Cris Tales Preview – A Deep Dive Into the Timestream
Cris Tales made a solid impression when it debuted back in 2019, with its beautiful Paper-Mario-esque 2.5 world, action-infused turn-based combat, and interesting time-traveling mechanics. For those unfamiliar, the game casts players Crisbell, a newly-christened Time Mage, and as you explore you’ll find the world is divided into three panes that move with you – the one on the left shows the past, the middle is the present, and the right one is the future. This is all seamless, so, for instance, as you walk past an NPC, you may see them transition from a child, to an adult, to an old man as they pass from one pane to the next. This mechanic is used to solve puzzles and alter the game’s branching story, but also comes into play during combat in unique mind-bending ways.
While Cris Tales’ Colombian developers SYCK and Dreams Incorporated have provided players with some additional peeks at the game and well as a brief demo since its announcement, truly significant new details have been somewhat hard to come by. Thankfully, a couple of weeks back, Cris Tales publisher Modus Games provided me and a few other journalists a more in-depth look at Cris Tales’ scope, structure, and mechanics. But first, you can check out some new Cris Tales b-roll directly from Modus, which showcases some new gameplay from some of the game’s early areas.
To the Edge of the Map
Cris Tales will consist of five Kingdoms, most of which are centered around a capital city. During our hands-off demo Modus mostly focused on the game’s fourth Kingdom, Cinder, a land ruled by industrious goblins. The game will essentially be split up into two halves, the first of which is largely linear and serves to introduce players to Cris Tales’ five Kingdoms, while the second half opens up more, allowing players to tackle a series of dungeon-like ruins in whatever order they wish. Of course, the game has a world map, and eventually, players will gain access to a boat, airship, and perhaps other conveyances, in one of its many nostalgic nods to classic Final Fantasy.
Plotting a Course
Player choice is a big factor in Cris Tales, with players being able to influence the world in ways both big and small. While I just described the first half of Cris Tales as linear, that isn’t entirely accurate – while all players will visit each of the game’s capital cities in the same order, your choices will determine their outcomes, and those will have a major effect on what you’ll experience later in the game. Your choices may determine more subtle things, like which neighborhoods of a city are invested in, or they might result in the whole darn town ending up underwater or destroyed. Obviously, the latter is going to have a pretty major effect on some back-half of the game plot points. Ultimately, Modus is promising multiple totally different endings and further smaller permutations on those endings.
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
Changing our focus from the broad spectrum to the nitty-gritty, Modus promises a wide range of dungeons for players to tackle (20 in all) all of which will have their own theme and accompanying gameplay gimmick. For instance, one dungeon we were shown featured both portals and the ability to defy the will of gravity and run around on the ceiling – essentially a charming fantasy take on Portal. Of course, each dungeon has its own enemies and bosses, which will require you to use Crisbell and her friends’ powers in unique ways. Speaking of which, Modus promises you’ll be able to fully determine your party makeup after a certain point, allowing for some interesting strategy.
Final Thoughts on Cris Tales
I was immediately won over by Cris Tales since I first saw it back in 2019. From its gorgeous, Colombian-inspired world, to its fun references to personal favorites to like Paper Mario and Valkyrie Profile, I was on board and eager to see more. That said, I’ll admit, I expected the final game to be more of a charming snack than a true RPG epic. Thankfully, it seems I underestimated the developers – this is an ambitious, far-reaching adventure that Modus promises will serve up a solid 30 hours of gameplay (with multiple playthroughs definitely being encouraged). Cris Tales isn’t just the shy pretender trying to humbly pay homage to Paper Mario and classic Final Fantasy, it aims to stand alongside those games, and perhaps even exceed them in some ways. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m beginning to think Cris Tales may just pull it off.
Cris Tales arrives on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Switch, and Stadia on July 20.
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