Cris Tales is an RPG inspired by the classics and it wears those inspirations as a badge of honour. But does it deserve to? Find out in our Cris Tales review.
If you are anything like me, you have to be in the right kind of mood when playing certain games. Sometimes you want to fire up an FPS and blast everything to bits. Other times you may want something with a bit more depth to blow the cobwebs away and get your brain working. Recently, I have been in the mood for a decent turn-based RPG, so when Cris Tales came along, I was more than happy to give it a go.
Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK
Publisher: Modus Games
Availability: PSN (Digital) Retail (Disc) – Buy on Amazon
Cris Tales is a beautifully animated turn-based RPG that harks back to old school classics. Whether that be in its playstyle, mechanics or even the storyline and side quests, there is something that is comfortingly familiar. This is only a good thing, as everything comes together here to create a beautiful looking game full of choice and consequence.
In fact, choice and consequence is a central theme in Cris Tales, as often the choices you make have an instant and divisive impact upon the world around you. You play as Crisbell, an orphan from the town of Narim, who has the rare ability to control time crystals. This ability allows Crisbell to gaze into the past, present and future, immediately seeing the consequences of her actions on the world around her.
This mechanic is core to the gameplay, and it is used in both the overworld as you explore and in the turn-based fighting Cris Tales employs. During encounters, enemies on the left side of the screen can be sent back in time while those on the right can be sent into the future, either ageing or reverting to younger versions of themselves, which in turn affects their abilities and HP while maximising the damage you dish out.
There are plenty of instances where this mechanic is used well, and by combining this ability with the skills of your other companions, you can maximise the damage you cause with varying effects. I found this added an extra level of depth to battles, as I would carefully plan out my attacks as I tried to utilise each character and the powers at their disposal, knowing when to use Crisbell to send them through time, or one of the other party members abilities instead.
Battles are turn-based, and Cris Tales has clearly taken its inspiration from a few classics of the genre. Alongside the whole time-turning storyline and powers which all have strong echoes of the SNES classic Chrono Trigger, the HUD during battle has a Persona 5 ring to it as you pick and choose between your attacks. There are countless others as you play, but all play out as homage rather than a simple rip off.
During each encounter, the current battle order is shown across the top of the screen, showing whose turn it is alongside who is coming up next. Once you get to grips with how the battle system works as you combine spells and attacks with Crisbell’s time crystals this running order becomes crucial to success as you try to plan out the order of your attacks, and I used it frequently. Combining this with Wilhem the Time Mage’s Scan ability, allowed me to see the HP and weaknesses of the enemies I fought. This made short work of the battles.
As with many RPGs, grinding out these battles is a crucial part to gain XP and currency (marbles in Cris Tales), and your mileage may vary on this one. Although the battles are fun, running around the same area for hours as you try to trigger a random encounter isn’t, particularly as you can only save at certain points in the game. Push yourself too hard or stray too far from a save point and it can be curtains, and although I am a veteran RPG player who should know better, there were a few times early on where this risky tactic caught me out, and it never stops being annoying.
Not only that but there is a section within the opening few hours of the game where the lack of saving, equipment and under-levelled party members all combine horribly, creating an area that felt way more difficult than it should have been.
With each battle chipping away at my health and lacking the skills or resources to do anything about it, I found myself dying a few times between save points. This was so early on I felt like it was literally the first hurdle, and I was sure I was missing something obvious – but no, I wasn’t, the game had just thrown me into an area full of random encounters without the resources or abilities to do anything about it.
This quickly balances out, but I feel I should mention it here because it happens so early on. Stick with it though, and Cris Tales does overcome this difficulty curve quite quickly and it improves immensely.
As you walk around the world the screen is split into 3 triangular zones – the left side showing the past, the middle the present, with the right showing the future. At first, I thought this would annoy me but I was surprised at how quickly I got to grips with it, and it was not long before I was a pro at scanning the environments to look for differences between the three time zones that might reveal loot or some enlightening piece of dialogue that would help me along.
As you explore the towns and areas you visit you can glance into their past and future, glimpsing at how characters will change or what they looked like before they became the person you see before you. This plays out in the majority of side-quests too, as Crisbell has the ability to send Matias, the talking orange frog that follows you around as you explore, into the past or future, collecting items or talking to characters you encounter.
It is here where I think lies one of Cris Tales weakest links. Side quests often feel repetitive in that you have to send Matias into the past or future to retrieve an item or talk to an NPC (or a combination of both), and this mechanic just feels underutilised in that this is about as creative as they get, which is a shame.
Although Cris Tales takes its inspiration from many different sources, it must be applauded in that it brings them all together in a fun and engaging way. Yes the storyline is nothing new as by now we’re all familiar with the mysterious-orphan-on-a-quest trope, but it’s easy to overlook this for one simple reason – Cris Tales is brilliant fun.
Not only that but the gorgeous animation quickly grows on you, making it feel like you are watching an animated adventure instead of playing a game. As you complete the main quest as you travel from one Time Cathedral to another, each section feels like an episode of a Saturday morning kids cartoon, and that’s how I considered my time with Cris Tales. There is nothing too dark or offensive here, it simply isn’t that kind of game, but as a turn-based RPG Cris Tales is a really good time.
Review: Cris Tales
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Cris Tales is a classic example of a game that serves as a homage to games of the past, while managing to forge a path all of its own. Solid and satisfying combat merge with a storyline that moves things along nicely and if you enjoy turn-based RPGs, Cris Tales is definitely one to play.
- Strategic and satisfying combat
- Beautifully animated world that plays like a cartoon
- Interesting story, even if it does tread familiar paths
- Side quests are repetitive and feel like a missed opportunity
- Saving is locked to certain areas of the game
- Although the combat system is fun, grinding battles for EXP and currency isn’t
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5.