Cris Tales, the striking 2.5D role-playing game from Dreams Uncorporated, is due to be released next month. The indie team planned to give us an advanced impression of their latest project a few weeks prior to E3, but unfortunately this opportunity did not materialise itself. Instead, we saw some gameplay highlights in a special video demonstration, which we would like to tell you about.
Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG based on much older titles from the "golden age" of JRPGs - gems like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy IV. We play as the time wizard Crisbell, who gathers allies on her adventure in order to save the world from ruin. In the course of the game we will make multiple critical decisions, all of which will apparently have an influence on the outcome of the world. For example, we could prepare the residents of a city for a disaster that will strike them in the future by completing their minor requests. One such side activity might be to provide a family with the necessary resources to strengthen their work tools or repair their home.
Although the intricacies of this system are still very vague, it is a promising approach that lends into further playthroughs. However, Lead producer Derek Neal has not yet commented on plans for a New Game+ game mode. Just like the old JRPG inspirations, running errands is not all we do, since we'll also fight whenever we have the chance. The combat system tries to take up Cris Tales' focus on time manipulation and therefore it has its own take on the genre. Random encounters and every scripted fight in Cris Tales is following a turn-based combat system, and a timeline at the top of the screen shows us the order of all combat participants. When it's your opponent's turn, you can block at the right moment to take less damage.
The time wizard's tricks are the gameplay core of this adventure and most of the skills from other fighters are playing into them. Therefore, Crisbell can apply time magic to enemies on either side of the battlefield, but the flow of time only works in one direction. Opponents on the left side of the screen can only be pushed into the past, which is helpful for skills that need to recharge for some time (Crisbell can undo the time manipulation in another turn to suddenly age the selected area and everything in it). Time magic sends enemies on the right side of the battlefield into the future, leading to the same effect - it immediately inflicts all the damage that damage-over-time effects would do.
However, time not only influences status effects, because the shape of the enemy will also change over time. For example, after several years an inexperienced recruit can become a seasoned soldier who causes significantly higher damage. Even further in the future he may become an old man who has put down the sword and now primarily uses magic. Our allies can change the position of enemies on the battlefield so that we can take advantage of such effects.
The main quest of Cris Tales is about 30 hours long, according to the developers, but you can of course spend more time on side quests or grinding. It is important to note that the game is divided into several chapters and as soon as you have completed one act, the story continues elsewhere and you get to a new area. Cris Tales will have around 20 dungeons and roughly the same number of bosses ready for you when the game launches on July 20. So that we don't get lost in all of these areas, the title offers comprehensive assistance in the form of a quest journal.
At the end of the presentation, the developers showed us a boss fight in which we could make an interesting decision. After the enemy wiped the ground with our inexperienced troops, we were allowed to choose whether or not to try again or to give up... We will have to wait until next month to find out where these two options will lead us.