Souls of Chronos Review – But It Looks So Cute Though
Title: Souls of Chronos
Developer: FUTU Studio
Release Date: February 13, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Astrolabe Games
Genre: Action RPG
When a small team approaches a big project, I believe some elements of gameplay should be cut to create a more centralized and straightforward player experience. Sadly, that just isn’t the case for Souls of Chronos, which attempts to introduce all of its systems at once without providing a moment for the player to catch their breath to understand what the hell is going on. However, for a cute chibi RPG, it still provides some brief moments of entertainment.
Souls of Chronos borrows from the tabletop RPG genre, where players develop their character through dialogue and stat points that open new routes and branching paths. However, it doesn’t explain this in its opening moments as you’re introduced to Sid, a gangster out to collect a debt, when his life flashes before his eyes and his friend Torii appears to save him.
Torii is a chronos, a powerful being in this post-apocalyptic world that aids Sid on his journey. Although the two have a history together, their relationship develops over short dialogue scenes where Sid can interact with her as they are out on an adventure, this also improves Sid’s stats depending on the response. Thankfully the game tells you which stat is being increased because having a high enough stat will allow you to make specific choices during dialogue.
Following a murder, the two characters find themselves taking on jobs and encountering a colorful cast of characters as they make their way from dungeon to dungeon completing tasks. The story is actually the highlight of the adventure, but it’s delivered in segments as you complete quests. Although the main campaign can be completed in around 10 hours, with an optional ending intact, multiple side-missions can be leisurely taken on.
If you can follow the story, you’re in for a creative narrative, but some areas were likely lost in translation. The conversations feel like direct translation, which makes the conversations dry, making it difficult actually to follow along. It doesn’t help that the auto-play speed moves the dialogue along as soon as it’s finished. And without recorded audio, you’re forced to read to know exactly where to go.
Thankfully, quests are organized well, even though the text doesn’t always fit in the boxes. A general idea of where to go is provided, but I did end up lost and clueless about how to progress a few times, only to figure out that I just had to talk to a character sitting in some house. I would say knowing each of the characters by name and where their located is beneficial because sometimes the quest will be “Bring X item to this character.”
As for navigation, getting around town is extremely slow. Either a run option or fast travel option would have improved this experience. This extends into simple interactions, which sometimes don’t work unless you’re positioned in a precise spot. Further, moving from one area to the next is made slower due to how you have to hold a button to proceed. Additionally, for many conversations, you have to “leave conversation” to exit the dialogue, even if it’s the only choice available. I just felt this was overkill.
Dungeons are maze-like areas where players can explore various themed maps while facing off against grunt-like enemies and picking up materials. Materials are used to upgrade weapons and craft-specific items, but many can also be purchased. Although there are multiple weapons, I never found a reason to switch from the default shotgun, especially after a few upgrades.
Gameplay and encounters are pretty hectic. For the most part, they are messy and unorganized. As enemies run around, you’re at the whim of an auto-aim that points at the nearest enemy. While it works well, it’s tough to see what’s happening because everything overlaps. There is a dodge, but it’s challenging to read enemy telegraphs when you lose sight of Sid and Torii.
While you control Sid, Torii acts as a partner with a few notable abilities. After a gauge is filled, you can trigger a time-stop ability that causes some high damage. Further, she provides needed support, but that doesn’t stop large enemy groups from overwhelming you. To mitigate this, there’s a bomb attack, but its use case requires some planning and strategy.
In later areas of the game, you’ll start to understand how to utilize elemental properties to freeze and poison enemies, which is needed because it’s tough to grind levels when enemies take a while to respawn. Regardless, the difficulty is decently balanced, but if you die, prepare to be sent back to the most recent autosave, which is never outside of a boss room, or a dungeon for that matter. The developers did provide a few needed save areas, though, following an update, which definitely helped.
In terms of presentation, Souls of Chronos almost resembles a mobile game. The towns aren’t easy to navigate, but they contain quite a few NPCs to speak with. A day and night cycle is needed for some questlines, but it mostly gets in the way. However, character illustrations are almost too good, with every character having a stand-out design for conversations, which, luckily, most of the game is.
Given that there isn’t any voiced audio, you will hear the game’s music over everything at all times. There are different tracks, but I opted to turn it down and put on an anime or watch Community for the millionth time because the busy work in this game is real.
Souls of Chronos is in desperate need of quality updates. However, the core of its RPG tabletop narrative design is the highlight of the adventure. Still, the entire gameplay experience becomes a chore, and you’ll find it hard to care during the late-game plot twists because you likely stopped reading hours before the credits rolled.
Hopefully, the developers refocus on what they do well, which happens to be storytelling. Drop the action and give us a murder mystery visual novel.
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