There are so many elements I loved about Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing. The art direction pulled me in first. Its 2D art is exceptional and the perspectives still offer a sense of depth. The premise made me want to play. A romantic adventure set right as the unnamed, obviously COVID-19, pandemic kicked in sounded easy to relate to. And a few moments with mechanics made it feel like something special. There are things here that are interesting and great!
Then the game ended right when I felt things were getting interesting.
I suppose part of this is my fault. I played and loved the original Half Past Fate, a romantic adventure with multiple relationships explored. I went into this offshoot expecting more of the same. And yes, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing offers that on a smaller scale. We watch Stephen and Robin meet. We control both characters as they deal with getting to know each other during a pandemic, all while forced to stay alone in their homes.
But the issue with Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing is that it speeds over many of the parts that make these sorts of stories compelling. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll do my best to summarize. The game begins the day before a shelter-in-place lockdown begins during the unnamed pandemic. Stephen and Robin meet, make plans, and exchange numbers. It then picks up the next day, on day one of lockdown, as the two decide to virtually keep in touch and date.
Rather than getting the full experience, Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing picks and chooses the very few moments it considers most important. Which doesn’t work for any sort of story, since it violates one of the most important rules. You show; you don’t tell. By showing, you allow people an opportunity to care about the characters they are watching. By only offering the most abbreviated glimpses into Robin and Stephen’s lives, it does them and their relationship a disservice.
I felt like this most hurt Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing at two specific moments. I loved the game when I was finding objects, performing tasks, and having Robin and Stephen show each other objects that were meaningful to them. But there are two sort of wham moments where you are supposed to see meaningful or impactful scenes. And when they happened here, they were anticlimactic. I understand is intended to be a short episode. But each event passed with my feeling ambivalent about it.
Which I suppose explains why the whole thing hit me as hard as it did. I felt that Half Past Fate was a game good at getting you to care about characters and feel things. With Half Past Fate: Romantic Distancing, I didn’t really care about Robin, Stephen, or the outcome when it ended. Which is so disappointing, because for the first fifteen minutes or so, I could really see it heading in a fun and engaging direction. If it were another two or three hours long, I think it would have been amazing.