CW: Rape, torture, death, sexual slavery, misogyny, racism, emotional abuse, gaslighting, grooming, brain washing, and dehumanization. I can not even begin to list every potential trigger in this game. If you have no triggers, you will after reading DeadΩAegis. The content of this game will be described in detail in the text of this review.
Three NSFL games in a row huh? So this is what my life has become? I review the titles that would make most grown men need extensive therapy, but I come out unscathed because I was already too far gone to begin with? Well, if it’s what gets those views then I’m not unironically complaining. But I should note that reviewing this game was not initially part of my plan. I was actually approached by a Jast representative and asked if I would cover this game. The last time this rep asked me to cover a title of theirs was You and Me and Her, which blew me away, so I was definitely interested in this one. What also helped was that I have already determined that I’m going to cover as many games made by or relating to Black Cyc as possible.
DeadΩAegis (pronounced Dead End Aegis), is certainly something. Between Maggot Baits, SaDistic Blood, and this, this is the most tame in terms of gruesome material shown right in front of you, yet it also unsettled me in a way that the former two never even came close to. To be honest, the only other game I’ve played that left me with such a deep feeling of discomfort was Starless. That’s not to say that DeadΩAegis is a bad game even, the story and characters are gripping and everything about this game will leave you wanting to see how it ends, well, except for the sex scenes, which make you dread what happens next.
“Oh here we go again. Annie’s going to rag on this game for bad sex scenes AGAIN” says the inner manifestation of my deepest insecurities, and maybe at least one actual person. But that’s the thing, the sex scenes in this game aren’t even badly written. I compared this to Starless, but that’s only in that they left a deeply unsettling feeling that lingered for an entire day after I was done. And to be fair, this did not affect me as quite as much as when I read Starless in 2015, but I think I realized just what it is about both of these games that triggers me that games like Euphoria, Maggot Baits, and even SaDistic Blood don’t have.
Both Starless and DeadΩAegis have long drawn out sequences of captivity that gradually ramp up in extremity and instill a sense of hopelessness and depression. While some of the individual scenes in SaDistic Blood may be stomach churning on their own, there’s this feeling of disconnect between the main story and those gruesome sex scenes. Maggot Baits was high on grotesque violence, but the story was also fast paced and never seemed to dwell too much on the torture. Now that I think about it, I may be one of the few people who finds Euphoria more disturbing than Maggot Baits because of this.
I initially brushed this off due to having become more desensitized, but having played DeadΩAegis, I’ve come to the conclusion that games like it and Starless get to me more because they are more closely aligned with my own personal trauma. The kind that isn’t necessarily one specific incident, more so than a bunch of smaller happenings that weren’t much on their own, but that built up and overwhelmed me until I started to view life itself with a sense of hopeless dread. And it’s quite frustrating, because if it weren’t for the fact that DeadΩAegis caused such a discomforting sensation in me, it could have very well have become my favorite visual novel of all time.
DeadΩAegis can best be summed up as what would happen if someone saw Madoka Magica and said “I know how to make this WAY more fucked up,” and someone decided to fund this guy’s project instead of informing the FBI, or whatever the Japanese equivalent is. When I first looked this up on VNDB, the first few lines of the description read as follows…
――Magical girls are weapons――
――Magical girls do not create hopes or dreams――
――Magical girls drown in pleasure and bodily fluids――
And yeah, that’s basically the plot of this game in a nutshell. Okay technically, there’s a lot more depth to it, but this just might be the most bleak work of fiction I’ve ever read. And yes, DeadΩAegis not only has a happy ending, it has an absolutely fantastic ending! The characters are fascinating and well developed, the visuals are fluid and go way beyond static images, the music is fucking amazing, and the story was not only intense and blood pumping, but also has a ton of layers of depth and symbolism. I may need to make a Feminist Analysis piece about this game if I can ever get myself to replay it.
And despite all of this, I can’t say for certain that I enjoyed this game. Up to this point, I thought that an amazing story would mean I can look past any type of perverted or grotesque content, but this one took me to my limits. Similarly to Starless, I read through most of this game’s story in one day because the harrowing sequence of rape and abuse hit me like a car crash, they were horrifying and soul crushing, but I couldn’t look away. But unlike Starless, I can’t even say these scenes were badly written, they were just incredibly hard to sit through, and there were so many of them.
And that’s where DeadΩAegis‘s biggest flaw lies. Even if you are completely incapable of being traumatized by this game, the plot structure makes the story repetitive as hell and drives the intense space combat sequences and intriguing character development to a halt so they can show you yet another way to humiliate and degrade Minori. The prequel VN (which you will get access to right away if you pre-order this game) made it seem like this game would be focused on the characters and on the space combat, and the first few hours of the main game also feel that way.
When I heard that this game was dark, I initially assumed it would be in a “war is actually a horrifying hellscape where death is just around the corner” kind of way, and while there is some of that, it’s mostly about rape culture and the effects it has on those who are subjected to it. It starts out by revealing that Magical Girls are created by having human women being raped by grotesque rape aliens called CC, that most candidates barely survive the process, and that this is covered up by the Military so that more women sign their lives away, but that’s only the beginning. The girls are then subjected to frequent sexual harassment by the men, and the women not only have no power over said men because personnel is scarce out in space, but that any woman who protests is made an example of.
And while it starts out realistic, the girls are conditioned to accept more and more humiliation and torment. In order to hone their skills, the women must wear special equipment that suspiciously resembles nipple clamps and a sex toy. A magical girl’s combat prowess is directly proportional to their sexual activity, so this systematic abuse of the women is not only encouraged, but is actively created. And things just continue to get worse and worse. And while this sounds exactly like what one would expect from a pandering hentai, what makes this all the more horrifying is that the girls are all fully developed three dimensional characters that react like real human beings would. And because of this, you see every bit of emotional trauma that they suffer, and you feel just hopeless and despairing as they are.
It’s bad enough that there’s all this grotesque rape, but DeadΩAegis‘s has a habit of giving you just the right bit of false hope before it smacks you right in the face with cruel reality. And like an abusive spouse, it falls into a cycle of offering a little bit of hope, then even more depravity, with the amount of hope growing thinner and thinner each cycle until things actually do get better, at which point you’ve been abused so much that you’re just waiting for the game to sweep the rug out from under you. The end result is both despair inducing, yet also brilliant.
It’s one thing to just come up with the most fucked up fetish you can imagine and shoehorn it into a scene, but it’s another to immerse the player by actively worsening the game’s story structure to make the player feel Minori’s pain. You have glimpses of something more, but just as Minori starts to genuinely believe that her dreams means nothing and she only exists to be a sex slave, you genuinely start to believe that this game is nothing more than meaningless rape porn with no substance. And you find out at the end of the game that neither of those are true. And it puts me in this weird position where, as a critic I am impressed, but as a human being, I feel violated. For a work of fiction to manipulate me and play with my emotions like this, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.
I suppose one could consider this a spoiler of sort, but honestly, it would have helped me to know this beforehand. While I kept seeing Minori abused and scarred in worse and worse ways, there was a brief point where I actually may have suspected that the Jast rep who recommended this to me may have had some sinister intentions at play. That it was recommended as a sort of sadistic prank of sorts. And yes, I consciously knew this was absurd, but something about this game got to me, and despite all the stuff it did well, It got under my skin in a deeply discomforting way.
I genuinely wonder whether or not anyone is intended to find these scenes sexy due to the way they are delivered. They may be shot and drawn like typical hentai scenes, but I also know that most games like this are told from the point of view of a male character. Anyone ever notice that in so many of these nukige, regardless of the quality, you are reading from the perspective of the male character? IE the one doing the raping abusing, and often the target audience of these games? That’s not to say that this is all nukige, but it is a lot of them.
It rarely came across like DeadΩAegis was trying to arouse me in these scenes, which is all the more jarring since the few consensual scenes with genuine emotional warmth were sexy as hell. And I’m not just referring to the yuri scenes either, there are some cishet scenes later in the game that were genuinely quite hot, and that’s not something I find myself saying often. In other words, DeadΩAegis isn’t another example of a man who has never been laid trying to write a sex scene, the person who wrote these actually knows their shit. This can only lead me to believe that you’re not intended to be aroused by the frequent scenes of subjugation and abuse, not that this will stop some people.
I’m unsure if there’s much more I can say about DeadΩAegis, despite the fact that I’ve dwelled mostly on one particular aspect. I could go into the main story with the intense space combat, the atmospheric setting, the endearing characters, and the overall political intrigue, but over and over again, it comes back to that onslaught of horrific, scarring rape and emotional torture that drives all of the above to a screeching halt. Pacing is important even in games that don’t risk traumatizing their reader base, and even if you enjoy seeing a woman treated as less then human and kept in appalling living conditions where she’s fed pet food and isn’t allowed to shower, where every male character is straight out of the mind of Valerie Solonas and is incapable of anything but rape and destruction (much like the aliens they fight against), and where every last bit of hope and comfort is stripped away as this game continues to dig into the ground below the bottom of the barrel long after the bottom has been split open, that It still makes the story agonizingly slow and tedious. Even when it’s well written, even when it serves a thematic purposes, the journey is still more important than the destination, and this was not a journey I’d want to repeat.
I’m glad I played DeadΩAegis. It’s story and characters have formed memories that will stick with me for times to come, but it also left memories that will stick for different reasons. This game was so close to greatness, but it hit a dead end on the way.
Update: This is probably one of the few games that my opinion on improved since playing it. Really, the thing to keep in mind is that the impact it will leave on you is powerful, but it’s also one of the most deeply troubling games of all time, and it comes down to if you want to experience absolute, grotesque misery and despair in digital form.
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