Content notification on domestic abuse, rape, and animal cruelty.
Yes, Your Grace begins with a wedding, put into play to avoid another wedding. A Radovian bandit king is bringing an army to claim your — King Eryk’s — oldest daughter’s hand. War is coming, you’re promised that, but marrying her off to a young prince takes care of two birds with one stone. The King promises you armies against Radovia, and your daughter Lorsulia is no longer free to marry. Unfortunately at the wedding, tragedy strikes: The King is murdered, and until a culprit is named, there will be no armies. Your daughter and her new husband Ivo immediately leave, and you must prepare for war.
This much of the game was made available as a demo, which I played through multiple times, to see if I could save the ally King’s life, or manage my relationships with my daughters differently, or have a bigger, fancier wedding than I did the run before. Yes, Your Grace was a game I was excited to play before its release, intrigued by a resource management game that balanced story with its number crunching.
The trial for the King’s murder takes place on the eve of battle, and after a satisfactory outcome, Ivo re-pledges his support. Eryk shares a quiet moment with his daughter for the first time since she left home—and discovers bruises around her neck. Eryk gets angry, but I sit there in shock, feeling like I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me. For a game that opens with the premise of war, the interpersonal conflict has been mild; When the sisters fight, they call each other “dumpling” and “nitwit”, and this is remarked on in the game as cruel and rude. Until now even the bandits only seemed to scare cattle and steal merchant goods. This is a sudden and out of place escalation, and when Lorsulia begs Eryk not to say anything, I go against my better judgement and react confrontationally.
I immediately regret it — not because, as in real life, confronting abusers often makes things worse for their victims — but because Eryk calls him a “pipsqueak”. It’s an attempt to emasculate him, to reassert his own authority, and it’s embarrassing bluster to behold even before the game promptly puts me in my place: Who do I think I am? Ivo has all the armies, all the power. Be subservient, or say nothing at all. It is my least favourite use of a title drop I have ever encountered, and the first gut sinking suspicion that, despite my previous excitement, this game isn’t for me.
The battle with Radovia immediately follows, along with Ivo’s betrayal: there are no armies coming to help. Your victory is only at the hands of a literal landslide, a chance of nature that disassembled the vastly outnumbering opposing forces. From this point onwards, the true antagonist of the game is Ivo. The foreshadowed battle on the castle walls is against him, not Radovia. You even capture the Radovian king later, who explains that the entire conflict was simply a series of misunderstandings, that they’re actually refugees. It’s a twist, but in its decision to subvert one traditional fantasy trope of barbarian invaders, Yes, Your Grace plays straight a much more sinister, and much more boring one: the suffering of women as motivation for men.
The tone of the game shifts uncomfortably after the twist reveal. Scam artists still come to you with innuendo-laden offers and humorously transparent attempts to drain the royal coffers, but the main plot becomes darker and more cruel, and these parts of gameplay struggle to align. When the King of Radovia is captured in the late game, one of the “misunderstandings” you can clear up is the actions of the bandit gangs. The text you choose is “Your men killed people in the villages.” The words spoken are, “They robbed and raped.” It’s the first time the bandits are posited as this specific kind of threat, or that the language of rape is used at all — it’s extremely jarring to have them reclassed from vandals to rapists, especially in the context of a conversation where the Radovian King is lightheartedly recounting all his misunderstood misdeeds.
Shortly before the climax of the game, Lorsulia is burned to death for the crime of witchcraft and supernaturally aiding you during your battle with Radovia by causing the landslide. This is the conclusion of a series of ominous letters, including her final goodbye and, if you had the audacity to confront Ivo on the castle walls, a scarf that she had to make out of her own pet cat. One that you, the player, then had to gift to your youngest daughter Cedalia.
When Yes, Your Grace employs the suffering of women to try and motivate me as a player, it has the opposite effect. I don’t relate to Eryk, who feels guilty over the choices he made that affected the women in his life — I directly relate to the women, because for all the resources I can dole out as King, their stories will always be much closer to mine. As the story progresses, I feel estranged by the game’s misogyny, and emotionally exhausted as the stakes increase. Despite being a game I’d been excited about, Yes, Your Grace was no longer “for” me.
I reach the finale of the game drained and apathetic. I can’t even find joy in the explicit “happy ending” for Asalia, the middle daughter, who elopes with her girlfriend. The entire time that you know that the two of them are in love, you still have the choice to arrange a marriage for her against her will to an old man who wants an “energetic company” around in return for army resources. With the omnipresent potential for cruelty, it’s hard to not feel condescended to when handed a happy ending of, “doesn’t become a child bride, but runs away at the age of twelve, never to be seen again… for love.”
During the finale, the Queen undergoes a ritual to hopefully guarantee a male heir to the throne. I failed to gather all the ritual ingredients in time, and I ultimately have to make a choice: Do I save my wife and child, accepting that they may be born a girl? Or do I sacrifice my wife, to guarantee that the child is born a boy? If only Yes, Your Grace had opened with this conundrum, instead of a wedding with a bumbling groom, I would have gone in knowing what it thinks a woman’s life is worth.