I won’t lie to you, readers: I’ve been excited to write this Web Crush for a while now. Strong as my love is for dating sims, I’ll be the first to admit that the setups usually draw from the same pool. School romances with various magical trappings; the new woman in a business where all her other co-workers are men: the tropes are familiar and comfortable, but sometimes we all need a little spice in our lives. A little something to shake things up. So today I present to you a dating sim that breaks out of the more typical shoujo romance mold and thrusts you into a world of corporate intrigue where romance may be the last thing on your mind.
In Project Trinity’s Women of Xal, players take the role of Xjena, a mysterious woman who has, alongside five other women, been chosen to compete for the legacy of one of Xal’s greatest business moguls, Xuna Xaovant. Xjena must prove her intelligence and cunning in order to rise to the top, but the challenge comes in how you, the player, will achieve this—or if you’ll achieve it at all. Xjena can spurn all others and become calculating and cruel to win this inheritance, or she can calculate her maneuvers in a more diplomatic manner and build strategic friendships. Or, alternately, Xjena can decide that this whole legacy thing isn’t for her and instead support the other women around her and befriend them, rather than compete against them. Will you throw it all away for a romance with one of the women you’re competing with (or even one of the harem boys!), or will you choose to focus on your career instead of getting romantically involved with anyone? All roads could either lead to success or ruin depending on your choices.
One of the most impressive factors of Women of Xal is its cast. While there are some paler characters, there doesn’t seem to be a white person among them. Honestly, it’s just really cool to see that the most promising business leaders in Xal are all women of color, and that Black women are leading the charge. Echoing this (or maybe it’s the other way around), Project Trinity itself is full of diversity: the writer of the game, Jonathan L. Johnson, is a Black man himself, and the rest of the team is filled with both women of all races and other Black male artists (in terms of sound design and illustration).
Something that intrigued me personally about the game, though, is its portrayal of gender and the discussions that will arise from that. Xal is a matriarchy, and because of this, men are often viewed as objects more than people. For a woman to have an entire harem of men, like Xuna does (and subsequently Xjena if she proves herself) for instance, is not strange at all; however, a woman’s relationship to her harem boys is considered secondary to her relationship to her wife if she has one. Furthermore, it’s expected for the men to be subservient to women in general. This leads to a universe where men taking on more stereotypically feminine roles, or even dressing more femininely, probably isn’t seen as that strange, and it provokes the player into thinking about their own relationship with gender and gender inequality. I’m sure the game will further explore the sexism, new and old, in its universe, and I’m excited to see where these explorations and discussions lead.
Going back to what I originally said, the reason I waited so long to bring up Women of Xal was so that I could link to Project Trinity’s Kickstarter—which as of today will still have twenty-two days to go. If you can donate, that’s great! If this kind of dating sim visual novel appeals to you, make sure to check out Project Trinity’s Tumblr page here for updates, or their Facebook page. If you’d like to support Women of Xal with your wallet, jump on over to their Kickstarter page here. And if you’d like a little taste of the worldbuilding or what to expect from Xuna herself, check out Xuna’s Twitter over here and grab some in-character Q&A!