Souls of Chronos Review (PS5, Switch & PC)
In the gaming world, new games are released every other day. As a result, you find most indie titles slipping through the cracks while major AAA titles get an influx of attention. Lucky for you, we often write about most games, regardless of their popularity. Like Souls of Chronos, for example. While you may be hearing about it for the first time, you should have a clearer picture at the end of this article of whether it tickles your fancy or otherwise.
Souls of Chronos recently came out on Valentine’s day for PS5, Switch, and PC via Steam. It’s representative of a classic RPG title from developer FUTU Studio that features isometric RPG gameplay, choice-driven storytelling, and intertwining themes of poverty, betrayal, and desperation. While some ideas may have been lost in translation from Chinese to English, it’s still, overall, a pretty neat story I have quite enjoyed unraveling.
Beyond surface-level niceties, though, how exactly does the game look and feel? Is it a worthwhile purchase to make? Let’s find out in today’s Souls of Chronos review.
Not Another Post-Apocalyptic Story?
Okay, so before you make up your mind about the familiarity of the story. You know, the “it’s been 15 years since the Apocalypse. The world is in great turmoil. Different factions are at war with one another. It’s up you to save the world from itself…” story. I, for one, wanted to give Souls of Chronos a chance to set itself apart from the crowd, and my God, did it deliver on its promise.
I doubt any other game has been bold enough to portray their main character, the person the fate of the world apparently depends on, as a gangster. Yes, you heard that right. Sid, the protagonist, is a gangster from a gang called the Hyenas. It’s made so apparently clear he’s not here to play nice, even extorting someone in the very first quest of the game.
But Sid isn’t exactly your everyday gangster. He has a conscience, one you can choose to bring to light at certain points of the story or not. You do so via action and dialogue choices that pretty much set apart various Sid personas you may choose to have. That alone makes Souls of Chronos intriguing in that there are different ways the story could go, and to find the true ending; you may need to go through a tad bit of playthroughs. No complaints so far.
Enter, Twist, and Turn
In the very beginning, players get hit with a twist and turn. That Sid is proudly a gangster here to restore some order on the streets. But before you can even settle into that fact, Souls of Chronos throws another one at you. Some other gang, the Antelopes, are going against the Hyenas. They want to take over, and one manages to injure Sid badly.
To Sid’s rescue comes Torii, so-called Sid’s sole romantic affair we’ve come to expect in RPGs. But she’s not your typical match-up. Torii possesses a Chronus, which, let’s just say, is like a parasite thing that can manipulate time. Through the power of the Chronus, Torii saves Sid’s life, but Sid is now forever in her debt, literally sustaining the Chronus with his lifespan. In return, Torii uses Chronus’ power to help Sid fight the rival gangs.
There’s a lot going on, with not nearly the same caliber of depth. We do witness interesting themes like poverty, desperation, and betrayal. The world itself is ridden with politics, warring factions, and crime. All these are major plot points that are mostly said in passing rather than explored.
However, we will commend the passion that clearly shows in plot development. Even incorporating a sort of storybook narration where you read texts instead of hearing the character’s voices. It’s interesting because even without the voicing, the amoral choices and conflict in the story do intrigue you. At least enough to want to find out more. Overall, Souls of Chronos’ plot is commendable.
Time to Shake Things Up
If Sid was the only playable character, it might have gotten a bit boring to play. However, his companion Torii is playable too, which adds gameplay variety to Souls of Chronos. You can even influence her abilities depending on the dialogue options you choose. Like pickpocketing or haggling to get discounts at shops.
I love that Sid and Torii have varying personalities, skills, and stats. So, whenever you feel like switching things up, you can always hop on over to another character and feel what it’s like trekking the streets of Astella in their shoes and having a feel for her skills, particularly Chronos’ power.
Look and Feel
Souls of Chronos is a delight at first sight. The characters look like cute, little, rounded sprites sprinting across the map. The map, which displays parts of the larger Astella world, looks vibrant. Though the character portraits look even more vibrant, something that may make Astella seem more bland or out of place.
The sound design is iffy. On one hand, the music is not bad, but too repetitive. However, sounds like footsteps, combat attacks, and impacts do come through generously well. It’s much closer to surreal, so that’s great.
There have been complaints of a few bugs here and there like soft lock issues. However, these are more likely to get fixed in the next patch update. We will highlight one “lost in translation” bug where some concepts seem to have been misrepresented while translating from Chinese to English. It’s not too big of a hurdle to completely loose sight of the story. But, it sure would be nice to have a seamless experience, whichever language you prefer.
Last, But Not Least
For some, the action combat is the most important part of an RPG, a no-brainer. If you’re that kind of person, you’ll be happy to know Souls of Chronos delivers on that front. Weapon variety is sufficient. You can choose between guns and swords. Torii, however, has her unique skills.
You’re free to upgrade and customize, either via skill points after completing each level, picking them up from slain enemies, or branching off to side quests. We mentioned how playing Sid alone could potentially become boring. It’s a pretty samey experience. Fun at first, bland at last. Fortunately, Torii saves the day.
Melee combat options allow you to take down enemies at close range. However, you may run away too and fire shots from farther away. One shot isn’t enough, so you need to do so, over and over again, until the enemy dies. It’s not exactly a hack-and-slash party. You spend much of your time running around, your footsteps echoing after you. For the pretty short playthrough, I expected just a bit more of a crunch.
I’ll just go ahead and say it. Combat isn’t Souls of Chronos strongest suit. Compared to today’s hack-and-slash options, it falls short and could even get boring. But what Souls of Chronos fails in combat, it recovers in plenty of other things to do outside of it.
For the most part, you’ll be reading texts on the screen to uncover the plot, learn about Sid and Torii’s adventures, and select which route you’d like them to take. Your decisions influence their personality traits, which essentially make Sid a super unlikeable gangster or more of the better ones.
While Souls of Chronos leads up to four endings, it creates more room for replayability on the quest to find out the true ending. And what’s great is starting over won’t feel like a chore, thanks to the multiple themes of poverty, betrayal, and desperation constantly battling with each decision you’re faced with making.
So, what’s the consensus? Well, I feel like most gameplay aspects are “nearly there.” The story is good but not great. The combat feels lightweight. The game’s art style could use a little more love. Overall, it’s a pretty good attempt, especially from a low-budget start. It’s not the greatest game there is, but it does have a certain charm worth taking a short stop-over for.
Souls of Chronos Review (PS5, Switch & PC)
A Classic RPG-Style Indie to Consider
Souls of Chronos is one of those little hidden gems that can easily go unnoticed. However, we found it amidst the tons of RPGs available today, and we think it’s worth considering. Particularly for its story that aggressively approaches post-apocalyptic notions you’ve likely seen in a myriad of other games. This time, Souls of Chronos dares to take the road less traveled and portray a world where things aren’t always black and white. If you’re an RPG fan, Souls of Chronos is a fun title you may want to pass your leisure time with. Save for a somewhat bland combat, and map, Souls of Chronos promises an engaging story with amoral perspectives that are quite fun to maneuver. Feel free to grab a copy out now on PS 5, Switch, and PC via Steam.