Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
February 14, 2023
Wales Interactive, Good Gate Media
They make you sweat, over-think, change your outfit multiple times and contemplate just staying in with your dog and Netflix instead. First dates are either adored or hated, and for obvious reasons – they can be absolutely terrifying! Ten Dates is your way to live vicariously through a young Londonite as they embark on a series of dates. This FMV is the sequel to the 2020 Five Dates, which focused on digital dating during Covid-19. This time, the dates take place in a speed dating arena in the most London place of all: a pub.
The game starts with a simple phone call between friends. Misha tells her Irish mate Ryan that she’s signed up for speed dating and that he should come along. Unbeknownst to him, Misha has signed them both up for speed dating. Ryan’s arm is easily twisted and you accompany the character you selected on their four dates. Firstly, however, you need to decide whether you’d like to follow Ryan or Misha’s night and learn a little bit about them. This includes their profession, their interests and even their star sign.
When my character was thrown into the flow of speed dating, I was disappointed that they were faced with only members of the opposite sex. I know, we live in a predominately heteronormative world, but the developers missed an opportunity to include sexual orientation in the introductory “choices” feature. Therefore, due to the nature of the speed dating event it’s presumed that your character is heterosexual.
The characters you meet are diverse and full of different ideas about what they are looking for, along with what they value and appreciate in life and romance. There are some who are literally looking for the love of their life, whilst other’s are just trying to dip their toe into the dating pool again after the pandemic. One dater, Jake, is very much the former; a teacher who is looking to settle down and introduce a nice girl to his family. Whereas another, Ty, is mainly focused on having as much fun as he can and therefore his answers are more animalistic and cheeky than Jake’s sincere conversation.
How you answer or question your dates gives you the autonomy to decide not only who your character will end up with, but also who your character is. When academic Kathleen asks Ryan where he see’s himself in five years you are provided with three choices that span being ready for commitment/family, to just wanting to lean into the spontaneity of life. Dates may also end prematurely, especially if your character tries to push their date to address questions that they have explicitly told you they are uncomfortable in answering. These dialogue options are the game’s main mechanic and works in a quick time event style, therefore only giving you a matter of seconds to decide your response.
The main thing that got on my nerves with Ten Dates’ dialogue is that the conversation flowed too well. I know, the writing needs to entertain the player with witty, charming lines, but my dates were so quick witted that they were borderline unrealistic. If I disagreed with something a suitor was saying most of the time they would be polite and see my point of view. The four women that Ryan interacted with challenged him more than Misha’s four and were actually harder to impress. The choices you make on the dating app at the beginning of the game are snuck into conversations and dialogue options throughout your playthrough. If you chose Misha to be a nurse, she will make comments about how tough it’s been for her the last few years being on the front lines of the pandemic. If an interest of Ryan’s is sport, his dialogue options will be more open to conversations about soccer and therefore you will have an opportunity to win the favour of professional soccer player, Toni.
The actors in Ten Dates are really able to capture the nuances of each date and the connection they feel based on your choices. In one playthrough I chose for Misha to respond very differently to a number of her dates and I noticed the slight differences in how she and they reacted differently to the alternative dialogue I used. If there is chemistry, you can feel it in the air between the two and if they are uncomfortable, you can feel that too. The way the acting matched with my choices and showed the consequences of them, the more I realised how my decisions could make or break my chances with this person.
So, you may be thinking, hang on, isn’t the game called Ten Dates, but the main characters only interacts with four people each? Well, at the end of each of the character’s dates, they are conveniently placed in a situation where they begin to have a flirty conversation with a member of the same sex. You can decide whether you ask either Hazel or Derek out on a date, which makes up a little bit for the lack of sexuality options. I have mixed feelings about including a Queer relationship like this. It seems like it’s been put in the game as an afterthought. The game making you decide if you are romantically into the same sex by “casually” throwing a Queer person at your character to see if they’ll stick seems a tad too tokenistic.
After the speed dating night you will watch a debriefing phone conversation between Ryan and Misha. The friendly chemistry between these two is nice and adds a breather from the constant romantic relationship focus. The two have a light-hearted convo where your character discusses what they really thought of their dates. You are then tasked with going through their socials and deciding which two you would like to go on another date with.
In these second encounters you can take your time getting to know your date without the five minute time constraint of speed dating. Misha loves playing games with her dates, whether they are Truth or Dare or “pick the most expensive wine whilst blindfolded.” Some of this is a tad cringe and had me wondering why the devs didn’t have the characters embark on activities rather than just sitting around, drinking wine and answering Would You Rather questions. During this second date, more is revealed about your suitor. One may be not over their ex, whilst another may be an anti-vaxxer; showing that the further you interact with these dates the more their true insecurities and possible deal-breakers will come to the surface.
Again, you get to decide whether your character is willing to continue dating this person based on what they know about them, or if they’d rather part ways now. You don’t know if you can pursue this person again until you go onto the next stage; deciding who you will go on a third date with. This usually limits the pool to two possible suitors, but if you have blown your chances with one of those second dates, their socials will be wiped from your phone and you’ll be unable to initiate a third date.
“How you answer your dates gives you the autonomy to decide not only who your character will end up with, but also who your character is.”
The final act sees you go on one last date and if this goes well, the screen will fade to black and provide you with a happy snap of the new couple and text telling you how they are fairing. Don’t like the person you ended up with? You can always replay the game and choose different dialogue options, giving Ten Dates a kind of puzzle-like feel of trying to piece together which choices will lead you to bag the suitor of your dreams.
To help you with this the game has a “Relationships” breakdown feature where you can see what each date thinks of you. These are broken down into characteristics like confidence, humour and spontaneity, and is ranked out of 100% depending on how much your date thinks you embody those qualities. This data gives you the secret formula to what will win over that particular suitor, enticing you to try your luck again with whoever you like. After the initial playthrough you can pick which suitors you try dating again, eliminating any that you weren’t that keen on. This feature adds to the replayability factor of the game and lets you experience a Groundhog day type scenario where you can finetune your character’s responses to advance further with the person of your dreams.
- Characters are multi-faceted and therefore interesting to get to know
- Great acting by the cast
- Lots of replay value to get different outcomes
- Dialogue can be a bit unrealistic
- Sexuality should have been a choice via the dating app function instead of a tokenistic inclusion
Ten Dates highlights the unspoken “rules” of dating and discusses what is needed in order for a date to go well. Though it does tend to follow a stereotypical heteronormative rom-com storyline, it gives the player enough autonomy to choose exactly what their character wants and doesn’t want from their love life through each selection of dialogue. It’s disappointing that the devs weren’t forward thinking enough to allow players to decide on their character’s sexuality and therefore force your Misha or Ryan to play as heterosexual. The way the game includes a chance flirty encounter with the same sex isn’t realistic and makes same sex relationships seem lesser than heterosexual relationships, or an afterthought. Overall, Ten Dates is a good adventure to embark on if you like your choices to matter, your dialogue to be witty and your romance to be somewhat predictable.