I'd originally intended to get this posted for Valentines Day, as the first in what I hope will be a series of reviews of indie games that deal with sex, sexuality and romance in ways that are interesting from both a narrative and a gameplay perspective. I wasn't able to get it written in time, so here it is.
If you just look at a few screenshots, Saint Bomber's Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle looks like a garden variety RPG-Maker release, a fantasy JRPG with a metafictional sense of humor. Nothing could be further from the truth about this almost-entirely relationship-driven game. Even if it were conventional otherwise, the protagonist of the game, the Dutchess Elstwhere, is the most interesting protagonist I've ever encountered in a RPG Maker game, and one of the most compelling I've played in any game.
The other characters are similarly well-developed, and the game turns not on combat (which is all-but absent) but on your interactions with the other characters. This makes Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle more like a “visual novel” (in the Japanese style) than a RPG, but with a vastly greater sense of exploration and control than visual novels allow. Where you go and who you talk to triggers events (often, especially early in the game, event “cascades” that are a little overwhelming), so much of gameplay consists of which of your leads to follow up next in unraveling the mysteries of the Marque of Wulfhammer.
Also, though this game starts with the arrangement of a marriage, it is actually a yuri (“girls love” or lesbian) story, in which half of the mystery has to do with the aforementioned Duchess discovering who she is, after acquiring the freedom to “be” anything. It's difficult to talk about this game without spoiling elements of the plot, so this review continues after the jump, with a few spoilers, but those just from the first 5 or 10 minutes of play.