Souls of Chronos Review
Newcomer developer FUTU Studio have released their debut game, Souls of Chronos. This isometric, narrative-driven RPG has a few rough edges, but is that enough to keep this from being a good first title for the developer? Let’s find out!
The world is in disarray after the apocalypse, factions are constantly at war with one another, and it’s rare to see a friendly face no matter where you look. Our main protagonist, Sid, is one such unfriendly face: a member of “The Hyena” gang who we first meet on his way to collect a debt. Sid may be a bit rough around the edges, but he does have a conscience, and isn’t all about that gangster lifestyle, especially as players are able to choose how he responds during dialogue. Whilst Sid isn’t a typical good guy, he’s far from being a villain.
Within minutes of starting — and a brief introduction to some side characters — Sid’s fate seems sealed as he is shot at by the man who owes The Hyena. Luckily for our protagonist, his old friend Torii appears, stopping time to allow Sid to avoid the bullet. Fantastic timing Torii! Being a Chronos (a being that feeds off time), Torii is a powerful ally that will accompany Sid during his adventure, and I enjoyed the dynamic between the two, especially during the optional conversations that help flesh out their backstories.
Sid is then tasked with solving the murder of his fellow Hyena gang member, and what follows is an interesting — if a little disjointed — series of quests across a main storyline that took me around 12 hours to complete.
The cutesy, chibi style of Souls of Chronos is definitely not what I would have expected for such a dark tale. It’s a little jarring, and could pass itself off as a mobile or browser game, but that isn’t to say the art style is bad. Environments are colourful, character portraits in particular look great, and some of the battle animations and effects are just as flashy as what you’d see in more high-profile RPGs.
Although the music was fairly uninspired and didn’t quite grab me due to its repetitiveness, the sound design fared better. From sounds in battle making each attack feel more weighty, to just the overall ambience when exploring areas, there was a lot to hear, and enjoy, with these pieces of audio, especially with the comic book-style onomatopoeia that pop up during combat.
What is incredibly hard to overlook is the consistent grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and overall lack of polish when it comes to the translation. On many occasions, I even found characters speaking lines that were meant to be delivered by someone else. It’s messy, and whilst not the worst translation I’ve seen, it certainly detracted from becoming invested into the story.
The game's fighting sections play out in real time, with the hack-and-slash (and shoot!) combat being very simple to get to grips with. A small variety of weapons are available for Sid, mainly swords and guns, whilst Torii is equipped with her unique magical abilities. These mix things up, especially when you unlock the more powerful skills later in the game, and although there isn’t an overabundance of them to learn, it felt like just enough for the relatively short playtime.
The combat is rather bare bones as Sid is the only playable character (you are able to command Torii to attack certain enemies), and there is not a lot of variety in how you approach each situation. Encounters never take too long though, and I rarely found myself in desperate need of healing potions due to the fairly easy difficulty.
Navigating the environments — which are broken down into smaller map segments — works as well as any other isometric title, although I wish there was a dash ability to speed up the process in longer stretches between combat encounters. There is, thankfully, quite a lot to see and do outside of running from one fight to the next. You’ll be able to take on many optional quests, and also have the chance to change Sid’s personality via dialogue choices. Whilst never resulting in anything game-changing, the inclusion of this will alter future dialogue options, as well as abilities Torii is able to use.
Even though the main duo of Sid and Torii are compelling characters in a world that I’d love to know more about, the watered-down, basic gameplay holds Souls of Chronos back from being a stellar first release for FUTU Studio. Its aesthetic clashes with the more serious tone of the narrative, and the low-quality translation dampens the enjoyment of the story. It’s not a bad game, but you may find it difficult to keep your attention through to the end.
Souls of Chronos (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
A compelling pair of lead characters and an interesting world, bogged down by a derivative combat system and a lack of polish. Not bad, but a far cry from being a must-play RPG.