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Chronos: Before the Ashes Review


Posted on December 16, 2020 by Michael Merchant

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  • 6.5/10
    Total Score - 6.5/10
6.5/10

Summary

Fans of Remnant that want to experience more of the universe may enjoy Chronos: Before the Ashes, but it ultimately falls short of Remnant’s excellence.

Developer – PlayStation Studios, Bluepoint Games

Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platforms – PS4,Xbox, Switch, PC,Stadia

Watch my playthrough of Chronos!

Chronos: Before the Ashes is a re-release of Chronos, which is a VR game Souls-like with some Resident Evil style puzzle and camera mechanics. This year the developers have stripped the VR mechanic and have now released the game on consoles. If you play this genre, you may have seen these visual elements before. That is because the sequel to Chronos is Remnant: From the Ashes. I was very interested in playing Chronos because I really enjoyed my time playing Remnant. I wanted to see how the lore was expanded and how it compares.

The game starts with a very simple character creation of male or female, choice of starting weapon, and game difficulty. After your selections, an elder tells you the “Tale of the Scouring.” She explains that in the past there were cities full of people and towers made of metal, people were free to walk around and had no worries. One day, beasts broke free from the Rusted Place and are controlled by an evil dragon. Every year, a magic stone will allow us to enter the realm of the dragon and we have an opportunity to finally drive the evil back. However, if we die during our quest, we are sent back to the Rusted Place and have to wait a full year before we can attempt our quest again.

It is a fairly simple story, but one that leads us to one of the unique mechanics of the game. Upon death, instead of just saying a year has passed, the character actually does age a year. Interestingly enough, the physical appearance of the character gradually changes and also when you hit milestones of age such as 20, 30, 40, etc. you will gain new passive traits that will impact your character. Basically, as you die the game becomes easier in some ways but more difficult in others. I haven’t really seen a character aging mechanic employed in a game since the Fable series. As you grow older, certain stat costs when leveling your character become more expensive.

Instead of most Souls-like games, leveling up is more of the traditional RPG experience. When you kill enemies, you gain experience and when you gain enough experience you automatically gain a level. Every time you level up you gain 2 attribute points that you can spend on different stats. These stats include Strength, Agility, Arcane, and Vitality.

Strength impacts the damage you deal with strength based weapons like the axe and mace. It also helps you defend against more damage with your shield. Agility is for increasing the damage of agility based weapons like the sword and spear, but also helps your evade. Arcane is for increasing abilities that you aquire through the game. Finally Vitality increases your defense and health. For my playthrough, I went half and half on Agility and Vitality. Once you hit the 40’s, stats like Strength and Agility become more expensive to represent how age takes an impact on your body.

Playing on the hardest difficulty, with an agility build I saw some struggles at first. You are basically stuck with one agility weapon for the first third of the game. You do only receive alternate strength based weapons. Also I’m not even sure how the Evade stat works when increasing your agility because evading seems to be the absolute same from Agility level 1 to Agility lvl 50. I repeatedly thought to myself how much easier the game would have been if I leveled up Strength instead because blocking the damage seems to be much more efficient and I would have a few weapon choices from the start. Eventually you unlock a spear and the game becomes much easier with the added range of your attacks.

My major gripe with the game was how clunky the combat was. I felt like there were several times where inputs just didn’t register. The combat is also unreliable in cause and effect. What I mean by this is when you attack an enemy, the effect of your moves should be the same. If I use a heavy attack and a light attack and the enemy becomes off balanced, and this happens a few times, the pattern should stay the same any time I fight that same enemy. I can’t tell you how many times an enemy would randomly not be impacted the same by an attack pattern.

Usually I wouldn’t gripe about this, especially if they are normal enemies, but Chronos has a very strange healing mechanic. The only way to heal in the game is by using a consumable or leveling up. The problem with this is that the only way to get a refresh on the healing consumable is to die. Even going back to the teleport stone which acts like a bonfire doesn’t refresh your healing consumables or heal you.

Most of the times I died was because I eventually ran out of heals and would just have to die to normal attacks. At the start of the game you only have 1 healing item per life, so as you are learning the game’s mechanics and enemy attack patterns you will probably die more often. If I would have known this, I would have selected the trait to receive more experience per kill to get free healing as much as possible.

Graphically, the game is subpar, while sound design was pretty decent. I would assume this is due to the fact that it is just a modified VR game. I played the game on the PS5 and the load times were a bit longer than I would have anticipated about 30-40 seconds per load and death. Frame rates were solid and I didn’t experience any screen tearing or glitches.

The environments in the game are somewhat interesting, but they are very linear. Most of the levels are narrow corridors with locked doors or puzzle elements that block your way. This leads to a lot of backtracking if you missed a puzzle item or hint somewhere along the way. There were two points in particular that had me going around in circles for quite some time before I realized what the solution was. One puzzle straight up involved me going through random combinations before figuring it out. To be honest, even after solving it, I had no idea how I was supposed to find that solution until later in the game. It is possible that is where losing the game’s VR aspects has an impact. It’s static camera angles probably help highlight specific environmental aspects that are important.

The game did have some fun design moments, such as taking a portal to become the size of a toy and fighting other toys inside of a bookshelf. There were also times where you could step inside of a painting and it would become a new section of the level. I did enjoy most of the puzzles. Some of them included finding runes to fix a “stargate”-like structure to teleport to different areas of the world, combining different items together to get past obstacles, and sorting pieces of a puzzle to create floating pathways. Most of these experiences, while fun, are too short.

Unfortunately, the game’s run time was also short. It took me 8 hours to complete the game and I died about 40 times on the hardest difficulty. I imagine that if you played on the easier difficulties you could shave this time to about 6.5-7 hours or less. Like Mortal Shell, also lacking were the magic abilities and weapon selections but unlike that game, there aren’t different armor sets or even a new game plus option to provide replay value.

I feel that if a game is going to be short, they really need to focus on making combat fun and give you options for variety to play again. While you can also upgrade your weapons, I would suggest holding off on upgrades until you get the stronger weapons near the end of the game. I was only able to upgrade 1 weapon to the max and the other weapons I found about once or twice due to lack of upgrade materials dropping from enemies.

When I finally finished my adventure in Chronos: Before the Ashes I found myself liking Remnant: From the Ashes even more and wanting to play it again. It is amazing how far they were able to come along in almost every way from this game. While I can’t suggest Chronos to the average person, I can safely say that you should try out Remnant: From the Ashes instead. I think that the person that will find any value from Chronos will be big fans of Remnant that want to get a view of the origins of the game and can look past the many flaws. Even then I would highly suggest waiting until the game is on sale.

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