Chronos: Before the Ashes takes us into the moments leading up to Remnant: From the Ashes. It promises a unique experience, a story for fans to enjoy, and an adventure worth taking. However, how well does this title work without VR?
+Beautifully sculpted worlds that will lure you in
+Change from gun-based combat to melee is a leap away from previous experiences
+Even without VR, the title comes off as a rather enjoyable and well-designed game
+Exploration can be exceptionally rewarding to those with patience
-Most weapons will never reach full upgrades before campaign completion
-Combat, at times, can be a bit unforgiving
Whether you’ve played the game on Oculus Rift or not, Chronos: Before the Ashes was one of those titles that grabbed our attention as a third-person VR Souls-like – a term we don’t use lightly – that began to set the way for its sequel, Remnant: From the Ashes, for a very limited audience.
Move forward four years later and now Chronos: Before the Ashes has been brought to a larger audience across all major platforms – Switch included – with a non-VR experience, but with everything else attached. However, it’s hard to understand why it took so long for a game that’s set one month before the start of Remnant: From the Ashes to release on consoles, with or without the VR support included.
Whatever the cause, here we are, with a game that excels in areas where its successor fell flat except it falls flat in areas where its successor excelled. So what exactly is going on? Let’s take a look.
Chronos: Before the Ashes is one odd creature
Now, when I say odd, you might instantly assume that I say this due to the fact the game was originally a VR title, which in some way is true, but rather, it’s an entirely different beast from its successor title. Unlike Remnant: From the Ashes, you’re going to find that neither title plays or feels the same, as one is more of a run-and-gun turned rogue-lite experience while the other falls in like with the Soulsborne experience.
Chronos: Before the Ashes doesn’t feel out of place on the PlayStation 4, but rather, right at home even without its VR endeavors as you explore various regions of the world, each one offering completely unique experiences with a variety of enemies that are quite different from the others. Each one comes with its own unique approach to combat without the need of reskinning one character or another.
Now, the story itself, isn’t as intriguing as you would hope, which in some ways, is a damn shame, but it’s just enough to deliver what you need to know before diving into the sequel. The story itself is simple: You are a hero that spends their entire life attempting to navigate an ancient Labyrinth in order to defeat the evil of the Root and discover the truth about its nemesis, The Dragon.
Along the way, you, however, will find a host of side stories to enjoy including working alongside a Krell blacksmith and various other little generous nods within the game. Aside from that, it’s straight forward and the root itself is the main antagonist, as one might suspect.
Each life spent before death is not a life wasted
Unlike the Soulsborne genre as a whole, Chronos: Before the Ashes takes on two very unique approaches. On one hand, you have its RPG mechanics, each of which allows you to level up, pick your stats, and as you proceed through the game, level up your weapons along the way. There is, however, one thing different about this game from the rest of the games of its kind.
The key difference is that death actually plays a role in the overall story as well as the overall approach to character progression. For every ten years your character ages, a new perk can be unlocked, this new perk adding things such as increased damage or better defenses, depending on the age in which you reach. The older you get, the more you will need, however, to consider other routes of stat and perk distribution.
It also comes at a cost. As you get older, your stats become more expensive to level when it comes to strength, dexterity, and vitality. The trade-off is that arcane does get cheaper with age. Well, they do say you get wise with age, so, why not run with it, right?
Combat remains is quite simple and rather enjoyable
Unlike titles like Dark Souls or even Remnant: From the Ashes, you aren’t going to find yourself slamming your head into a wall at constant intervals while trying to enjoy the game. Combat itself isn’t as in-depth or complex as the prior two games I’ve mentioned. Rather, it’s simple, basic really, which is in a way, where the charm of the game really begins to show.
With every encounter, you’ll find yourself doing a little better as you adapt to blocks, parries, and charge-up attacks along with utilizing your arcane gifts. Each one coming with different features including the ability to stun and nullify damage altogether. The drawback is your gear, based on what stats you focus on, is extremely limited, which leaves you hankering for more, which, unfortunately, doesn’t always feel delivered upon.
There are very few weapons you’ll actually use depending on how you distribute your stats. If you go strength, you’ll find you excel at using axes, hammers, maces, and the likes. If you go dexterity, you’ll find swords, spears, and more at your disposal. It’s quite different than what you might be used to in other games of this sort. Truth-be-told, it’s a Souls-lite experience, not that it’s a bad thing by any means.
Combat itself is smooth, but not near as challenging as one would hope, mostly due to the fact the variety of enemies is rather limited, and their tactics, well, they can be broken down rather easily. This isn’t a game with an A.I. that will overwhelm you or pick you off with unforeseen capabilities, but rather, just the game of managing stamina while finding an opening in your enemy’s patterns.
This also goes for bosses, which, surprisingly enough, aren’t as difficult – not always – as some of the enemies you will face. They are enjoyable, some requiring you to hit and run while watching for a change in their mechanics. Others requiring you to adapt to a change in their pattern every quarter of their health bar. It’s honestly rather fun and it does freshen up the combat experience.
Performance and graphics, well, they aren’t half bad
If you were to place Chronos: Before the Ashes next to Remnant: From the Ashes, you’ll notice a difference in the art style. Not a minor difference, but a rather large one. While character designs for some of the enemies you will face remain intact, you may notice that the actual art style comes off different. It’s a bit more cartoony, almost something akin to Fable versus that gritty post-apocalypse fantasy look Remnant: From the Ashes went for.
While the worlds themselves could feel alien, that’s not the case here. They feel familiar, something closer to our very own home versus something otherworldly. It’s kind of a bummer as the worlds in Remnant: From the Ashes really stood out. Each one felt organically different, alien, and somehow, all-the-more hazardous. Granted, this does take into consideration that Remnant: From the Ashes is a newer game, which gave it a bit more time for a difference in its artistic nature.
Now, when it comes to performance and graphics, we decided to install the game on both a PlayStation 4 Pro as well as a PlayStation 5. In an odd turn of events, we’d have to recommend you avoid the PlayStation 5 experience with Chronos: Before the Ashes at this time. The performance was janky, at best, while on a PlayStation 4 Pro, the game ran flawless, not a single hiccup along the way, which to our surprise, made us stick exclusively to the last-gen hardware.
That aside, the PlayStation 4 experience, was the best. Rarely hitting framerate drops or any form of technical hiccups that we experienced on a PlayStation 5. This could be in part due to how the game itself is designed at the end of the day.
While not as in-depth as far as gameplay and story go compared to its successor; Chronos: Before the Ashes does accomplish what it was designed for. It was designed to build a universe that fans would eventually immerse themselves into. It was there to show off just how well VR games would work as non-VR titles as well. It doesn’t disappoint in that aspect at all.
Chronos: Before the Ashes
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: THQ Nordic
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: Available Now
The only part it disappoints in – is the story itself, which is short, almost forgettable, all-the-while, somehow enjoyable once you really dig beneath the surface and begin connecting the dots together in the universe that THQ Nordic has built. It’s a beautiful, dark, and grim one that to truly understand, you’ll want to play Chronos: Before the Ashes. It’s an absolute must for fans that enjoy such games.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.