In an era where so many games seem to fit into a similar aesthetic mold, Cris Tales channels Columbian influences and hand-drawn graphics to create something truly unique.
Taking clear inspiration from classic turn-based games such as Final Fantasy and Persona, RPG lovers will feel right at home with Cris Tales. Unfortunately, not all of those inspirations are positive, leading to an experience that feels just a step away from true greatness.
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A Quest Through Time
Cris Tales follows time mage Crisbell on a journey through the kingdom of Crystallis as she works to defeat an evil Empress set on world domination. What sets it apart from every other fantasy RPG you’ve played is its focus on time manipulation.
After discovering she is a time mage early on in the game, Crisbell gains the ability to see (and, in turn, effect) the past, present, and future all at once. Almost every decision players make throughout Cris Tales will have some effect on the future, with said effects seen almost immediately after they are made. This makes decisions feel impactful and weighty and makes side quests feel much more important than they otherwise would be. After all, seeing your decisions turn a character’s life around is far more appealing than a little experience.
Having the ability to see the past, present, and future all at once in certain areas really helps highlight Cris Tales’ beautiful art and world. Each era is presented slightly differently, and I spent more time than I’d like to admit simply walking around looking at the differences in each area in each time.
Crisbell’s time powers aren’t only used for peering into every location’s past and future, they also play a massive role in combat. During combat, Crisbell and the crew are positioned in the middle of the screen, with enemies surrounding them. Crisbell can send enemies on the right into the future and enemies on the left into the past, adding a whole new layer of strategy to encounters.
For instance, if you’re facing a metal or robotic enemy, you can soak them with water using a water-based spell and send them into the future, causing them to be coated with rust, greatly decreasing defense. Poisoning enemies and sending them into the future causes all of the poison to hit them at once, dealing significant damage.
Finding interesting ways to decimate enemies using skills and time manipulation is unlike anything I’ve seen before in an RPG and is an absolute blast. Adding this mechanic with combat that requires precise button presses to decrease damage taken and increase damage dealt creates gameplay that consistently keeps players engaged.
With Cris Tales’ absolutely beautiful art style and character design, I was incredibly surprised to find that the game is deeply lacking in polish. Many of the hand-drawn textures are incredibly blurry and pixelated, harshly contrasting the sharp, beautiful graphics of the rest of the world. This would be forgivable if it only happened once or twice, but it is a constant issue throughout the game, quickly pulling players out of the immersion and the experience.
There are also a number of times where two music tracks will overlap in cutscenes, frames will drastically drop, or punctuation will be missing in the in-game text. None of these issues are game-breaking, but they’re glaringly noticeable in what is an otherwise fantastic experience.
Additionally, while combat encounters are mostly fun, facing the same enemies over and over again in random encounters can get incredibly boring. Combat moves too slowly to make grinding enjoyable, meaning I found myself fleeing from combat to speed things up after spending an hour or so in any given area.
Cris Tales might not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great game. It’s stellar art style, unique setting, compelling characters, and engaging combat make it a must play for all fans of turn-based RPGs.
Reviewed on PC via Steam
Review copy provided by the publisher