What would you do if you could go off/back to college and live in a house full of sexy co-eds? Would you study as hard as you could, or would you enjoy a year of partying? Maybe you would try to make as many friends as possible, or maybe you would try to become a rock star. Or, perhaps, would you try to hook up with as many of your hot roommates as possible?
A word of caution is due before this goes on. Dating/life sims are in a very specific, niche genre. Most of these games are an acquired taste, guilty pleasure, or something to play when you’re too drunk to play something requiring basic hand-eye coordination. While the artwork is pretty, it’s still just 2-D artwork, and there isn’t much action. Dating simulators bear more resemblance to a choose-your-own-adventure book than the latest AAA shoot ‘em-up, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be fun.
In Roommates, players take control of either Max, a seemingly freeloading rocker who is more interested in girls and music than school, or Anne, a shy, uptight bookworm who feels the need to make a few friends while pursuing her true passion: studying. Max and Anne share a house with four other students, and the story follows the adventures of the six characters during their first year of college.
Gameplay is divided into weeks, and at the beginning of the week, the player is able to choose the schedule for their chosen character. Players can choose to have their character go to class, sleep in, study, work at a job, or pursue a leisure activity. Activities and jobs improve one of the characters six stats, and raising stats to a certain level unlocks new jobs. Going to class, working, studying, and participating in activities all drain the character’s energy, and a balance of rest must be maintained to keep the character functioning.
As the week plays out various events, or scenes, become available. Players have the option to either play or skip an event, but the events are the only way to improve relationships with other characters. If the goal is to unlock a romantic scene or ending with one of the roommates, boosting these relationships is important.
In addition to needing a high relationship score, each roommate also has stat requirements needed to unlock their romantic scenes. These requirements are somewhat high, and players need to focus their stat gains accordingly if they want to unlock the special scenes and endings.
What makes Roommates stand out from other dating sims is how broad of a game this is. The game covers 21 weeks, with multiple special events including spring break, winter break, a prisoner’s dilemma scenario, and even a Halloween murder mystery. There is a lot of content to get through, and both Max and Anne have four different roommates with whom they can unlock the special endings. This means that for players who want to fully max out the game, there is a high replay value.
While the game is quite full, the writing for the game can seem a bit overwhelming at times. Most playable events really give players only one or two choices, and normally only a single relationship change can be made, if any at all. However, some of the event scenes play on for a very long time, leaving players reading line after line of text. While one can appreciate the work the writers have put into creating these events, there are times that Roommates feels more like a visual novel than a game.
Winter Wolves continues to improve its games, and Roommates is certainly a step up from past titles. Not only is Roommates the best dating sim Winter Wolves has published, it’s one of the best dating sims available from any indie developer. There is a lot to this game, including a decent original soundtrack.
Winter Wolves seems to realize that dating sims might not be for everyone, and they offer a very generous free demo of the game that allows players to see exactly what the game is like before committing money to it. The demo plays out the story until Halloween, and players who buy the game can continue their progress from their demo play.
Regardless of how much work Winter Wolves has put into this game, if you don’t like dating/life sims, don’t expect this game to win you over. However, if you’re already a fan of this niche genre, Roommates is definitely a title worth adding to your collection.