Time travel in video games is probably as long as the medium itself. No wonder people have been fascinated by the idea of leaving the present and seeing what will happen in the future or traveling back and influencing the course of history. However, the process in games is rarely implemented too creatively, you just travel back or forward and then act at the appropriate time level.
Cris Tales takes a slightly different path. Here too we have the power to manipulate the passage of time. Past, present and future take place here at the same time and all our decisions and changes have a direct impact. Sounds promising and it is also, as we were able to find out in the light of a live demo that the developers played for us and in the subsequent conversation with the creators.
Parts of the gameplay that we saw were already part of a gameplay video on the occasion of the unveiling of Cris Tales (buy now for € 39.99) shown during E3 2019. At that time, a demo with different content available through the various download stores also gave interested fans a first impression of the game. At this point we were already looking at the title in an E3 preview. But now we got to see new sections, and of course the adventure has evolved since last summer.
It doesn't always have to be Japan
Source: Modus Games
What's the matter? We slip into the shape of the primary heroine Crisbell, her time magician in a fantasy kingdom. It is not well for her homeland, because the nasty time emperor is aiming for power over the whole world, which we can of course not let happen and stand in her way with an illustrious group of colleagues.
Sounds like a typical JRPG plot and it is. Although developed by a Colombian team, Cris Tales is officially a declaration of love for old and newer role-playing games from the Far East, such as Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger, but also, for example, Bravely Default and Persona 5. Which means: We expect an overworld, from which we get to different cities and linear areas, random battles that send us into turn-based arguments and micromanagement with a view to our equipment and items.
Source: Modus Games
What sets Cris Tales apart is the time travel feature. If we are traveling in villages and other areas where we encounter NPCs instead of enemies, the screen is shown in three parts. We are in the middle, in the present, on the left we see the past and on the right the future. With the help of Matias, a small frog that accompanies us, we can also penetrate directly into the timelines lying next to us and, for example, steal objects into the present or change things. Sweet: If he goes into the past, Matias becomes a tadpole, in the future we will see him as an old, slightly bulky frog.
Our actions have a massive impact, both in the main story and in the developers' numerous and extensive side quests. With our intervention, cities can perish or flourish, people can live or die and relationships between characters can change drastically, all in real time, so that we can see the effects of our actions directly. An exciting idea that came with great challenges for the makers. They had to design the cities not only three times, but also in several states. Based on what decisions we have made, houses can be run down or newly renovated, entire areas flooded and more, and these things in turn influence each other. In an interview, the developers said that many elements had to be designed in up to 30 different variations.
Tomorrow's threshing, today
Source: Modus Games
On the upper world and in the enemy areas, the representation of the time levels is omitted, but in turn comes into play in the battles. We are in the middle of the screen, our enemies are positioned to the left and right of us. Three members of our seven-person party can take part in a battle.
According to the system from the cities on the left, Crisbell can open a time snapshot into the past, on the right one into the future and influence opponents at the corresponding points. A terrifying creature in the present may only be a relatively harmless youngster in the past, and a defenseless old man in the future. In the same way, some adversaries can of course gain a lot of danger by changing the time. The key to success is when Crisbell uses her strength and when she doesn't.
In addition, we can influence the attacks and actions of our fellow combatants through the time travel feature. So it can be very effective to throw a fireball at an enemy, causing them to catch fire. If we send the poor guy into the future afterwards, he burns for many years and the damage inflicted on him maximizes.
Source: Modus Games
Especially in the boss fights, but also in the normal confrontations, this system almost becomes a puzzle game. A boss may have an iron shield that does not let attacks through. So we wet the shield with one of our fellow combatants, send the enemy into the future and see how the metal has been decomposed by the moisture over the years and no longer offers protection. Elsewhere, a robot boss was still in production in the past, so we can attack his arm because it doesn't yet have a protective shell.
The system promises many interesting ideas, but the struggles are deliberately very traditional. A bar shows who can take an action next, we access attacks, items and Co. via the selection menu and always have a keen eye on life energy and magic points. In addition, you have the option to attack particularly well with well-timed button presses or to avert or at least minimize damage in the case of an enemy attack. This is currently known primarily from Paper Mario, of which a new series part will also appear soon, but the primary inspiration for the feature was the first Mario role-playing game ever, Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES.
Static, but eager to speak
Source: Modus Games
We could have imagined even more Mario inspiration while exploring the game world, which for the most part appears to be just running around with the obligatory treasure chests that can be found if you deviate a little from the main path. In our opinion, the simple, hand-drawn style of the adventure could work well in combination with light platforming elements.
In terms of presentation, Cris Tales otherwise primarily relies on cutscenes and dialogues implemented with slightly animated still images. Nice: All texts have English voice output, which at least sounds competent according to the previous impression.
A potential indie highlight
It takes about 20 hours to play through Cris Tales, more if you want to do everything. This is not huge for an RPG, in case of doubt we prefer a short, well-designed adventure than one with a large scope, which was artificially drawn out. After everything that has been seen so far, we are confident that the developers here are on the right track to deliver an exciting, lovingly made adventure with its own identity and a really creative time travel idea.
Cris Tales will be released on November 17th for PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
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An exciting basic idea paired with proven elements – that could be something!
The work that has gone into the design and layout of the characters and game world is obvious. As the developers say, many areas had to be designed several dozen times in different variants to cover all time travel contingencies. Still, the graphic style of Cris Tales just doesn't pick me up personally. That being said, I really like what I see. I have never seen the time travel feature with the simultaneous display of three levels of reality in any game and what the developers do with it is creative and well thought out. The actually very classic, turn-based discussion, for example, should get a very unique touch. I'm definitely curious!
Preview of Cris Tales: Back to the future with a difference (1) (Source: Modus Games)
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E3 preview of Cris Tales: Turn-based RPG with a cool time travel twist
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