In Stars And Time is a turn-based, time-looping RPG adventure that has you playing as a team of four fighters known as The Saviors, working to defeat the Evil King, who has been slowly freezing sections of the Dormuth in time, and restore order to this world. I will mention that this game does deal with death, violence, and mental illness before we really get started. Since we join the game in progress, all of the characters are at a higher level, so there will be no starting from level one to raise your stats and learn new Craft Skills. These abilities are the magical attacks that you will use against “The Sadness,” which are the enemies that you will encounter over and over again. Did I mention that you are trapped in a time loop? The leader of the team, Siffrin, is known as “The Traveler” and has the ability to relive moments in time upon his death. So even if The Saviors are not successful in their quest to defeat The King and save the world, they will have endless chances to change their fates.
The Saviors are a team of friends who have seemingly been fighting together for a while and know each other quite well. There are four main members: The Traveler — Siffrin; The Housemaiden — Mirabelle; The Defender — Isabeau; and The Researcher — Odile. Accompanying them is Bonnie, a little kid who is in charge of holding all the items that the team picks up. Unlike the others, she doesn’t have a type, but it is stated that she is weak to cheese but resistant to veggies. Her current EXP is preteen, and her HP is irrelevant, as she doesn’t battle. She is considered an Assist character and will jump into the battle to cheer on the team or hit one of the enemies with an attack. Bonnie's character adds a lot of humour to a very bleak situation, and the comic relief is a great addition.
The battle system in the game is based on Rock paper scissors, and not like how fire beats water, but on actual hand battles. Each member has an assigned type that they are (rock, paper, or scissors), and their strengths and weaknesses are based on that. Though, one member of the team is a bit different and has two types. Mirabelle was blessed by the Change God, and her types are scissors and paper, making her only weak to rock and immune to Time Freeze, which you encounter later in the game. Besides attacking with their main “type”, each member of the group knows a variety of Craft Skills that they use while fighting. These are similar to spells, but there are three main types: Protection Craft — rock; Creative Craft — paper; and Piercing Craft — scissors. To defeat the enemy, you use attacks that their type is weak against, like paper against rock. There are other crafts to learn that will help your team by improving stats like speed, or Mirabelle’s Super Sparkle Heal that will restore 80% of a friend's HP, but that can only be used in battle once. Unfortunately, between battles, you can’t use these crafts to heal your party; instead, you will need to use items like tonics that you find and keep in your pockets, or if you are near a save star — save point — the team's health will be replenished and you can record your progress.
After you leave the village, or Dormuth, The Survivors head to the house that The King/the King is residing in; this fortress is also home to the enemies you need to battle. Like our heroes, each enemy has a type along with a weakness. In Stars and Time makes it really easy to tell which form they are as their hands are shown displaying their type. The foes can appear as single entities, as a duo forming a shape that looks like a top with a bottom piece, or as a trio where all three types are represented; these are pretty much the only enemies you will fight for a long time. There is the odd occasion where you fight a stronger foe, but when defeated, you will get a special item to help you progress in the story. Once you reach new floors, the enemies become stronger and have abilities that will freeze you in time, like The King. The only way you can get back to the village is to die. This will allow you to restart from the town or back in the house. Keep in mind that since this is a loop, you will constantly be facing off against the same enemies, which gets repetitive after a few hours of play, but fortunately, you will find other new additions in the loop, like a discarded banana peel that can result in a ridiculous way for you to die.
The art style used In Stars and Time is incredibly clean and simple, which fits in great with the monochrome colouring of the world and the chiptune music of the game. It reminded me of role-playing games on the original Game Boy. I guess because since this is a world about to end, there is nothing happy or colourful about a place ready to meet its doom. The residents hope that this team will be able to find a way to save them, especially since Mirabelle has been blessed by the Change God, but they know that their end is probably near.
As you play and progress in the story — and start from the beginning of the game multiple times — you will meet an Astral Being named Loop. This character, with a human-like figure but a star for a head, is here to assist Siffrin, who is the only person aware that they died and somehow came back to life to replay this time loop. Loop will teach you everything you need to know about travelling backwards and forwards in time, though you won’t learn how to do it all when you first meet. It will take multiple visits to learn more as you progress in the game and replay the same events. Loop will sometimes show up to give you advice like “Have you tried not dying?” and knowledge when you reach a star point to save. If you ever get stuck, go back to the Favor Tree in Dormuth where they are hiding out.
There is a lot going on in this story that I don’t want to spoil and which you will want to discover for yourself, but the tale is very interesting even when you hear parts multiple times. Don’t worry; the game has a skip option that you can use when you are having a conversation that you have already had in the past. It won’t skip any new information that you haven’t heard — if there is anything new — so you don’t have to worry about missing anything you need. The game did feel a bit repetitive after a few hours, but I think a big problem was that I was trying to have as long of a run as possible, so I wouldn’t willingly die to start the loop over. I could have learned a lot of information from Loop earlier if I wasn’t so set on exploring the house where The King is hiding.
In Stars and Time is a must-play title, but be aware that it does take a time investment to really get into it. Once you learn how to manipulate time, the game opens up more, and you aren’t forced to go through the exact same section over and over again. You will be able to manipulate things to make changes and progress the story. Will you be able to save the world from the evil King, or will you be stuck in a loop, repeatedly falling in battle only to fight again and again?
In Stars And Time (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
In Stars and Time is an intriguing game with a crazy time loop system. If you are willing to put in the time needed, you will be rewarded with a great story with fun characters.