Cris Tales, the JRPG from Modus Games that we’ve been eagerly anticipating, launched last week for PCs and all major consoles. A massive campaign that clocked in at almost 36 hours prevented us from covering it then, but here are our thoughts.
The reason that Cris Tales was so fondly looked forward to by RPG fans was that it takes inspiration from some of the all-time classics in the genre while also bringing new elements to the table alongside a gorgeous audiovisual style. The time manipulation mechanics in Cris Tales might remind players of titles like Chrono Trigger on the surface, but the end result here is different enough to make sure this one can stand on its own two legs.
As protagonist Crisbell, you step into the shoes of ‘time mage’ in a fantasy universe where past, present and future intersect. It’s your quest to stop the Time Empress as you travel through the world of Crystallis, meeting companions along the way and using time powers to affect the course of the narrative and the combat scenarios you face.
Objects called crystals of time let you pierce through different layers of time, showing you the shape of things to come or the origins of a current predicament. You can also use this mechanic to see how your actions in the present play out in the future, and time travel applies to combat as well – especially boss fights that let you exploit weaknesses this way. Slow-acting attacks on an enemy’s defenses can be sped up by fast-forwarding through time, and this can kickstart a chain of attacks that’s devastating on even the most powerful of enemies.
As cool as these chains are to set up, one downside is that it feels like you need the right combat scenario to make use of them. In other words, the boss fights are designed around them, whereas regular fights aren’t. You can still use them, but it’s not nearly as impactful of satisfying. It’s more interesting to just focus on the unique abilities that your companions bring to the fight as they join you over the course of the campaign, even though it feels less novel to play this way.
Compared to the time travel mechanics, which really add to the enjoyment of the combat in the game, the narrative feels much “safer”. It follows familiar story beats and is rarely surprising, though it did manage to entertain for the full length of the adventure. Perhaps part of that was the gorgeous hand-drawn art style though, which really pops and delights. A clear labor of love, even if the end result isn’t as unique as we thought it was going to be.