Dark Light

In 2019, Remnant: From the Ashes was released and boy was it awesome! A dark third person action-adventure game with Souls elements that allowed you to coop with your friends, how could anyone resist that! The exhilaration you feel when you and your homie finally take down that one jerk boss that had your number for hours cannot be explained in mere words. However, Chronos had nothing to do with Remnant apart from being developed by the same devs. Initially, it was made for Oculus Rift VR and was greatly hailed for its gameplay. Recently, it was tied in with the Remnant universe and repackaged Chronos: Before the Ashes for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4Xbox OneNintendo Switch, and Stadia. Is the game able to replicate its earlier success? Read the following review to find out.

Before the Ashes

The world has gone to shit, thanks to otherworldly creatures from interdimensional “rusted places” led by a mysterious dragon. Cities, societies, even entire civilization has collapsed throwing humans back to their tribal origins where they tell tales in candlelight. As prophesied (or something), the tribe’s leader sends an 18-year-old ‘warrior’ across the stormy seas to the dragon’s labyrinth in order to assassinate it. That’s pretty much it (Ba Dum Tss!)

Why ask the young adults do they really want to do it or not, right?

There does exist some lore considering it shares its universe with Remnant: From the Ashes but it’s portrayed in such a mundane and hackneyed way via dull-looking books that you might as well ignore. It’s one, big, lost opportunity because the island you arrive at is reminiscent of Remnant: From the Ashes where a strange glowing World Stone is being researched upon and all the scientists are dead. But it all falls pale once you travel to the first labyrinth. Pretty sure, you won’t be spending time reading about some Cyclops’ marriage when you can be out there turning enemies to…well, ashes! Unlike Soulslikes, item descriptions provide no lore and the same can be said for the bland world which you traverse.

Git Gud… not necessarily though

Imagine someone mashed Zelda: Breath of the Wild with Dark Souls while splicing out the RPG mechanics of Zelda and difficulty spike of Souls. For starters, Chronos has a difficulty selection, as well as a character customization screen whose purpose is as pale as the character customization of Cyberpunk 2077. The game does away with the guns blazing and chest-looting mechanics of Remnant: From the Ashes in lieu of full melee combat and gives in to traditional Soulsbourne tropes. You’ll open shortcuts, get killed, retry, succeed, blah blah. There’s roll dodging, parry, light attack, heavy attack, stamina bar, you’ve seen it all before. There’s a decent enemy roster, all of them requiring only ‘slightly’ different tactics to beat, which mostly involves blocking their first attack, then instantly smashing them with the melee, then dodging backward, and repeat. You can chip away the health of low-level enemies without much blocking by unleashing your flurry of sword attacks. But as you progress further, you would probably have to incorporate the ‘Divide and Conquer’ tactic.

Enemies upon death drop only two types of loot, either a Dragon Shard or a Dragon Oil which you can combine with the Dragon Shards to form Imbued Dragon Shard. Dragon Shards allow basic upgrades after you gather a set amount of them, and the Imbued Dragon Shards elevate the weapon capabilities to new heights of destruction. Frankly, after I got the hammer, I didn’t feel like using anything else. Apart from basic weaponry, your left arm can be charged up by killing more and more enemies. Once fully charged, it glows allowing you to unleash certain abilities like lightning stagger, protective shield, greater weapon damage, etc., depending on which dragon stone you’ve equipped. However, the abilities are so short-lived that they will disappear even before you can use them if you’re not playing aggressively.

Boomer Souls

When you die, you respawn back at the nearest World Stone which is like the bonfire (so fast travel allowed), but you age by one year. As you keep dying and aging, facial hair starts appearing, your height increases, and your voice changes. Every ten years you get to celebrate your birthd…  I mean select a buff like better dodge window or attack boost etc. Well, the years in between technically don’t matter except for your time spent playing over and over again and gaining XP and attribute points in the process. You can spend the attribute points on Health, Agility, Arcane, and Vitality, like we have seen a thousand times before. Initially, the idea behind this aging mechanic was that the older you grow, the less your physical prowess and more arcane powers. But this is somewhat flawed as at the age of 50 we are as swift with the sword as we were in our late teens. Maybe the XP you gain by the time you reach your silver jubilee, nullifies out the physical restrictions of that age.

Quite Puzzling, innit?

In the world of Chronos: Before the Ashes, only a few environmental elements stand out. And yet, they are easy to miss if you’re not careful enough. These glyphs, statues, paintings, or whatever visual cues you come across are used in myriad puzzles, remnants (no pun intended) from its VR past. Important quest items that you would need to progress further are difficult to spot thanks to the terrible camera movement, which I say is the single biggest and most annoying baddie. In the Oculus VR, you’ll be looking at the entirety of the surrounding moving your head around, and will likely notice the few crucial environmental elements. However, playing the same game on a 2D monitor comes off as a liability. What’s worse? Some enemies will be hiding around the corner to ambush you and the absurdly gimmicky camera angles combined with narrow corridors would make up for one frustrating trial. You can’t hit what you can’t see and you can’t see properly because of this single factor.

Visuals, Performance and Sound

Chronos: Before the Ashes is a prime example of a world design that severely went amiss. There were ample opportunities for the art direction to focus on fairytale-like visuals similar to Zelda or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which they achieved, but only to some extent. You’re stuck with the same drab attire you start the game with as there’s no armor customization. Low poly textures make up for dull-looking environments. And the walls everywhere look the same!

The game is extremely silent. The only three places you’ll hear background music are the main menu, World Stone areas, and during boss fights. Our protagonist is ever mute except for a few grunts and exertions. Voice acting for NPCs are minimal, and even so quite mediocre. You’ll be hearing only environmental noises like your own footsteps, water dripping, firewood crackling etc.

As for performance, not many issues were observed except for a few fps drops on a GTX 1060. But that was manageable.

Real Talk

Frankly speaking, Chronos: Before the Ashes should not have escaped the confines of VR because once within the restraints of a PC, it just comes off as hackneyed and extremely simplistic. A VR game can’t be too complex and therefore its environment suited the game’s mechanics, but now it looks like a ghost of its former shelf. A mere cashgrab that exposes the game’s lukewarm nature, not to mention its hideously short campaign that completely unjustifies its price tag. In all honest opinion, wait for a sale if you’re that interested.


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