Review – Chronos: Before the Ashes
Remnant: From the Ashes was a surprisingly good game released with little fanfare last year, but what the vast majority of people didn’t know, was that this game was actually a sequel to another title released by Gunfire Games (the same people behind Darksiders III) a few years prior. That game was called Chronos, originally released for the Oculus Rift as proof that you could actually run third-person games in a virtual reality setting. It was a mix between a Zelda and a Souls game in a Moss-esque point of view, basically meaning that it was a discount Zelda you looked at a distance from fixed angles.
I don’t think Gunfire Games was expecting for Remnant: From the Ashes to become as well-received as it was last year. Their next step was to introduce players to Chronos, albeit without the need of a VR visor. They reworked the entire game to be playable in a more traditional Soulslike aesthetic, renaming it Chronos: Before the Ashes, and releasing it for all current-gen platforms. Time to check this revamped 2016 “gem” out.
As mentioned, Chronos: Before the Ashes feels like the love child between Dark Souls‘ combat and The Legend of Zelda‘s puzzle solving and dungeon exploration. You embark on a series of partially interconnected worlds that can be visited by hopping from portal to portal, all while farming experience points, solving some really interesting puzzles, and defeating a boss every now and then. The difference between this version and the original is the more traditional third-person view. Gone are the fixed camera angles, as this looks, feels and plays more like your average Souls game, albeit with weaker visuals and performance.
The combat part is not very exciting. As a matter of fact, this is actually one of the slowest and clunkiest Souls-esque games I have ever played. Your character has a very limited movement pool, nearly no weapon variety whatsoever, slow animations that lock you still for an eternity, and a very bland dodge mechanic. Thankfully, enemies are as slow and clunky as your character, meaning that you will never feel you’re at a disadvantage against them. Boss fights are a different story, however, but considering how easy it is to level up and improve your skills in Chronos, defeating them is not exactly the hardest of feats.
Instead of souls, you acquire traditional experience points like in a traditional RPG. Everytime you level up, your health is fully recovered, and you can upgrade your strength, HP, etc. This makes up for the fact that you have really limited healing resources. Enemies drop experience points like piñatas, meaning that grinding is actually quick and easy. If you run out of dragon hearts (this game’s Estus flasks), just kill a few easy foes, and voilà, your health is back. You don’t lose your experience points when dying as well.
Something else happens whenever you die, though. Everytime your character perishes, his/her age goes up by one. When you’re young, your stats are best suited for melee combat, but if you keep dying a lot, you’ll eventually become an old coot, with less stamina and more magical powers. I did not die enough to become an old wizard, however, and missed out on a ton of additional perks unlocked by reaching your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and so on, as a result. Once you learn how exploitable Chronos: Before the Ashes‘ combat is, you won’t have a lot of trouble dealing with enemies. Nothing like a bit of grinding and pattern recognition can’t solve.
Chronos: Before the Ashes doesn’t feature impressive visuals, sound and controls, but there is one thing that makes up for all of its issues: its Zelda-esque elements. Even though its combat mechanics aren’t interesting, its puzzles certainly are. The game constantly forces you to think outside the box with its puzzle solving, often requiring writing down a sequence of runes which will only be used much later inside a specific dungeon, as well as decyphering poems and riddles in order to solve a visual-based puzzle in a nearby room. Much more interesting than the boring combat, that’s for certain.
I don’t exactly think Chronos: Before the Ashes was worth the hype, but even though its combat was lame and its visuals underwhelming, it featured enough interesting puzzles and well-designed dungeons to make me want to play it to the very end. It didn’t make me want to revisit its Oculus counterpart, nor do I understand why this and Remnant had to be connected, but hey, it wasn’t exactly THAT bad. It certainly is better than the sum of its parts…
Chronos: Before the Ashes does not push the PS4’s hardware in any sense of the word, and yet it struggles to maintain a stable framerate. It does feature a nice art style, though.
The Souls-esque combat feels slow and clunky, but since enemies are also slow and clunky, you will rarely feel at a disadvantage as a result. Although the combat is disappointing, the puzzle solving is actually really good.
The sound effects aren’t anything special, nor is the occasional tune that’s played whenever you fight a boss. The voice acting is surprisingly more robust than expected from a game like this.
Fun Factor: 7.5
It’s better than the sum of its parts. It’s not exactly the most interesting Souls-inspired game in terms of combat or gimmicks, but it makes up for it with good level design and interesting puzzles.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Chronos: Before the Ashes is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch and Stadia.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Chronos: Before the Ashes was provided by the publisher.