you should imprison. Guess what? It also massively influences the ending you'll get.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Kala was invented by Galen's people to distract the Northerners from, well, noticing that the City runs on slave trade.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Laura has this reaction when Yani assumes that she and Istvan are together, though she never says these words.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Constance and, to a lesser extent, Laura.
  • Situational Sexuality: Very likely the case with Constance.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The city runs on it, and Galen seems to be an expert on it. The line between technology and magic is actually quite blurry in this game.
  • Shared Universe: With Cinders, as the two games share one character, namely, Madame Ghede. Here, she is Galen's teacher.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Laura used to be that way. Then the City bought her.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very cynical, much more so than Cinders — which had the possibility for some fairly happy endings. Every ending in Solstice is fairly cynical, and leaves the player with mixed feelings. Yes, including "True Winter" — especially after you play through the other three endings, see how they all continue the corrupt system in some way or another, and begin to wonder if Constance was right after all.
  • Straight Gay: Both Kasiya and Galen. Laura, as well.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yani if she accuses Istvan in chapter 3.
  • "What Now?" Ending: "Jewel of the North".
  • White Male Lead: Averted. The main characters are an East Asian female and a black male.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Kasiya killed a madwoman. Then again, she was a mercenary and had already killed Kasiya's companion.
  • Wrench Wench: Yani.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Kasiya's companion didn't take a mercenary from Galen's country for a serious threat, as she was a woman, and it cost him his life. Underestimating Constance has a similar effect for everyone involved.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Both protagonists, but especially Galen.
  • Vicious Cycle: The "Clear Waters" ending. Also present in some ending variations with Kasiya and Yani.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Yakone and Kasiya.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Galen is understandably heartbroken to discover that Kasiya only grew intimate with him as part of his compact with Istvan, although Kasiya insists that he really did grow to care for him.