It’s a difficult exercise to judge Chronos for what he is. Released on the dock on March 28, 2016, it had the audacity to deliver Dark Souls specific gameplay mixed with the immersion that virtual reality offers. So it’s not an original game coming back to us in this Before The Ashes issue, but rather a title that we would have stripped of the tinsel for a multi-media release (PC / XONE / PS4 / Switch / Stadia). And while Gunfire Games has gone to great lengths to make us forget that, the lingering feel of a game lacking a facet will never leave us.
However, as a gamer, despite not having played Chronos VR, we had a lot of faith in Gunfire Games. It’s simple, we can no longer count the hours we spent in Remnant: From The Ashes, which is still one of the best heirs of the From Software school today. If the affiliation between the two opuses is obvious from a thematic point of view (the two titles share the same universe), we feel that Remnant was built on the knowledge gained thanks to Chronos. If it’s perfectly logical on paper, it’s hard not to get confused when you first start the game, with this haunting impression of regression at all points.
Where Remnant: From The Ashes has for him the addition of firearms in the “Soulsienne” formula and the assets that are unlocked according to our actions, Chronos himself remains in absolute classicism. We lead an unnamed character with a third person camera, on a strange island, and progress according to a labyrinthine level design that requires a lot, a lot of Uncle Dark Souls’ approach. And that’s not bad! It is a pity that we find ourselves, once again, with in our hands a title that risks nothing, or so little. Like Ashen before him, Chronos will never surprise, even if it is very little, the player used to the references from which he draws inspiration.
Without even needing a tutorial, we ended up with a parry, a key to hold the shield up, a light hit, a hard hit, a dodge, and roll youth! And bingo-souls keep ticking all their boxes with a health gauge, a stamina gauge, estus cocktails, and other weapons to upgrade … Once again, it’s the playstyle that wants it, and it’s hard to blame them for have taken these items. So of course, the notion of soul (this experience that we accumulate with each dead enemy and that we lose in case of the death of our avatar) is not present, and the potions that restore vitality only recharge. ‘to each of our dead (impossible to recover them by going to take refuge near a “fire”, here symbolized by floating amaranth-red stones). But these small changes do not make big differences that by themselves justify the originality of the title: we keep looking, in the game, the “twist”, the little idea that makes everything pleasant and surprising. So we remember that the game was originally a virtual reality project. So let’s find out a little about the Internet. And there everything is explained.
The false good idea
Chronos VR was built from scratch, “frome ze grounde uppe” with virtual reality in mind. And in these types of adventure games, the view of the camera is a crucial issue. At the time (and it was a smart choice!), Gunfire Games had opted for a fixed camera position, which the player cannot move, but can only rotate based on the tilt of their head. Each passage then offered a predefined point of view for the player. The problem is that the further away from the action, the more difficult it is for the player to be precise in his movements and the way he plays.
Therefore, the entire gameplay of the title has been built around this idea of a player away from the action. For the sake of readability, the graphics are sharpened and most of the levels are quite empty – we avoid confusing the user with information or objects that are not important to the avatar’s course or navigation. The game is slow, to allow you to read well your attacks and those of your opponents from a distance. The character crawls, so that the player has time to see that enemies or traps are approaching. And we assume that in virtual reality it works! The scale ratio brings real gaming pleasure and real added value. The problem is that taking virtual reality out of a title like this makes it tremendously unstable.
To make up for all that, Gunfire put a lot of emphasis on the mechanics of aging. Our character, each time he dies, takes a year and his statistics change. Where at 20 you won’t be able to use much magic, your agility will be your true strength. As you decline, you will lose in dexterity what you gain in willpower. If, on paper, the idea of what to seduce, its implementation, peripheral to the gameplay (the ten deaths), unfortunately does not manage to save the game from its softness, its heaviness and its obsolete side.
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