Monday 23 January 2023

Chained Echoes Review (Switch)

The Switch isn’t short of RPG’s with most of the big hitters prominent on the system. The Persona games were one of the last hold outs but even they have no succumbed to notion of hand held levelling. Amid the big boys though is this indie RPG which has somehow sprung from the mind of a single person. Indie RPG’s are nothing new of course, but one this detailed certainly is. Indeed, Chained Echoes is here to really give the big guns a massive run for their money.

Perhaps the one area that the game lacks is in fact its plot. It’s a fairly tried and tested formula, and not one a million miles away from another of the big RPG’s of 2022 in Xenoblade 3. Basically, there are different nations, a big cataclysm type thing happens and then various heroes from each nation decide they don’t want to fight and band together to save the world. We’ve seen it a lot in the past but it works as a solid framework for the story.

Chained Echoes has a retro top down style to it. It looks somewhere between Chrono Trigger, the early Breath of Fire games and the recently revived Live A Live. It would certainly fit in with the look of all the SNES games of the past. It does look lovely as well with pixel art working to really convince you this is some long lost gem.

What is more unique is that the story does not follow the ‘chosen one’ or a sole hero. This is very much about the group and seeing the world through their different eyes. Of course, the characters you have at your disposal vary widely and range from knights to thieves with you needing to be pretty sharp at utilising their skill sets in order to proceed.

This isn’t the only break from the norm as Chained Echoes does a fair few things differently to the standard template. First of all, you are automatically healed at the end of each encounter. This means skills and magic are much more in play and using your standard attacks should be left as a last resort. This does mean though that even standard enemies have a hefty health bar to knock down. This isn’t helped by the colour of it being almost impossible to discern for anyone remotely colourblind.

Another difference is that you only level up at certain points in the game. After defeating bosses you get points you can use to select from a pre-existing list of buffs and skills picked for each character. This means you’ll have to think carefully about the sort of character and team you are trying to build as you can’t just level yourself out of trouble. This can be a problem as we found ourselves stuck at various points of the game with no real way to make our characters stronger in order to progress. You can still level up individual character skills in the more traditional way but these are expensive to buff so be prepared for grinding if that’s the route you want to go.

The real unique selling point though is the attack system. As you carry out attacks a meter builds which eventually will move you into ‘Overdrive’. When in this state you get buffs to your attack and defence. Keep going though and you will move into ‘Overheat’ which then dramatically improves the odds for your opponents. In order to keep the meter in the sweet spot you need to keep and eye on which skills move the meter up and down and use the correct ones accordingly. This can mean swapping characters in and out or having to use a skill you really don’t want to so you have think ahead. On top of this characters can also build up a special attack meter to unleash much like Final Fantasy’s limit breaks.

If this wasn’t enough to get your head around there’s also a whole host of other stuff going on. You can craft and enhance weapons, join an adventures guild for side quests or go on Monster Hunts. There’s also a reward grid that plays out like a sort of board game where as you undertake certain feets you can claim rewards. There really is a lot to do and see and that’s before you consider that simply wandering off the beaten path will normally end up with some kind of hidden boss fight or treasure.

Overall, it is remarkable that a game of this size and ambition has come from such a small team. It’s in danger of being overlooked but fans of RPG’s should go out of there way to make sure to check this out. It holds up against some of the best games in the genre and will give even the most experienced of players something to get their teeth into.

Overall 8/10

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