Having my cheeks clapped by Gorefist for a few good hours was probably the worst feeling I had for playing a video game ever. It’s the kind of feeling that nobody would ever want to wake up to, but sadly, here we go again. Chronos: Before the Ashes is Remnant’s skinnier older brother. From the good ol’ VR title from 2016 to a proper TV-based action RPG, Before the Ashes is a “loosely” reimagined version of the souls-like sub-genre that could’ve been something more if it wanted to.
But before we get the ball rolling, let me just say that I love Remnant: From the Ashes. There’s a good amount of content there while also being the kind of game that did unique and amazing stuffs. For starters, it favoured guns over melee combat while also providing unique mods and skills that changes how you approach encounters. Its map design and layout also made it fun to restart a campaign or get into its multiplayer aspect to get access to its other optional bosses and their alternate kills for a different weapon drop. But Before the Ashes doesn’t have that.
Instead, Chronos: Before the Ashes simply serves as a prequel for Remnant. You’re tasked to defeat a dragon yet before you get burnt to ashes, you’re stopped in its tracks by a talking tree that tells you that you’d need to slay its three guardians first to make him vulnerable… then the story continues. It’s a brief and compact retelling that doesn’t have much to offer other than its welcoming price tag.
Its mechanics, however, offer something more than just the norm of souls-like games. Other than it’s more puzzle-focused gameplay, Chronos: Before the Ashes has its ageing system where each death leads to a year added to your character’s age. This in turn will let you gain new abilities in fixed intervals like at age of 20 where you can choose to gain more strength, vitality or higher experience earned. This also shows in detail with your character’s appearance growing older as the passing years come by. But probably the most interesting part of this whole idea is how age is the deciding factor on how your character evolves. Because unlike the traditional soul’s formula, a character depreciates in its physical-based stats like strength while an older character would develop more knowledge to take advantage of the arcane.
The souls-like theme follows through to its gameplay as well. Like I previously mentioned, there’s a lack of guns here compared to Remnant. Instead, the main focus of the fight is through blocks, parry, dodging and melee hits. So learning how to punish whiffs or finding the perfect opening is the key here… or so I thought. Sadly, most fights are slow, archaic and dumb. The enemy AI behaviour is something that is easily exploited through charged heavy attacks when they try to get close or attack cancels with dodges than can stagger-lock enemies. Thankfully enough, the cheese strat to Remnant’s final boss is not something you’ll see here.
And unlike its younger brother Remnant, Chronos also doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of its weapons and stones. Right from the get-go, you’ll be able to choose your difficulty and gender while also choosing one of two weapons, sword or axe. Meanwhile, you’ll earn your other gear like the Krell Hammer that can power through blocks with a mighty ground smash or the quick stabby-stab spear through story progression and unlocking secret passages.
Visually though, it pretty much sticks to the cartoony shade that I’ve come to love in Remnant. While it does carry over a lot of the familiar environment we see in the previous, there’s still quite a few that have yet to be seen if you haven’t tried the VR experience already. Its map design also follows the typical soul’s formula of a never-ending back and forth. From locked doors that require you to open them from the other side to the more frustrating mechanisms that require certain objects for it to work.
There’s a lot of things that go on with its confusing maze of puzzles and ladders, however, as a fan of Remnant, I can’t help but feel nostalgic to certain areas such as Yaesha and its Golden Head puzzle that had me wondering where the frick I’m supposed to get the item to fit into the slot in the back (which is something I already knew what it was back in Remnant) only to realize that I only needed to take apart the staff I already have in my inventory in the first place. But don’t get me wrong its puzzles don’t require a Sherlock Holmes level of investigation. In fact, it’s far from it.
In a nutshell, Chronos: Before the Ashes is something that could’ve been great but ultimately didn’t. It tried to walk the line between puzzle-solving and Dark Souls for dummies but while the underwhelming gameplay and content might not be its greatest selling point, actually who am I kidding, the only selling point here is that it does tie in with Remnant: From the Ashes. It also has camera issues between its many tightly spaced corridors and aggressively long loading times for a game that expects you to die, die, die and die a lot… So if it isn’t clear enough, I don’t recommend this game at all.
Chronos: Before the Ashes on PS4 can be purchased here for £24.99
Not got a PS4 no worries the game is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC.
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