In 2016, Gunfire Games released original Chronos, an action game that was exclusive to the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. As you remember, at the time there were frankly inflated expectations from the VR industry, but the actual number of quality projects remained minimal. And this one is one of the brightest representatives of the first wave. The third-person view was combined with a fixed camera (like in the OG Resident Evil games), which can be tilted slightly at an angle. In this way, the authors got rid of the motion sickness effect. High scores of gamers were not the motivation for the release of the sequel, as the VR headsets themselves sold poorly. Such projects could have used a port to PlayStation VR, but it didn’t come out to the platform.
A bit of a story
Three years later, the cooperative MMO shooter Remnant: From the Ashes was released. The project looked more like a poor man version of Destiny 2, but gained its army of loyal fans. The story of fall of humanity fighting for survival with monsters from the parallel world, was catching with simplicity and competent missions. The authors realized that the universe should be developed further. A few weeks ago, the studio decided to remake their previous work. Cosmetically tightened the graphics, fine-tuned the mechanics, and they’ve got the Souls-Like adventure as the end result. And the word “adventure” is key here.
The beginning of the game
Starter customization includes a choice of gender, difficulty and starting weapons. After saving the chosen parameters we find ourselves in a strange room with an old lady, who decided to tell us a mysterious story… The world in which the protagonist finds himself involves several parallel dimensions: one extends in modern realities, and the second – a fantasy one.
The story is more like the one from child’s book:
Once upon a time, the world was a different place, with people moving freely around the Earth and hiding from no one. Then monsters emerged and began to hunt them down. They were ruled by a dragon controlling a countless army of darkness. You, young child, entrusted with a responsible burden: to find and kill the giant monster. The mission is important, its failure will have unpredictable consequences for the entire human race.
The plot is the simplest, but the setting is revealed by reading notes, breaking into computer terminals and exploring locations. The main bet in the game made on the epic battles. When compared to the Souls-series, the combat system is greatly simplified. You have two attacks at your disposal: weak and enhanced. Because you don’t have to spend stamina on blows, you can quickly combo enemies, periodically blocking damage with your shield, stepping back or rolling over. Pushing the enemy into the corner is welcome, sometimes it becomes an outright cheat. Opponents’ artificial intelligence is too dumb to block such attacks. It’s as easy as winning at online casino Australia for money.
Character leveling and gameplay
Pumping is implemented through the dragon crystals, built into the weapons. The character himself is developed in several directions: magic, dexterity, endurance. To restore health, look for dragon essence flasks. Magic is divided into several types depending on the school and their elementals. Death mechanics is interesting: after death you find yourself at the control point (local analog of Dark Souls fires) with restored health, but having aged for one year. Growing up affects not only the appearance, but also the combat system, because the hero is given a variety of perks as a bonus. And if in the early age they affect the damage received and blocked, then in old age – on magic. This is the limit I could not check during my walkthrough, by the game finale my character was about 50 years old. I read that many gamers managed to pass the story campaign at the age of 30. So, you only can check the limits of aging by dying on purpose.
The gameplay is not limited to battles, periodically we can see few puzzles here and there. Crystals are not only checkpoints, but also ways to move quickly through previously discovered locations. Which is helpful since there are complex puzzles that involve multiple backtracking; however, they are seen more as creative challenges than an attempt to stretch the timeline. On the other hand, not every gamer is careful enough to remember the location of key objects, so keeping the notes is handy, its like developing your own strategy to win at online pokies.
Visually, the game does not differ much from the original, big budgets are not brought in development. Minimalistic environment design makes up for this shortcoming. As for the portable version on Nintendo Switch the picture is nice, but the situation with the optimization is not very good: the frame rate sometimes falls below 30 FPS. Hero animation is jagged, but bosses and enemies move much better for some reason. A huge-sized golem, a screaming witch, various guards of the labyrinth and the final dragon – each enemy is well designed, characterized by long patterns of action and several phases of attack. The battle with them turns into a spectacular dance of death.
The main problem – it’s unfortunate timings, because of which the damage on a high difficulty you miss not because of your own mistakes, but because of the gameplay design flaws. There are situations in which it is simply impossible to dodge the enemy’s attack. Narrow corridors do not allow you to turn around properly, even the arena with some bosses is a box of 2 by 3 meters. Alas, only From Software is able to perfectly reproduce Souls-like mechanics, and the other developers have not mastered the formula of its success to this day.
Chronos: Before the Ashes will appeal to fans of Remnant: From the Ashes who want to delve deeper into the world and learn its backstory. On the other hand, fans of Dark Souls will be frankly disappointed because of the poor timings and torn animation.