Being a doctor in the medieval ages can’t be that difficult – after all, all you really need to do is chuck a bunch of saws and knives at people and it’ll all get better, wouldn’t it? At least, that’s what Dr Chatelet used to think before ghastly rumours of patients dying of blood loss started surfacing and ruining his own belief system. Absurd claims of unorthodox practices have also been popping up here and there – findings that show that bloodletting is not actually effective in curing a fever. Surely, nothing can be farther from the truth, right?
These burning questions are what propel the wide-eyed protagonist to keep going, but is that premise enough to keep you going too?
DR. CHATELET: FAITH STORY AND VISUALS
Players step into the shoes of the titular hero who, fresh out of school and ready to practice medicine in the real world, is faced with the dilemma of how to actually cure patients in a more effective way. Dr Chatelet’s heart is in the right place, but all he’s ever known is to follow questionable and often brutal methods of “curing” patients that were very much the norm during that time. How does he grapple with the newfound knowledge that there actually might be something more humane than chopping off people’s arms just because they’ve got a headache?
While the themes of the game are pretty barbaric, the visuals look absolutely lovely thanks to the very Tim Burton-esque artwork and character designs for each chapter. The narrative adventure plays out like an actual storybook with the way the story is laid out – plus, the classical music serenading you in the background adds to the elegant atmosphere of the game.
There are some unfortunate errors in grammar and translation mishaps here and there, although each line of dialogue still manages to get its point across despite the mistakes. The mini-games also feature a chibi-style presentation when it comes to the patients, making the act of amputation in front of a live audience more adorable than it should be.
THE GAMEPLAY OF DR. CHATELET: FAITH
Speaking of mini-games, Dr Chatelet: Faith is peppered with little tasks you can do with each “round” in between chapters. You can certainly just speed through the story and skip rounds, but part of the charm of the game is the ability to decide different patients’ fates based on your so-called medical prowess.
In particular, you can do a little bloodletting using knives and leeches to cure common patient ailments at the barbershop or amputate an offending appendage in front of an excited audience. You can also try to create different medicinal concoctions at your pharmacy to force-feed to patients, and then try to swindle them into buying more of your odd-tasting product to earn money.
Each action costs a mobility point, and the money you earn from these mini-games can be used to buy upgrades for your handy tools of the trade. For instance, you can buy a saw for more amputation power, increase your box of spices for your pharmacy, use a stick as anaesthesia and so on.
While all these sound absolutely ridiculous and pretty sarcastic, there are actually real historical records littered throughout the chapters, where you can learn more about the terrible truths of medical “advancement” in the middle ages. These terrible beliefs, for example, show physicians as more concerned about their public reputation than actually trying to cure a person, and that barbers are very much licensed to be pseudo-surgeons for the common folk.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
All the little tidbits of trivia are incredibly interesting, and I found myself reading through each entry with rapt attention. The story itself, of course, is also pretty entertaining, as you’ll have to make difficult choices when it comes to abandoning everything you think you know or refusing to welcome a new age of medical thinking.
The choices you make may very well land you in dire straits with the church or send you straight to the gallows if you’re not careful. There’s plenty of replayability here too as there are multiple endings based on your decisions. Thankfully, you can save any time you want – and you really should, as you’ll have to start all over again if you want to go down a different route. There’s a handy fast-forward feature here, though – you can simply hold down on any part of the screen to speed through the dialogue until you have to make a choice.
Thanks to the aesthetics of the game, it may seem like it’s a pretty casual time-waster where you can engage in a couple of simple mini-games every now and then to earn some money. But the reality of the game’s themes is actually pretty deep, and it totally made me appreciate how far modern medicine has come in treating our various illnesses. I mean, I definitely wouldn’t want to get my leg chopped off just because of a random itch, and in front of an eager audience to boot.
There were, however, a few scenes that suddenly shifted in its art style from Burton-esque to anime-like, and these scenes were fully voiced (and not very well at that). It’s all pretty distracting and definitely took me out of my immersion in the game.
Despite the short runtime, Dr Chatelet: Faith isn’t meant to be played in one go, and I don’t think it wants to be. Chapters are short and sweet, with rounds you can skip or linger in as long as you have mobility points. You can keep earning money via the mini-games, or you can bury yourself in the narrative continuously depending on your preferences. The endings have beautiful illustrations that are pretty satisfying too. It’s certainly a quirky way to teach people about the history of medicine – if nothing else, it’ll definitely help you appreciate your current physician more.