The indie space is bursting with fun, innovative titles that break the status quo in a variety of ways. Entering this sphere shortly is the classic JRPG-inspired Cris Tales, a time-hopping, cel-shaded adventure from Modus Games. We were very privileged to be invited to a hands-off preview event to check out this latest indie title from the studio, and see Crisbell’s quest in action.
Like most people, we don’t enjoy spoilers, so we were glad not to cover our eyes and sing loudly to avoid story details through the preview – this would have been incredibly awkward. What we do know is that the main character, Crisbell, is a time mage allowing her to see multiple timezones at once and shift between them. She visits multiple kingdoms to aid them in their troubles, and her actions and choices in these kingdoms will affect the outcomes of their plights.
In gameplay, the main draw of Cris Tales is the ability to shift between three time zones: the past, the present and the future. This mechanic affects a large proportion of the game in various ways and also heavily impacts the visuals too, with a large triangle dividing the screen for most of the adventure and revealing what the current area or kingdom looks like across all three time zones. it’s an incredibly stylish way of visualising them all at once.
This mechanic can be used for puzzle-solving in the main kingdoms, with the solutions to puzzles being found by traversing between times using your frog companion Matias and the changes you make affecting the future for the various characters that live in these kingdoms. For instance, you can plant a tree in the present then jumping into the future to collect its fruit.
In combat, the player can use Crisbell’s time powers to affect the flow of events. The battles take place in a turn-based format inspired by the JRPGs of old, complete with the turn order of all combatants along the top. The difference is that you can send the enemies in combat to the past or future, with those to the left being sent back and those to the right forward in time.
When this effect is added, the enemies will age based on the time zone they have been sent to, potentially changing their abilities – if sent too far in either direction they will suffer tremendous damage as they are forced out of their time line. Also, these shifts in time can be combined with other effects, such as inflicting the “wet” status on metal enemies and then sending them into the future to rust and decay.
It’s going to be really fun testing out what Cris Tales can do with these combinations, but even at a surface level, this mechanics sounds far more interesting than your average RPG.
You aren’t always using the time shifts to progress, as the various dungeons of the game only use this mechanic in combat. The general exploration of these areas is done in a single timezone and instead relies on the player solving puzzles that are unique to each dungeon, including everyone’s favourite of pressing different switches across a level in order to progress.
Sometimes (in the before times) you would be listlessly walking around the show floor at a gaming event and something will draw you in based on its artwork alone – Cris Tales is exactly this kind of game. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game with a bright, distinctive art style. All of the characters are expressive and the dungeons and kingdoms all look fantastic. Furthermore, the voice acting and music from the previews is absolutely timeless (get it?) too. An all round exquisite aesthetic package.
Who doesn’t want to play a beautiful indie title inspired by classic JRPGs with a gorgeous art style and an innovative set of unique mechanics? Cris Tales at this point hits all of the beats of a potentially fantastic game, and we cannot wait to get our hands on it properly down the line. We did go hands on with the game’s demo last year, and combining that feel with what we saw through this preview, it’s absolutely one to watch when it releases in July.