It’s AAA season so all eyes are usually on the big name titles that come out around this time. But there’s always room for a good indie game to sneak on in. CrossCode snuck up on me and it might just be my favourite game of the year.
CrossCode is a retro-inspired RPG which takes inspiration from a wide range of genres. The game has been in early access since 2015 and has only recently just left giving them plenty of time to perfect the core experience.
Set in a real-life MMO called CrossWorld you play as Lea, an avaatar who has lost her memory. As Lea you set out into the CrossWolds to reclaim your memory and discover the secrets of the ancients.
The world of CrossWorld is as charming as it is interesting, being self-aware of the cliches the MMO genre and indulging in them without becoming obnoxious about it. “Players” and NPCs around the world will complain about the genre and give hints to the player, guiding you to the next steps of your journey. You can’t interact with many of the NPCs but the meta interactions go a long way to make the world feel so alive.
Almost every character fits into the world perfectly. Lea has a damaged voice module that limits her vocabulary in a really funny and adorable way. Emilie is the first companion you will meet and will act as your guide and your first friend in the CrossWorlds.
Combat is fast-paced and intuitive, mixing together close ranged melee and ranged attacks. Bringing the cursor closer and clicking will perform a melee attack whilst moving the cursor away will switch to your ranged attacks that can bounce of objects. On the keyboard it’s a control scheme that’s odd at first and will take some getting used to, but after that it becomes an absolute blast to play.
With this combat system comes a surprising amount of depth layered on-top. Dashing whilst mid combo will allow you to chain attacks and keep the combo going. The wide range of enemy types and movesets prevent the combat from ever getting boring.
There’s an MMO-esque structure to quests and progression. Unfortunately, this includes the tedious collection and eliminate X amount of enemy minions that plague the opening of MMO’s. Since the combat is so engaging it’s not terrible, but quest repetition can get a bit stale. Early on in the game you may find higher level quests enticing you to grow your character to qualify and go beyond the main storyline.
Leveling up allows you to power up and augment your abilities with special attacks. Once you unlock a special attack you can change them at any time, giving you plenty of flexibility. As you grow your skill tree and gain access to new abilities and elements, switching things around becomes much more strategic, but never becomes overwhelming.
You can have companions that will join you in exploration and combat. You don’t have to worry too much about babysitting them as they can hold their own and provide invaluable assistance in combat. Of course its completely optional to have them, but I’d say that they enhance the experience.
Platforming can be just a touch finicky, sometimes your platform heights can be tricky to read leading to annoyingly starting the sequence over again but generally platforming works really well. Other than this the controls are precise enough and the platforming is fun. Jumping is automatic so there is no need to try and time your jumps.
There’s also a ton of puzzles to solve and these can be some of my favourite moments. They usually aren’t overly complex but do rely on your knowledge of the gameplay mechanics and timings. These can range from simple jumping puzzles to shooting your ball to bounce around in specific ways, sometimes the answer comes from the solution you think of last and it’s incredibly well done. Only a couple of puzzles seemed a bit harsh.
Being set in an MMO there’s a huge world to explore with secrets to find and dungeons to clear. Dungeons are lengthy challenges (sometimes a little too lengthy) that test your abilities in platforming, combat, and puzzle solving. As you progress through the story you will access areas that you previously couldn’t and grab items that might have been unobtainable.
There’re dozens of secrets hidden around the CrossWorlds. It’s great incentive to explore an area even when you think you’ve seen it all. The best secrets are the ones that tkae you on a journey through multiple realms.
CrossCode is loaded with amazing 16-bit art style in a surprisingly detailed world. Hubs are filled with NPCs and other “players” doing their own thing. In motion, everything just looks amazing and there’s never too much going on for it to become a distraction and the wide variety of enemy designs is incredible. My only complaint about the visuals is that you can occasionally get lost behind certain objects in the environment.
Sound design is pretty good as well, the music is solid if a little too repetitive. There isn’t any voice acting, which is a good design decision. Overall the sound design is pretty good, if not entirely memorable.
CrossCode is one of the biggest surprises of 2018. With engaging combat, a charming world to explore and many hours of content. For the price the developers are asking for this game, it’s an absolute steal.
Gorgeous 16-bit art style in a surprisingly detailed world.
Fast and smooth combat is some of the best out there.
The sound design might be the weakest link but it’s still great, if a little too repetitive.
CrossCode never stops being fun.
Final Verdict: 9.5
CrossCode is available now on PC.
A copy of CrossCode was provided by the publisher.