We've seen more than our fair share of new games over this past weekend spanning platforms and genres but one title caught my eye at the PC Gaming Showcase. Developers, Modus Games showed off their new RPG title Cris Tales repeating the mantra of their title being "a love letter to JRPGs." While not all of us can be on the floor to experience new and exciting titles, Modus Games released a Steam demo with their announcement.
In Cris Tales you play as titular character Crisbell, a young girl living in the local Orphanage, where early in the game she inherits the powers of a Time Mage who can see into the past and the future. The demo begins by throwing you into a battle sequence against Goblins that have seemingly set a field on fire.
The battles are turn-based with a turn tracker on the top of the screen. You get all of your normal options: Attack, Skill, Item, and Guard. The first addition to battle that you'll encounter is that you can time an extra button press during the moment your attack connects with your opponent to get a second, slightly weaker, attack in. There is the reverse for receiving an attack that will allow you to reduce the damage by a slight amount, or a lot based on how well you time the counter.
This system is reminiscent of titles like Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, giving players a bit more engagement in the battle having to learn when you should press to do more damage and the need to learn enemy attack patterns just to stay alive. Halfway through the battle, a second character, Christopher, joins your party and a second goblin is placed behind the character. Your party will be in a line in the center of the screen, with the active participant moving to the front when ready to act. While you have enemies in front and behind you there doesn't seem to be any "back-attack" that you need to be watching out for.
As you're fighting the boss of the battle, and can't do any damage due to their twin shield, you flash back to events earlier in the day to fill in backstory. Crisbell begins as a simple orphan pruning the roses for her Mother Superior when a frog, who we later learn is named Mathias, steals a rose and uses it to lead Crisbell into the sanctuary. It's here that she manages to open the Crystals of time allowing her to peer into the future and the past. The different times are represented to the player by the screen being divided into three pieces. The center taking up the majority of the screen is where Crisbell is in the present, but then anything in the left corner is the past, with the future in the right corner.
This simultaneous view of past, present, and future is visually interesting to see. As you move across environments you can watch a character change from being a baby to a child and then an adult. This also allows you to see people who used to be alive, as well as what seems to be a grim future for the town. The Apothecary building in the future is completely broken down and even worse so for the orphanage. Crisbell and Mathias visit another Time Mage called Willhelm who explains that Time Mages have different powers and that hers is the power of possibility. Shortly after this, you get to put these powers, and Mathias' ability to "hop" through time, to good use.
An interesting fetch quest storyline begins where you see the effects of wood rot on buildings in the town and need to convince others that it needs to be stopped. You'll use your knowledge of seeing the future as well as being able to send Mathias to the future and past to solve the quest line.
Sending Mathias also has a cosmetic change for him as he'll transform into a tadpole or age into an older frog. While at different times he can interact with items and even bring things back for you. This quest was a great way to show the way that puzzles can be solved using time travel, and while as one example it was great and left me wanting more I do wonder in a full-length RPG if hopping between time will get stale. I'm hoping that the types of interaction you can do between timelines get expanded further as the title progresses.
Once the plotline catches back up to the battle in the field from earlier Crisbell now has the ability to invoke the Time Crystals in battle. Expanding on having enemies in front and behind you much like on the overworld screen you can send your enemies into the future and back. Getting sent through time can have an effect on the enemy your facing, the impenetrable shield you were up against before you can now age allowing you to do damage. You can combine time abilities with others too as the game has you pair a water spell with time causing the shield to rust inflicting a "Defense Down" status effect. The ability to combine spells and locations in time is a unique mechanic that would be interesting to see develop.
The last thing that's crucial to point out about Cris Tales is the beautiful art style. Walking around the village or seeing the inside of the Sanctuary there's some truly beautiful scenery. Every panel of overworld has had to be recreated three times over to show the progression of time. In battles, the animations are smooth and vibrant. In the demo we're shown the outskirts of a forest and a town, to see how the game would deal with a seaside setting. I want to explore the world to see just how good it looks.
If you don't want to just hear about the game, or reading this has gotten you interested then there is a free demo for Cris Tales available on Steam. The full game will release in 2020 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.