Product Review: Tusks: The Orc Dating SIM (Say Waaaargh?)

When I went to London for a meeting with Lovehoney I got well and truly porked, but not in a way you might expect.

While staying with fellow sex toy enthusiast Beardy Noise, I was invited to play a dating SIM involving hulking gay orc men. To which the only logical answer is always ‘Fuck yes’.

The backstory here being that I am a dating SIM enthusiast. I fucked the pigeons of Hatoful Boyfriend back before it was available on Steam and you had to download an extended application to get it to play, and all that other jazz, and I have gifted my dinosaur best friend with his ukulele in Jurassic Heart. If there’s an odd SIM out there with bizarre sentient non-humans, chances are I’m going to want to fuck those non-humans. It’s just how I roll.

But Tusks: The Orc Dating SIM is unlike any other dating SIM I have played, for a variety of reasons, and this is apparent from the moment you turn the game on. Let’s get in to the particulars together (Spoiler: Sithig is my boar bae).

Tusks: The Orc Dating SIM

Tusks: The Orc Dating SIM is a pay-what-you-want downloadable dating SIM for Windows, macOS, and Linux…or part of one at least. The game is still in development but the current release demo is extensive. It documents 4 days of the journey of a group of Orcs as they travel from their annual festival of Uá to Orkney (get it). But that 4 days involves over 45 minutes of gameplay, a cast of eight different queer individuals to ‘interact’ with (*cough*fuck*cough*), and those beloved sex scenes that we’re all craving from dating SIMS.

However, fucking doesn’t necessarily present itself in a gung-ho manner.

This dating SIM is here to make you think, relate, and get royally aroused.

Y’see, Tusks isn’t really what I’d call a dating SIM in the conventional sense. It’s much more of a full, rich, socially and politically driven game in which sexual encounters, sex, and sexuality are one of the many topics being addressed. Other topics include queerness, the notion of ‘the other’, society’s perspective of queer individuals, and the identification of monstrous characters with outsider culture as a whole.

The orcs in Tusks are open, sexually liberal, and expressive individuals (for the most part), each with their own opinion and approach to life. But because of their gruff exterior, and the divergence of their culture from that of human tribes, they are often seen as brutish, uncouth, and, to quote the game, ‘filthy, sinful hedonists out to corrupt’.

This game presents complex issues through the perspective of a small group or marginalized individuals grouping together to try and find some safety in their travels through life.

The tension between orcs and humans is a running theme throughout the game. At one point we were travelling on a path (orcs being presented as nomadic in nature in this game) and something forced out route to change. One of the many concerns that was raised by the group in discussing what to do next was that orcs exposed out in the open might be easily singled out and attacked by humans. This observation resonated with me deeply.

This is amplified even more by the inclusion of a human in the group who is travelling with us to learn more. While the general feeling among the orcs is one of ‘we are an accepting and open community’ there’s also a lot of caution, fear, and mistrust directed towards this clear observer. The orcs have been through a lot of hurt and heartache because of the judgement and actions of humans so although in principle they want to build bridges, there’s an undeniable tension involved in a representative of the majority coming in to a tribe of the other.

It’s all so intricate.

There are gay characters, poly characters, trans characters, amputees, and allies, among other represented groups.

These parallels are completely deliberate, as game creator Mitch Alexander describes the game as one intended to ‘explore identity, sexuality, queerness and Scottishness, and every intersection inbetween’. Alexander has also authored articles on the clear connections between queerness, marginalized communities, and monsters. ‘For many marginalised people – including LGBTQ people – monsters hold a special significance that goes beyond just another target for a sword, arrow or bullet’ Alexander states.

Many of the people I talked to expressed a personal identification with monsters, seeing something of themselves or their own lives in what was depicted in the monstrous, which led to them developing an interest in exploring them more – often in ways which allowed them to explore their own identities by proxy.

This really shows in Tusks, where Alexander has even confessed to manifesting many of his own political opinions through different characters.

As you may have discerned from my talk of discussing things with the tribe in-game, the characters are also concerned with more than just romancing each other and, in a feature that I absolutely adore, you can actually choose if the characters have ‘autonomy’ before starting the game. Selecting yes gives the characters a chance to express their opinions more, especially when a decision needs to be made about our journey, and gives them a sense of unpredictability.

When trying to romance your character of choice you’re not just ticking boxes in terms of selecting the ‘right’ option. It really does feel like a conversation where you’re getting to know someone, finding out more about their personality and approach to life, and gaining an understanding of what motivates them to travel and to fuck.

And, oh boy, are the erotic scenes in this exceptional.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I actually didn’t go for an orc in my playthrough, rogue that I am. I went for Sithig, a pig man known as a grise in game. Sithig is a philosopher with a bit of sass to him, and his outlook on the world seems to be driven by the value of experiences, making connections, and the richness that can be gained through communication and creating a dialogue – be it with words or that act of having sex. At least that was my interpretation of the character as I got to know him.

I won’t ruin anything but these character traits shone through with every interaction with Sithig and clearly influenced how he approached sex on both a personal and general level. The smut itself was excellently authored and left me in awe of how one individual could achieve so much. The game, the art, the dialogue, all Alexander’s handy work. It’s like if Undertale’s Toby Fox decided to get lewd, such is the level of detail, and so far the demo has over 80,000 words worth of dialogue.

To put that in to perspective a PhD thesis typically has an 80,000 word limit. This game is PhD-length impressive.

If you’re expecting downsides then I’m here to disappoint you, because my beloved boar has woo’d me to the point of sheer enthusiastic gushing about this game. Plus the downsides are obvious.

If you don’t want to play a dating SIM about gay orcs – either because orcs aren’t your thing or queer interactions aren’t your thing – then Tusks isn’t going to be your ideal dating experience. I mean, I’d still recommend the game for everything else it has to offer, but I know it would be a hard sell (what with all the hard orc cocks and whatnot).

Plus, If you’re not a fan of the art style or for some reason cannot read (dyslexia, blindness, etc.) then Tusks is going to be mostly inaccessible to you.

Final Thoughts

These gripes aside I am thoroughly impressed with the extensive nature of Tusks and the way in which it manages to shift from orc smut game to a rich and socially conflicted world in which sex is one aspect of the story currently unfolding.

Mitch Alexander isn’t making a dating SIM here – he’s making an entire world and giving us a glimpse of it through the adventures of our merry orc tribe. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the game takes me but I urge you to pay at least $14.99 for this game and to support it on Patreon and Tumblr.

Dating SIMS/games like this rarely come along, and indie queer games deserve support, especially when they’re as exceptional in quality as Tusks.

Gushing over.

Recommend to:

People who want to support indie queer games.

People interested in queer exploration in digital media.

People who like really well-written fantasy erotica.

Do Not Recommend to:

People who just don’t find queer dating SIMs interesting.

People who cannot access the game’s dialogue.

People who dislike its art style.