Review – Burrow of the Fallen Bear: A Gay Furry Visual Novel

Gaming is for everyone, but not every game is for every gamer. This isn’t an exclusivity thing, but an observation on what works for some and not for others. Every year, millions come in from the Madden and NBA 2K franchises, and I staunchly avoid it because I sincerely don’t care about the aspects of those games. Likewise, I am over-the-moon excited by anything done up in pixels and talking about sadness, and most people tend to avoid purposely catching bad feelings. 

Yet I make it a personal mission to try some of every sort of game, because my interests and tastes can develop, change and mature as time goes on. I used to love Sim City 2000, but world-building simulations don’t really scratch the same itch anymore. Platforming was my jam as a child, and I still love it today, but I always pay more attention if there’s some additional spice mixed in. Even my taste in visual novels has changed because I was willing to try different approaches, such as kinetic novels (games with no choices), absolute meta mayhem and indie interpretations. I pride myself on being willing to jump into anything at least once.

And I took the path less traveled, and that…really made me regret taking this path.

With Burrow of the Fallen Bear: A Gay Furry Visual Novel, the devs at Male Doll wanted to put their entire mission statement in the title. You play as Krile, a young cat warrior who dreams of becoming a great adventurer and idolizes the Furry Heroes, a pantheon of five great champions who kind of feel like the Furious Five from Kung Fu Panda. In a very short amount of time, Krile meets a collective of older, more mature personalities who have a lot to impart on him, both with magical knowledge and sex knowledge.

The titular Burrow of the Fallen Bear is the former home to one of the most dangerous creatures to ever walk the land, and the burrow was sealed with magic, but no more. Braving the dangers within, Krile will discover more about the pasts of all his companions: Grivoth, the imp-lion hybrid with wisdom and secrets; Ulfric, the jaded wolf who despises the Furry Heroes; and Boris, the bear doctor who is definitely a bear and going into the “Fallen Bear” lair and surely these things are not connected.

Yes, can you please show me how to get the hell out of the woods with my dignity intact?

With Burrow of the Fallen Bear, it’s very difficult to separate the core ideology from the storytelling, if that makes any sense. At the center of everything, this game struggles to balance fan servicing with fantasy worldbuilding, and the balance doesn’t completely work.

Let’s be clear, there is something very interesting happening within, and I think there needs to be a better avenue to access the overall mythology. Ulfric’s sense of betrayal for his mother and his heritage is very clear, as is Grivoth’s seemingly mad quest to make things right at any cost. The slightly ham-fisted way that magic is presented and introduced still gives the player an idea of the limitations and parameters of conjuring and spell crafting, and that makes a lot of sense as you venture into the Burrow and encounter multiple choices where magic and artifacts are needed.

Ulfric’s badass mother, in the only portrayal of a woman I think that exists in this game.

I’ve played my fair share of romance-laden visual novels, from nearly every angle and perspective. Harem based titles like NEKOPARA ride a very fine line of humor and bad taste, and it’s especially easy for things to tip into the wrong category at the drop of a hat. How many times can we talk about tasting cream or an ill-fitting outfit before you just get tired of it all? On the other hand, Cupid Parasite, where I was vying for multiple boy’s affections, gave a lot of agency to my romantic tastes and built things up slowly. Even Yumeutsutsu Re: Master, where I was distinctly not the target audience, still dragged me in and convinced me I could work in the game industry and get dominated by a big sister-esque coworker. It’s all in how the romance is done and presented.

Wow, the way he treats me like dirt and openly despises me is such a turn-on.

There is so little romance in Burrow of the Fallen Bear, and it strikes me as positively jarring when the game shifts from tale spinning to tail lifting. In the first five minutes of the game, my best friend saved my life, and proceeded to masturbate me, rather graphically, to completion. Two of the three companions that I meet have sexual congress with me the first time I talked to them, and then we still move on with the entire Bear Burrow storyline like nothing happened. I have never been a gay cat boy, so I don’t know if that’s par for the course, but I was hoping that I would get a bit more preamble than “you aren’t scared, are you?” before I had a penis in my mouth.

Also, the sex scenes in this game are so terrible they seem to be parodies, but I get the sinking feeling it’s sincere. Nintendo won’t show genitals, so Male Doll took the NSFW scenes and zoomed in on a point (usually heads) to show as much as implied without showing anything. The writing takes a massive downward swing in terms of originality or word painting (you can’t have high fantasy characters say “I have a boner”!), and the music is intensely, disturbingly bad.

Imagine the same cheesy porno groove that was put into every adult film of the 70s to the point that you could hear it in tv shows and commercials and know what it was implying. Now put that, earnestly, on top of a cat and a bear banging it out in a dungeon during a quest. This wasn’t putting me in the mood in the first place, and now I’m firmly outside my own body, questioning all of the choices that brought me to this point.

I don’t know, Sylvester, maybe it’s because that’s my sole purpose in this godforsaken forest?

What really kills me with this is that Burrow of the Fallen Bear doesn’t totally prepare you for what’s going to happen. The choices that triggered the sex scenes are sometimes clear (offering to stay longer and comfort someone) and sometimes really not (offering to help a hurt person, thinking that you’re an adventurer). It’s almost like sex was lying in wait, ready to spring upon me the moment I let my guard down, which doesn’t seem to be the vibe anyone should be creating in their game. It turned Krile into this mixture of sexual deviant and absolute soulless monster, who could only empathize or help another person if we all agreed that sex was coming. The hell, man?

Spoiler: three of these four choices can and will get you sexed.

All points of being a prude aside, the remaining elements are hit-or-miss at best. The art styling is alright, but the backgrounds are rather bland and the characters distorted. Far too often, the game relies on the “tell, don’t show” trick and fades to black while describing the awesome action happening, which seems exceptionally cheap. Krile sort of shows growth throughout the game, but never really seems to make connections that feel genuine or even worthwhile.

When someone close to Krile is killed, the whole scene unfolds in a tepid manner, like “ah, I suppose he’s dead” instead of any emotional stimulation. Plus the screens of really short text that just took up space pulled glaring attention to how badly Ulfric was written. I get it, he’s a badass loner, but there comes a point where peppered profanity shifts from “outsider” to “3rd grader.”

Lastly, the visual novel elements never really come together. With Burrow of the Fallen Bear, it feels more like a game book with very little gaming tied in. The decision of which item to get from the merchant towards the beginning is the most complex moment in terms of the pathways that get unlocked, but everything after that becomes less and less “making decisions” and more and more “choosing things randomly.”

There’s a fight that happens where you need to decide four combat moves in the correct order, but nothing about your history with the character nor the combat itself makes the right procedure clear: you just keep bashing your head until it gets it right. There’s nothing about our protagonist that comes through in the unveiling of the storyline other than he’s very gay and open to anything, and that’s just not enough to hang your hat on in terms of a hero.

And just imagine how crazy this might look! But alas, I’m not banging the worms, so they get no agency.

There is nothing wrong and everything right with creating a game to speak to a specific audience. The furry community is often the brunt of many jokes, and so it’s great to see representation in the gaming industry, especially when it can be delivered on such a widespread platform as the Nintendo Switch. What is wrong, though, is to create a game that just reinforces stereotypes and prejudices about people.

Burrow of the Fallen Bear: A Gay Furry Visual Novel really stressed the point that people who enjoy this game also enjoy multiple sexual encounters with multiple partners with zero connection other than physical. That all beliefs, ideas and personal codes can be thrown out the window if arousal is observed. If this is just meant to be erotica, put that in the title.

This game exists on Steam with no tags other than RPG and choose your own adventure, which can be a wicked shock to those unaware: at least it’s rated M on the Nintendo page. But a player who identifies as gay and/or furry shouldn’t think they need to be down to pound with every daddy figure they meet. If the story was stronger, it might not have been as glaring, but the plot was as integral as Lord of the Rims: more of a satire than a genuine attempt at telling tales.

Graphics: 4.0

Some interesting character and monster designs with too much attention to nipples and muscles, very bland looking forests and dungeons and nothing particularly exciting in the gallery for repeat viewing.

Gameplay: 1.5

Unlockable endings and badge events are simple enough, choices are sometimes obtuse, and any innocuous choice can lead to rough sex whether that was your intention or not. Really not fun.

Sound: 1.0

Basic, generic “fantasy” soundtrack has poor transitions, boring sound effects and the most jarring, pornographic soundscape when sex scenes occur, complete with cartoonish ejaculation sounds.

Fun Factor: 1.0

If a game makes you uncomfortable, then you feel ashamed that you’re uncomfortable, and you genuinely dread playing because you never know when the next anal event might occur, then this might not be the right game for anyone.

Final Verdict: 1.5

Burrow of the Fallen Bear: A Gay Furry Visual Novel is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Burrow of the Fallen Bear: A Gay Furry Visual Novel was provided by the publisher.