I don’t get to play as many games as I’d like these days but when I saw Bloom Digital Media’s Later Daters, I knew it was one that I had to try out. Not only is it the type of game that I truly love but it’s also a game that features an unusual protagonist and setting. This is our Later Daters PC review.
When I first heard about Later Daters, I was intrigued. It’s a title that is focused on an underserved and under-represented group in gaming today. The game is probably best described as a visual novel dating sim where the player takes on the role of a senior citizen moving into Ye OLDE retirement community. From the get-go, you understand that this isn’t your typical dating sim by setting, yes, but also due to the choices you get to make on character creation.
Ye OLDE is an inclusive community and when making your character, you’ll be able to choose to be masculine, feminine, or genderfluid. You can even choose your own pronouns then name your character and choose a pet to accompany you. You’ll also be able to add a bit of a backstory for your character. My character, Kal, was married for decades to her wife who had died a year or so ago. Moving from the country to the city after her death was a huge choice for Kal and saying goodbye to her life was not an easy decision. Luckily, Ye OLDE helps take the sting out of the entire situation.
The death of Kal’s partner is the first inkling that this isn’t a typical dating sim. Not only is the setting unique and the characters atypical of any game, but so is the decision by the developers at Bloom Digital Media to let things play out naturally. More than once throughout the game, players are presented with scenes that many titles would shy from. The complexities of aging, the fear of death, the difficulty dealing with a partner with dementia, a child who doesn’t accept his parent’s current life choices, and many others are presented elegantly. There are no “elbow to the ribs” jokes at the expense of any character’s age. There is nothing demeaning about the dialog around difficult subjects. There is no ridicule aimed at characters who are still learning about themselves and stumbling through new friendships and the dating scene.
Things in Later Daters play out in a very realistic way. For instance, on meeting a new person, Kal through me was able to determine what she thought and felt about them. She could inwardly comment on whether she found them attractive or not and make other subtle, but not unkind, judgments about them. Depending on the choices she made, Kal unlocked later dialogs and/or potential dating situations. The beauty of it all is that developers have spotlighted the characters’ need for companionship, romance, and friendship despite their age and the world’s expectation that love isn’t something for the elderly.
There’s a wistfulness in the characters from time to time. Each one struggles with their own thoughts and ideas about aging. Everyone pines for their younger selves but come to the realization that this is living in all of its beautiful, frightening, amazing ways. Life is a one-way journey and, at one point, “Jax”, a former pop star, comes up with a song that epitomizes how everyone feels.
Every morning when I wake
I am surprised
To be alive.
When I was young I burned so bright
I was unbound.
I did not plan to stick around.
But here I am…
And I wonder if I could go back…intact
I wonder if I would get back…in line
Find a wormhole to those younger times
Because there I was
Just me and endless possibilities
I am an explorer
I open every space-time door
Full-on science fiction, but just in one direction
We’ve traveled to the future, but now what do we do here?
Our bodies are all fading, but our souls, still radiating…
On we go to the end of the show
We are disintegrating but our stars forever illuminating
The game plays out across a couple of weeks with each “chapter” being a day in one of those weeks. Each day there is new drama, new heartache, new potential, and new people to meet. I liked how it was presented but found that some of the situations felt a bit needlessly rushed. Perhaps that is intended. After all, given their ages (and they’d tell you this themselves!), they’re on borrowed time. Because of that, there’s no time to waste. But the sometimes “hurried” nature of romances makes me want to offer one word of caution: Things ramp up very quickly at times and it’s worth noting that romantic encounters in Later Daters can be a bit graphic. If that’s something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s worth being aware.
Kal found someone she believes will bring her joy. She’s found happiness again. She’s found purpose again. And that, my friends, is what life is all about: Finding something that makes you happy in one way or another. Later Daters made me happy. It made me realize that love never grows old, that it never dies. It made me less anxious about my own golden years in its own way, it gave me hope for the future. Lofty words, I know, but true nonetheless. It’s truly one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a very, very long time.
Honestly, I hope that Bloom Digital makes more games utilizing such interesting and intriguing characters and settings with such wonderfully inclusive ways to play. If you’re looking for a fun, relaxing, and surprising game to play, Later Daters may be just the ticket.
Our review of Later Daters was completed through a verified Steam purchase.