Review | Chronos: Before the Ashes

Review | Chronos: Before the Ashes

Developed by Gunfire Games, the Texan studio responsible for Darksiders II Remaster, Darksiders III, and the remarkable Remnant: From the Ashes, here comes a new challenge that will put even the bravest players to the test. First released in 2016 as an exclusive for Oculus Rift, Gunfire now brings this adventure to consoles as Chronos: Before the Ashes, a prequel to their 2019 title, Remnant.

In this souls-like adventure published by THQ Nordic, you will play a nameless hero in his lifelong quest to save his homeland. And when I say lifelong, I mean it. As a young adult, you start your adventure on a mission to defeat a mighty dragon responsible for destroying the cities. And every time you die in this treacherous mission, you will only be able to try again after a whole year has passed by, with your character one year older. Will you be able to complete this mission before age becomes a toll too high for you? Let’s know more about this game before answering this question.

Everything starts here. But it’s ok if you just want to admire the place for a while

What we liked!

  • Visuals: By its release, Gunfire Games was praised for how beautiful Chronos looked in Oculus. And now, in its console version, it’s no different. The cartoonish visuals of the world in Chronos are amazing. Most of the time, you will be exploring labyrinths and dungeons, but when you have the opportunity to see beyond it, you will be mesmerized by its beautiful sea, impressive ruins, and frightening forests! Our hero’s (or heroine, as you can select your character’s gender at the beginning of the adventure) animation is fluid and realistic. When in combat, the flow of attacks, dodges, and rolls feels really natural. You can see your hero’s behavior and expression reflecting his/her state, be it tired or hurt. It’s nice to leave him idle for a few seconds to see him/her checking and examining his equipment and surroundings. Most of your enemies’ visuals are simple, but they are very well constructed and attractive, showing how much dedication the team had with this title.
  • Combat system: Have no doubts: this game is a Souls-like. Or, being more specific, a Souls-lite game. If you don’t like this game genre, this is an excellent opportunity for you to change your mind. If you have already played one of the many games of this kind, you will feel very comfortable. In Chronos, you face your enemies wielding a melee weapon (usually a sword or an ax) and a shield. You must attack and block your enemies’ assault while ALWAYS paying attention to your stamina bar. When hit while in low stamina, you will barely defend or dodge their attacks – what will undoubtedly be fatal for your character. As you dodge their attacks and link attacks, you will fill a bar that gives you access to the power of the dragon eyes, mysterious stones imbued with elemental properties that you will find hidden in this world. For instance, one of the eyes will make you swifter and stronger, while another will make you briefly invincible. Knowing the right moment to use their powers will be the difference between life and death as you explore this dangerous world.
  • Audio: The audio department of the game will not disappoint you. Here you will listen to melodies that elevate the great atmosphere, with a special spotlight on the songs played during boss fights. Add to this formula incredible sound effects and nice screeches from your enemies and you will have the perfect combination for an epic adventure!
  • Souls elements: Chronos: Before the Ashes presents light RPG elements that add an extra level of awesomeness to the game. Your character gains experience and level up with combat, earning skill points that can be distributed between one of his four statuses (strength, agility, arcane, and vitality). When young, you can’t upgrade your arcane status, which only becomes available as your age advances. And as he/she grows old, boosting your physical levels becomes more expensive. Healing is something equally costly in this game. There are only a few items to replenish your health (the dragon hearts), and once consumed, they will only be refilled after you die. When in low health, sometimes it’s better to push forward and keep fighting your enemies until you level-up, which will replenish your health. But not the dragon hearts, remember that.
  • The aging mechanic: One of the most creative mechanics I’ve seen in a game this year. The labyrinth, the world where your adventure takes place, is an enigmatic one that only opens once a year. Whenever you fall in combat, you’re expelled from it and will return to a checkpoint crystal only one year later. And you can see changes in your character’s appearance and attributes. First of all, after every ten years, he/she will learn a perk that can help a lot in your progression. Second, as he or she ages, he gains access to arcane powers that can enhance his abilities with the dragon eyes, the mystical stones we mentioned above, making their use more efficient. I honestly didn’t let my character grow too old to see if he would live as long as the Queen – and now I regret not doing that. Maybe in a second playthrough?

You can’t reach me… na-na-na-naaaaa

Somewhere between

  • Feeling of emptiness: Even though the world in Chronos is impressive, I can’t stop wondering how empty it is. Yes, we have castles, labyrinths, caves, forests, and all sorts of dungeons to explore. Still, they all feel empty – except for a few ornaments hanging on walls here and there. Nothing that will diminish the experience, but it always makes me think about it.
One of the many (and most imponent) temples you will visit in this world

What we disliked

  • Where to go next? My only complaint about Chronos: Before the Ashes relates to the absence of a map that can help you find your destination. I frequently found myself roaming for places I’ve already visited before, not knowing where to go next. The good thing about it is that the game hides some little surprises that you will only discover when revisiting these areas. But I can’t stress enough how useful would be a map in this exploration.
I wonder if this game will get any ray-tracing related improvements in Xbox Series X. The lights here already do a very good job!

Score: 83%
Chronos: Before the Ashes was a great surprise. As I don’t usually pay too much attention to titles exclusive to VR devices, this title flew under my radar back in 2016. But now I’m thankful for Gunfire Games allowing me to experience this great game on my Xbox One. A game that delivers a more straightforward approach to the whole souls experience with some truly unique characteristics, this is an adventure I can easily recommend to all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did while reviewing this title.