STAFF REVIEW of Chronus Arc (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018.
by Brent Roberts

Chronus Arc Box art When you say to me that you have a retro RPG game that involves time manipulation, my mind instantly puts you up against the legendary game Chrono Trigger. When you name your game Chronus Arc, that almost guarantees you to be under the largest magnification possible. KEMCO has done a great job in delivering classic RPG games with a retro feel before, but now with so many releases, is it becoming more of a cookie cutter approach rather than a unique individual story that delivers an iconic experience? With a price tag of $14.99, KEMCO has high aspirations with this game, but let's see if it's worth it, because in reality, we can't rewind bad decisions.

Right off the bat I have to unfortunately knock this game. While a classic SNES JRPG styled game sounds amazing, the reality is that this game falls incredibly short on the one thing that it should excel at, and that's the story.

There are items called the Chronus fragments, and once every 10 years, the god Houra (creative naming...) essentially rewinds the time of existence, which in turn will repair broken items such as weapons and heirlooms. To do this you have to think of the past, as a copy that is temporarily overlaid into reality. While the foundation seems to have substance that would make Stephen Hawking excited, the delivery leaves it a watered-down experience at best.

You play the role of Loka, who is training under a sorcerer knight named Tech. You both set off and attempt to gather the Chronus fragments when all of a sudden you are ambushed, and before you know it, your master is gone and the Chronus fragments are missing. Now, here is where you think that the story is going to dive into some grand adventure, but unfortunately this is where I sadly crush your dreams by telling you that the experience is a little over 8 hours long and relatively meaningless.

Throughout the game's narrative, and what I'm calling a McAdventure, you are joined by some unoriginal characters that you develop absolutely no connection to for any reason. They join you for their own mysterious reasons that aren't well detailed, so their impact is relatively minimal to the overall narrative. So maybe the story isn't the best thing, but how is the gameplay? Classic JRPG's from the SNES days had great gameplay, but does Chronus Arc have it as well?

Short answer, no. Yes, the classic turn-based battle system returns in all its nostalgic glory; however, that's where the enjoyment ends, and the trudging begins. There is a total of four classes that you can choose from: cleric, sorcerer, warrior or assistant (yes that's an actual class), yhough later in the game you can unlock a special class, but should you feel compelled to achieve it, I'll let you enjoy uncovering it. Each class provides unique pros and cons to battle, but the real problem here stems from changing classes. Let's say you grind (I'll explain that later on) your characters up and learn some new abilities, but low and behold, when you switch your class you are reset back to level 1, but you do keep the skills and abilities you learned before, but your stats take a hit.

In order to do all of this though, you'll need to purchase a tome which costs a whopping 50 mana, which is the currency in Chronus Arc. You'll gain 1 mana for every 5 opponents killed, so grab some popcorn, because you'll be grinding for a VERY long time considering at most you can have 4 enemies on the screen per each individual battle. So, get ready to grind 250 enemies just to switch your class. But let's say you want to open up your character's own special class? That'll set you back 100 mana. This happens to go hand in hand with the game's internal quest system that forces you to find items which enemies drop in battle, so this is how the game justifies the long and drawn out grind of mediocrity. Oh, how I wish I was done now, but you need to know the whole truth.

So, you have your irrelevant characters and you're marching about doing pointless grinding for things that are relatively meaningless, and that's when it hits you: Chronus Arc's ridiculous brick wall of difficulty and XP. Chronus Arc starts you off with enemies that will naturally pose a challenge to your team, though you should be able to dispatch them with relative ease, but as you progress, the difficulty level takes a trajectory path that would have NASA cheer as it goes into orbit.

Me and my jolly band of misfits were walking around some woods, grinding enemies for quest completions by one-shotting enemies, and then we enter a cave about 2-character widths away when me and my team are instantly crushed in a single blow. The difficulty curve is beyond anything I've ever experienced in all my decades of gaming, and when compiled with a lackluster story, it really drains all the would-be life out of the game itself. Or so I thought.

The nail in the coffin belongs to the XP brick wall you'll face. As you grind by killing enemies, you'll naturally level up. As you level up, and you gain more material, you can obtain items that can give you up to 2x experience. However, the real issue comes when you hit level 30. This, for whatever reason, almost forces you into microtransactions just to proceed. Chronus Arc offers microtransactions to make elements and aspects of this game more manageable, and when you face the reality that not even a 3x experience boost means relatively anything, you start to feel like you got taken to the cleaners by the ShamWow guy; however, while you may be upset, there is actually a bright spot to Chronus Arc, and that would be the puzzles.

Chronus Arc fills its dungeons and caves with their version of puzzles. These puzzles are found in three basic forms including hitting switches, moving blocks/jars, or a combination of both. This is a fantastic break from the monotony of grinding enemies for materials or trying to learn whatever you can from the watered down back stories of your fellow team members. There is something that needs to be said though, and that is when you are manipulating a puzzle you HAVE TO, and let me repeat that, HAVE TO, work it out ahead of time in regards to how to reach the solution to the puzzle. The reason for this is that you can only push blocks and cannot pull them, so think of this is as basically managing a massive 1-way puzzle. Should you get stuck and need to reset, which will happen a lot, that's easy to do, but with proper planning you should find no difficulty with the puzzles.

Regrettably, Chronus Arc can easily be considered a cash grab by a company who believes in the quantity of games rather than the quality. Chronus Arc was first released in 2013, and unlike a good wine, it doesn't get better with age. It's unfortunate that an anemic story that had tremendous potential got overshadowed by numerous setbacks and problems which make the already short gameplay an even less entertaining experience. When you start factoring in the recycled audio that you'll hear constantly due to your need to 'grind', the desire to even finish the game feels like a waste of time.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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