This summer has brought so many game trailers and upcoming releases our way! Both of us (Seher and Molly) have spent the last month playing demos and talking about the games that we’re most excited for and actually share a few in common. So we thought, why not review them together?
Cris Tales, from Colombian developers SYCK and Dreams Incorporated and publisher Modus Games is pitched as a gorgeous, indie love letter to classic JRPGs with a new perspective. Both of us have played through the demo multiple times and have much to say about the game!
Who doesn’t love a talking frog? Cris Tales follows orphaned Crisbell who learns that she is a Time Mage. Like any RPG, Crisbell is joined by a cast of interesting characters which include Cristopher (a Mage Warrior), Wilhelm (another Time Mage), and Matias, the talking frog.
The demo actually opens mid battle with Matias teaching Crisbell how to use her sword and abilities and players meet Cristopher. When the battle is almost over, we go into a flashback to learn that Crisbell is a new Time Mage.
The choice to structure things this way feels a bit clunky. It’s not entirely clear why we needed to start with a fighting tutorial. It creates a sort of sandwich effect in the demo, where it opens and closes with combat. Only, the combat at the end is against the exact same set of enemies you fought at the beginning, and Cris Tale’s combat, while good, is not particularly complicated, at least not in the early game. This results in the beginning combat section feeling redundant and unnecessary.
Fortunately though, the flashback allows for the player to explore the beautifully hand-drawn world, which is simply gorgeous. And this is where we learn that Crisbell is an orphan, tending to the garden with her fellow orphans. When she finds Matias after he steals her rose, Crisbell and the player learn that she has the control of time crystals which allow us to peer into and learn from the past, decide on actions in the present, and of course alter the course of the future.
Admittedly, this is where another question of the game pops up. Namely that it’s not entirely clear how Crisbell got control of the time crystals. We see her staring at a stained glass window and then…something unclear happens and she starts freaking out. Since the storytelling and cutscenes are so clear and concise elsewhere, we’re willing to chalk this up to a deliberate choice, but it does result in a rather jarring moment.
While Crisbell can only look into time, Matias can go into the past or the future as a small tadpole, or an aging frog respectively which is a lovely addition to gameplay! On the left of the side of the screen then, is the past, the middle is the present, and the right is the future.
This unique approach to telling the story also allows for much more inspection of an area or scene where characters who don’t move from their locations who now can be seen as younger, or older. Or in one specific area of the demo, not at all like what we are first shown. (Yes that’s a hint.)
Characters aren’t the only thing that change, however. So do the locations, with part of the demo involving Crisbell having to decide which character to help in saving their house which from a type of rot after getting a look at both in the future.
Cris Tales then provides a lot of opportunity for making decisions that will majorly influence the story and impact the player’s ability to get the True Ending while attempting to stop The Empress’ plot from ending the world. There’s always gotta be someone who wants to end the world!
As a turn-based RPG, Cris Tales’ past and future aspect of the game means that Crisbell can send enemies into the past or the future. With some strategic attacks by other party members, this can hugely affect the enemies and the party’s likelihood of winning. Though there’s no constant HP meter over the monsters or opponents, one of the skills eventually unlocked in the game will allow Wilhelm to scan the opponent and learn its HP and other stats. It’s kind of annoying that that’s something you have to unlock/earn, but it’s not the biggest issue.
The only concern that both of us had is the lack of diversity in the main line-up of characters. While Cristopher is voiced by Zeno Robinson, his character looks like nearly everyone else that we meet in Crisbell’s home. There are a few side characters here and there, and an eventual party member, at least from the character trailer who are not white, but based on what is presented in the demo and on the game website, that’s really it for the party. There are going to be many other characters that we meet along the way as Crisbell goes from kingdom to kingdom so hopefully they’ll have substantial roles.
We both love what Cris Tales has to offer and really can’t wait for its release. It promises to be a gorgeous game with a really interesting story and if they add an HP bar to the bad guys while battling, it would be pretty perfect to play. The full game includes five Kingdoms centered around a capital city with unique situations for Crisbell and the player to navigate in each one. Players will get access to a world map, multiple themed dungeons, and choices in the first bit of the game will impact everything to come.
As seen in the demo, Crisbell can only help save one person’s home and it’s unclear what will happen to the other person. Though of course if Crisbell can save the whole world, both of those folks will probably be alright. Overall, the art is delightful, and the 2D animation really distinguishes this game from so many others. That opening cinematic was so striking, and that music?! Plus we’re both always going to love games where the lead is female. Following her story as she and her friends go up against The Empress while battling it out and exploring different lands and worlds is just the type of game both of us love.
You can pre-order Cris Tales now before its July 20th release on PS4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series XS, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Images courtesy of Modus Games
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