PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 1ST
Chronos: Before the Ashes is a revamped “flat” version of 2016's VR exclusive, Chronos, which acts as a prequel to 2019's Remnant: Beyond the Ashes. Part Legend of Zelda and part Dark Souls with a bit of Resident Evil thrown in, C:BtA's world design, engaging combat and unique progression / levelling system make for a really appealing action RPG.
Playing as an unnamed hero on a quest to save the world (the rest of the plot's just about there, but you'll never really get too caught up in what's actually going on), you'll make your way through compact, maze-like environments, slaying monsters, opening shortcuts, exploring the labyrinths and taking down bosses. There's a fair bit of Resi-style puzzling to do, combining things in your inventory to create useful items, figuring out what to do with that nice shiny trinket you just picked up, and hunting for hidden switches and levers. Your weapons and attributes can be upgraded along the way and, uniquely, when you die, you age by one year. As a youngster, you'll rely on strength and agility to get you through but, as you get older (and unlock new perks once every decade), the powers of magic may turn out to be your greatest ally...
The combat takes its cues from Dark Souls – hacking away with a sword won't usually help, but keeping your shield up, dodging through enemies' attacks and learning how to parry will certainly come in handy. Various stones can be equipped too (if you can find them), adding extra effects to your weapon for a limited time to give you the advantage over tougher enemies. There might be many similarities with Dark Souls' combat and interconnected world, but Chronos is a lot more accessible and much less punishing than other Souls-likes due to the inclusion of multiple difficulty settings which can make things much more manageable than they otherwise might be.
True to its VR roots, C:BtA isn't the biggest or best-looking of games, so don't go in expecting a 50+ hour adventure with mindblowing graphics. It's a much more compact and streamlined experience with an atmospheric world to explore, solid gameplay and a mischievous habit of playing tricks on you just when you're starting to feel comfortable. If you're after a more laid-back, and less strenuous RPG, Chronos: Before the Ashes certainly deserves your attention.