26/12/2022

Chained Echoes XSX Review 8.5/10 "I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain" πŸ”— @ChainedEchoes #IndieGames #GameDev

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It’s been a good while since I got hips deep into a turn-based RPG, in fact, I believe the last one to really capture my imagination to this extent was Octopath Traveller a couple of years ago.

A very different beast, Chained Echoes calls to mind 2018’s Crosscode in the visuals and style of traversal in the game world, but the setting and narrative feel more traditional and classic in terms of the delivery.

During the prologue mission, a band of mercenaries – seemingly on a suicide mission – fight their way through to a powerful crystal, which is then smashed, resulting in an explosion that kills thousands. The carnage and aftermath of this cause a ceasefire between the warring factions.

A year later, the remainder of the mercenary group gets embroiled in various political machinations as each faction again begins to start a covert war on their own terms. Caught up in this are other figures such as a seemingly immortal wizard, a princess in disguise and other folks who will join your party along the ride.

The top-down, pixelated visuals really reminded me of the smoothness and over-arching playstyle in the exploration sections in Crosscode, in that your character auto-jumps between ledges etc., and the complex layout of the world means that there are myriad secrets to discover in closed-off caves and along hidden paths.

Making your way around each location is a highlight, as some of the items discovered can really make a huge difference when in battle. Partnering with the tasty visuals is a soundtrack that really got its hooks into me – I’m already hankering for a vinyl release – composer Eddie Marianukroh completely captures the world of Chained Echoes, with lilting, traditional music for the more pastoral elements; energetic, upbeat melodies for the more exploratory passages – and a personal favourite; the melancholic, singing synth notes of The Rainy City of Tormund, which contains a melodic climb that reaches into my chest and caresses my soul (around 0:50-0:58 in the track), it works perfectly with the visuals and quite traditional gameplay, giving texture and character to the incredibly lore-rich world painted by Matthias Linda.

The combat mechanics are also no slouch, allowing four of your characters on-screen – with the ability to swap out for another four available at a moment’s notice, meaning that you can really tweak your playstyle dependent on the enemy being faced – and mark my words, things can get tricky.

There are a lot of classic elements here that are also backed up by certain buffs and abilities – including an overcharge bar – that means there’s a lot of mileage in the battle systems, even if they are founded on familiar ground. You can also collect and combine crystals that add extra abilities to your weapons and armour. I was a little surprised by the rating of the game, as aside from a smattering of light curse words, there’s nothing too heavy-duty going on here, making the 16+ age rating seem a little unwarranted.

A game with a hefty run time of well over 25+ hours, my time with Chained Echoes has been the most fun I’ve had with turn-based RPGs in 2022. There’s always a sense of progression, with the ability to go back and pick off one-off bosses for big bonuses acting as a reason to revisit previous locations (plus, you’ll get to enjoy the awesome music all over again).

The story is detailed and involved, with a foundation in traditional genre elements spiced up with nuances to add more depth for those that enjoy a good tinkering through in-game menus, whilst having ease of accessibility and equipment optimisation for players who want to dive straight into the action, swords flailing.

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