Souls of Chronos review — Needs a bit more soul

Souls of Chronos is an indie RPG developed by FUTU Studios and published by Astrolab Games. The game consists of chibi styled characters you’ll control to explore a town and engage in action combat. Upon first seeing the trailer, I was intrigued by its adorable visuals and backdrop. The character designs look delightful, and the desire for adventure is right up my alley. Is Souls of Chronos a hidden gem, a forgetful experience, or somewhere in between? Let’s get into it.

Souls of Chronos takes place in the harbor town of Astella. In this town, gangs are allied with government officials and are, for better or worse, the authorities of Astella. You play as Sid, a budding and charismatic member of the Hyena gang. Sid’s family died in a disaster event called the Apocalypse, and he was found washed ashore by Torii, a Chronos. Soon after, the Hyenas took Sid and Torii in and became their newfound friends.

Torii is Sid’s Chronos companion. As a Chronos, Torii has strength and agility that allow her to move at superhuman speeds. She assists Sid in their fights and is often the reason they win. Torii linked with Sid after he washed ashore, and so she is Sid’s main friend. As the story develops, so does the relationship between them. Her personality shines, as she is the perfect balance of lighthearted playfulness and cocky arrogance. The different ways she interacts with characters depending on whether she likes them or not definitely makes for fun dialogue moments.

The main driving force for Sid is reuniting with Schlott, an older member of the Hyenas who helped him learn the ropes when it came to life on the island. Schlott grew into a brotherlike figure for Sid. Schlott was forced to leave the gang for killing a fellow member, and his current location is unknown. Sid believes something is off about the situation as a whole and doesn’t believe Schlott would perform such a horrendous act. Torii and Sid believe going to a distant city called the Capital will hold information on finding him.

This leads to the main points of the story for Souls of Chronos. Starting off with pacing, the introduction of the main characters and setting drops exponentially on you in the first few minutes of playing. It’s so quickly explained that you could miss key information by blinking. Given Sid and Torii are the main protagonists, we need to connect with them and the game should not simply gloss over their backstory. This issue isn’t exclusive to Sid and Torii, but every character you talk to. Your interactions as a whole felt forgettable because the story moves faster than it needs to.

Luckily, there is a character entry tab that gives detailed information and backgrounds for the characters you meet along the way. This is slightly frustrating, because these characters have the potential to be fantastic interactions and assets for moving the plot along but aren’t given the proper screen time they deserve. They’re instead delegated to lore entries you read in the pause menu.

My main disappointment with the storyline is the diverging plotline. It delves into a murder mystery between the Hyenas and a rival gang that serves no purpose in helping Sid pursue his goal. The game wants you to care about a gang member that was killed offscreen, and it doesn’t even give us a picture of who he was. The plot is solely focused on finding who the killer is. It feels unrelated to the story I was expecting, as if this is the prequel to set up the main adventure for Sid. As a standalone narrative, it focuses too much attention to the murder. Having one chapter be about the murder then moving onto Sid’s adventure to the Capital would have been a more fluid storyline to coexist with the combat of the game.

Moving into combat, it surprised me with how simple and bland it felt. The main combat system consists primarily of engaging combatants with Sid using a primary weapon. Once unlocked, a secondary weapon for alternating attacks becomes available. I didn’t go for other weapons or try out different loadouts, as the gun and sword both feel the same. There isn’t a noticeable reach advantage between one or the other either. Since the sword does more damage, I stuck with that.

Like other RPGs, you can equip accessories that give you varying perks in fights, such as lighting striking foes as you deal damage or healing more hit points from items. There are craftable potions and other enhancement items you can purchase, but the game’s difficulty is easy enough that they aren’t something to prioritize.

Torii is your sole companion in combat and can do quite a few different things to assist you. She not only helps deal damage but also attracts enemies. Torii comes with an overpowered skill: time manipulation. When you activate time manipulation, she swaps places with Sid and the player takes control of Torii while enemies around you are frozen in time. This enables you to apply free damage for a few seconds. Once time runs out, you swap back to controlling Sid and need to do a certain threshold of damage before activating it again. Torii is easily the best part of the combat loop, and the most enjoyable as well. Being able to swap out right as you are about to take damage and run to a different enemy to do damage is a fun time.

The two combat styles Torii wields are offensive damage and crit focused attacks, or a more defensive and supportive role. Unfortunately, the support style becomes essentially useless as I found an accessory that allows me to life steal as I hit enemies. The different combat styles she wields also change her outfit depending on what’s equipped. This translates into the game with her avatar design changing when you are walking around and talking to people. I really like this feature because I don’t see many games that have themed outfits that change depending on what you choose to wield.

From a technical standpoint, Souls of Chronos ran well for the most of the playthrough. There were some combat segments where I suffered frame drops, as well as audio desyncs that lasted until the enemies on screen were defeated. I played on a PlayStation 5, and with a game that isn’t the most hardware demanding, that shouldn’t happen. I also had times where dialogue text boxes would replay the same lines after pressing the button to progress. Once or twice is passable, but it happened multiple times with multiple different characters. One side quest even reappeared for me after completing it, and wouldn’t allow me to redo the quest in order to remove it from my quests tab. While these aren’t all game breaking issues, they were annoying. Hopefully a future patch will alleviate these problems.

Souls of Chronos isn’t the next indie darling that everyone should play, but it also shouldn’t be discarded. It just feels frustrating because I see the potential the game has. For twenty dollars, it’s okay, but I am hopeful that a sequel will allow the story, characters, and gameplay to be fully fleshed out and achieve the success Souls of Chronos could have.



Souls of Chronos

Review Guidelines

Souls of Chronos is a mediocre experience that will get lost in the shuffle of the plethora of fantastic RPGS we have available today. The potential for a fantastic visual adventure with an endearing duo is replaced by a mystery that’s hard to become emotionally invested in. Hopefully, a sequel can take the good bits at the game’s core and expand them into a fully fleshed out experience.

Noah is the resident weeb who spends most of his time gaming and watching anime. His goal is to expand his skills while meeting new people. You have probably seen him feeding the other team kills in Overwatch Comp or speculating Star Wars and One Piece. Follow him on twitter @RigsbyNoah.

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