Chronos: Before the Ashes started life as a virtual reality (VR) title back in 2016 and has now been retooled and re-released as a third-person perspective action title on Playstation and Xbox platforms. A VR game translated into a console title doesn’t sound like an ideal marriage of ideas, but what caught my interest here was that Chronos ties into one of my favourite games from last year – Remnant: From the Ashes.
Chronos fits as a prequel of sorts to Remnant, and though fans will recognize objects and enemies that tie the two together there’s no need to have played one to enjoy the other. Where Remnant was a shooter, this is a melee-focused action adventure with a unique progression system.
As the name indicates, Chronos is all about the passage of time. One day a year you can challenge the Labyrinth to try and puzzle out its layout and take down the enemies within it. When you fail – and you will, several times – you age a year and try again. During your gameplay you’ll level up in a very traditional manner, earning experience to plug into one of four key stats: Agility, Arcane, Strength, and Vitality, and every decade you earn a new permanent perk. Additionally, like with real life, it’s easier to gain Agility and Strength early on, but harder as you get older – so those stats cost more…unless you have the ‘agility of someone half your age’ perk.
There are elements of Souls-style games here, as well as Resident Evil-style ‘combine items to unlock new areas’ but – in keeping with the VR origins of the game – the areas you can explore are fairly small and bland, making navigating a nightmare at times. As a Souls-like, with a world that connects back to itself as you open more routes, this is a sizable negative. There are some interesting areas though, with one standout being an exploration of a bookshelf as a miniature version of yourself (shrunk using a magic mirror) to find a key you can use when you return to normal size.
Fortunately, this isn’t the hardest Souls-like out there. The combat is – again perhaps due to starting its life in VR – pretty forgiving. You have light/heavy attacks, dodge, block, and parry in your arsenal, though parrying didn’t seem as helpful as dodging, which allows your next attack to do more damage if you pull off a perfect evade.
You’ll need to master the combat for some of the boss fights, but as with a lot of Souls-like games it’s not the end boss that is the hardest for most people, but one somewhere in the middle. For me it was the Reina Pan fight, as I was still working on patience and placement. By the time I hit the end boss, I more or less knew exactly what I was doing and took it down with in one attempt.
Chronos: Before the Ashes is an interesting addition to the library for fans of Remnant, and the aging mechanic is unique. I don’t think this will satisfy Dark Souls fans looking for a challenge, but it’s a great intro to the systems and mechanics of those games for people who don’t want that level of frustration in their life.
What I Loved:
- Aging a year every run, and the negatives that brings with it
- Interesting lore
What I Liked:
- Some inventive mission design
- Satisfying combat that doesn’t get frustrating
- A few interesting puzzles to solve
- Visuals remind me of Absolver or Ashen, low detail but still charming
What I Disliked:
- Fighting with the camera to see targets
- A lot of too-simple puzzles
What I Hated:
- Low-detail environments make for poor navigation
Chronos: Before the Ashes is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC for $29.99 Canadian. Backwards compatible on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. Reviewed on Xbox Series X using code provided by the publisher.