Today he plays one of those indies who shine in their own light. An indie whose reflection has been present since we first saw it a few years ago at an event I can’t quite pinpoint (E3, Direct, Xbox Showcase …) its immaculate artistic section, What the Genre Concerning: a classic RPG in mid-2021. We’re talking about Cris Tales, which was developed by our Colombian brothers at Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK.
Welcome to a magical world. A world of fantasy, full of colors, joy and war … a war that goes on tirelessly and devastates every city you visit on behalf of the Empress of Time.
We will be Crisbell, a young orphan who has a tremendous power inside to control time. This can be felt in our vision. We can see the past, present and future at the same time. As if the screen were divided into three fragments of the same glass.
The beginning couldn’t be better remembering Alice in Wonderland other than turning the stressed out rabbit into a friendly frog. And fall into a hole to enter a cathedral. This will awaken the power of Crisbell. We are a Chronomagen with a simple but arduous mission to awaken all our strength and to put an end to the war that is ravaging our world.
But we will not be alone in this endeavor. We will have some colleagues with common interests who will help us achieve our goal. The initials Christopher and Willhelm. The first, a boy from Santa Clarita, to cry out for revenge for his brother’s death by the Empress. The second is an advanced Chronomago who makes us a teacher and guide in our knowledge of Chronomagy. And of course Matias, our cricket frog, who like Pedro can cross the crystals of time through his house.
The development of the title is very simple: travel from city to city and visit the cathedral to increase our power and, at the same time, solve the problems of each city. This has several levels because when we get to the point we will be doing little for the citizens, but if we choose to chat with them and see their problems, we will be able to do “secondary” tasks in order to to solve their adversities. both the present and those that only we know will arrive (to see the future and such). It’s a pretty fun way to spice up the game. With side quests with a moderately noticeable effect. Well, there are all kinds of them, the simple narratives that you can solve without wasting a lot of time, and also the boring ones that will make us undo what we did. But in general, it’s a “not bad” guide.
What is not quite true is the level design. In general, it works, but it’s not very memorable. That said, a pretty clear example of this is when you arrive in a dungeon and see a closed door or a stupid obstacle, like a group of people talking, preventing our passage. Now you talk to so and so and “tachán” is not a problem. A very simple solution, but no drama either. Perhaps such dungeons can be a little trickier to complete for two reasons. First, they’re pretty linear, with small detours to get the potion of the moment. Which isn’t balanced as we lost maybe three quarters of the team’s life to get the award. This is due to his second problem: random matches, which are his blessing and his punishment.
Ok, a classic turn-based RPG. They must have random matches. Or maybe not. But since you are betting on it, it should be better done. The worst thing I found in Cris Tales is the innocent way of breaking the rhythm. Not just because of the random matches themselves, but also because of the way they are presented to us. We’re (or should be) used to titles in the genre like Pokémon or Final Fantasy, where even these evolved in this random battle. But if we go to the classic, these titles did something very simple but effective that these Cris Tales unfortunately don’t. And that’s just a pre-fight animation. No longer. The music stops and we see some audiovisual nonsense in the form of a curtain or whatever makes me say … what a fight, let’s go. Not here. In Cris Tales, the battle is preceded by a standard loading screen. Which is fast in the case of the Xbox Series X. Maybe not fast enough, but definitely. But it’s going to be unbearable on Nintendo Switch. Think of a 15-25 second loading screen before any random battle in a classic turn-based RPG. It’s a real shame, but the problem was so big that I was forced to forego Nintendo’s convenient portable / hybrid device to play on the living room TV. A shame
But not all is bad, far from it. Cris Tales has a lot of potential and knows how to use his weapons. In this case, the jewel in the crown is the fight itself. A turn-based fight, classic but very contemporary at the same time. We’ve seen various games innovate in this niche genre. From the Brave and Default System des Bravely Default to the X1, X2 and X3 by Octopath Traveler. In the Colombian title, they don’t invent anything, but they use a mechanic that is already in use but at the same time little is seen. And it’s pulsing in the exact moment. Something like the parades. If we attack here and press the button at the exact moment of impact, we will be a critic. Conversely, if we do it in defense, it will be a parry that ignores some of the damage, sometimes all of the damage, while avoiding adverse effects like poison or stun. A brilliant mechanic, if you ask me, that keeps us vigilant at all times and thus breaks the calm that normally prevails in such games.
That being said, the depth of the battle, thanks to Crisbell’s Chronomagy, took me by surprise. The fact of being able to send our enemies into the past or future opens up a very interesting range of options that does not cease to expand even as the adventure progresses. An example from the start. If we use poison magic with Willhelm in the present, we can send the enemy into the future and do all this damage with a single action. Or, for example, send our strong enemies back in time to transform them into their younger and inexperienced version. A real wonder with endless possibilities.
The theme of the past and the future is the central axis of our adventure. This applies not only to combat, but also to exploration itself and the more narrative parts that serve us to solve problems as simple puzzles. The guy goes back in time to take this piece that serves us in the present. This is the part where the Matias frog shines the most, responsible for the journeys between times.
Otherwise, the story seemed a bit generic to me, but with strange moments. It might not be memorable, but I really enjoyed it during its development. In the end, they are the good guys who fight evil. Black and white with a touch of gray.
But if there’s something that makes this Cris Tales a truly unique game, it’s its artistic part. It has a 2D style that enjoys three-dimensionality. As if it were a three-dimensional book, so that when you open it, the characters appear in front of you. Well, it would be something like this, but at the same time it is not reminiscent of paper, but more of a stained glass window. This could be due to the use of straight lines as well as flat colors. Be that as it may, it seems to me to be a success that helps to wrap everything around the crystal that gives the game its title.
The soundtrack is really good, but maybe it seems pared down to me. We’re talking about a long game, or longer than most indies (around 20 or 30 hours) and the music doesn’t manage to evolve enough during development. This results in something “difficult” in the last part. And again it’s a shame because the songs are really good, just … maybe a few songs were missing to be brilliant.
A while ago I lost control of the text while chattering, but I’d like to end these lines by cheering the reader up. Cris Tales is a great video game. It is undeniable. And while it does make mistakes, there is no way they are reason enough to recommend it. I really enjoyed traveling this world with my colleagues, from cathedral to cathedral, helping anyone who needed it along the way. Fight endless battles, not only against vulgar enemies but also against some bosses who made it pretty difficult for me. Forcing a clear strategy on the second or third attempt. Cris Tales is a breath of fresh air for a genre that is usually too big. Who knows how to finish the game in a good handful of hours, but who can manage not to be too difficult. In short, if you like the classic roles take turns, it’s impossible that you don’t like this suggestion, but one thing you need to be clear about: if you can play on a platform other than Switch, the game will be better for you.