Last year, Remnant: From The Asheswas a surprise hit from developer Gunfire Games, combining gunplay with the Souls formula. This year, Chronos: Before The Ashes arrives as a prequel to Remnant, with more typical Souls gameplay. Originally launching back in 2016 as a VR title, Chronos has been reworked for the non-VR landscape. Does it manage to find its footing without the VR formula?
Taking place in a monster riddled and ravaged earth, the player will choose an 18 year old male or female hero that is tasked with killing the evil dragon that is to blame. But players will receive warnings of other dangerous beings such as the Cyclops that will also stand in their way. After briefly navigating a dilapidated modern skyscraper, the player is then transported to a more medieval setting. The area is littered with gremlins that will aggressively attack the player once they are in range. It’s here where you’ll learn patience, because hack and slash techniques won’t work in this game. You’ll have to strike a balance between offense and defense, or death will be imminent.
Death is one of the main mechanics within Chronos: Before the Ashes, leading to its uniqueness. Like other Souls games, players will keep their items and level upon death. But unlike other Souls games, the player will age by one year every time they die. On every rounded 10th year (20, 30, etc.), players will unlock a new perk to combat their enemies. Along with this, the main character’s appearance will change with age. This includes more facial hair, lines in the face, gray hair, etc. Finally, enemies respawn upon your death, rather than interacting with an archstone or bonfire. This leads to a unique approach to the environment and leveling.
All of these mechanics are well thought out and executed. Despite this, for an experienced Souls player, some might not even be encountered. Not trying to toot my own horn, but I was able to beat the game on the standard difficulty at age 28. Therefore, I didn’t even get to see what perks would be offered at 30, 40, and so on. Obviously, I didn’t end up needing them. So in a way, I felt punished for playing well. This plays right into the “should’ve played it on a different difficulty setting” thought, with hindsight always being 20/20. On that note, it’s great that the game has difficulty settings for those who want to adjust their challenge.
There are a few things that aren’t handled nearly as well in Chronos though. The game looks and plays like a game from 2016, or earlier. Fitting since that’s when it originally came out, but the graphics, camera, and controls certainly didn’t get the same treatment as the recent Demon’s Souls. Issues with the uselessness of taking elevator after elevator and backtracking in the opening area and using items not being intuitive certainly don’t lead to a strong introduction to gameplay. And the game is a little too simple with only four leveling categories, a few shields, and a handful of weapons.
For people looking for a “lite” version of a Souls game, this could be a good way of dipping your toe in the water. For veterans of the genre, Chronos: Before The Ashes is simply too basic and easy to actively seek out. And even though I didn’t play it in 2016 on VR, I imagine that iteration was more revolutionary at the time. With a tweak here and a little more polish there, the recent version of Chronos could have really shined. Instead the end result is “been there, done that”.
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