While browsing the Xbox Game Pass store, I came across an interesting title. Cris Tales immediately caught my eye with its unique art style and presentation, and from the opening cinematic, I knew I found something special. From Colombian indie studio Dreams Uncorporated and Syck, Cris Tales is a time-bending RPG journey.
Cris Tales touts itself as a love letter to classic JRPGs from its style and battles. It tells the tale of an orphaned girl named Crisbell. One day after crossing paths with a frog, she finds out that she is a time mage who can affect the past, present, and future. After the Empress of Ages attacks, Crisbell must travel the lands to stop her before destroying the world. Along the way, she’ll meet friends, enemies and interact with time like never before.
The story is well-told and filled with many interesting characters. It takes an old-style approach to storytelling for RPGs. With you visiting new areas, gives you new characters and stories. The characters are likeable, and the story is fascinating. As Crisbell tries to figure out her time powers, it becomes quite a tale.
It’s paced well until its third act, where the story and the game come to a grinding halt—forcing you to backtrack and revisit areas and fight the same bosses. The third act hurts the game as it feels like padding and adds 5-10 hours. It felt like a chore to finish instead of a graceful end.
There’s no denying that Cris Tales looks beautiful. Its characters, enemies, and building designs have a unique look and feel to the game. The game takes a lot of influence from Colombian art and architecture. Everything is a Colombian love letter, and there is no other game like it. Everything stands, and some of the animated cutscenes are beautiful. Each of the different areas is visually distinct, and enemy designs are lovely. However, it’s let down by boring dungeon designs, which are all forgettable.
The music is excellent, but there isn’t a standout track. I liked the central theme, but there wasn’t any track that I will be listening to repeatedly.
Cris Tales is an old-school strategic turn-based RPG. Enemies will take either the right or left side of the battlefield and use a mixture of physical and magical attacks. Attacks are time-based and require you time your button presses to minimize attacking damage or maximize attacking damage.
Every party member has HP and MP; Crisbell is unique as she has CP, which activates her time powers in battle. Every side the enemy is on will determine how her time powers will affect them. For example, when enemies are left, you can send them to the past. At the same time, you can send enemies to the future on your right. This time mechanics can make enemies weaker or stronger.
Status ailments can also be affected by her time powers. For example, you can set a poison plant in the present and send the enemy into the future for the poison to take effect. While causing an enemy to be wet with a water spell in the present, sending them to the future will have them rust. You can also damage enemies with your time powers if they are at a certain age.
While battles are interesting, they start to lose their lustre pretty quickly. You’ll eventually find out that the time mechanic is pretty much just a gimmick, and it’s much quicker and simpler to fight battles normally. Unfortunately, the time mechanic is also utterly useless to bosses. Encounters are also pretty dull and don’t require much strategy, making them stale. Enemies also repeat and hardly change how they fight.
Dungeons will be your primary source for exploration and battles. The dungeons in Cris Tales aren’t big and don’t offer much exploration, except for a couple of items and armour. There isn’t anything special about the dungeons, and they are entirely forgettable. Since the battles are random, your mileage will vary on how annoyed you get with fighting. You’ll also hardly switch party members during battle (because you can’t) and mainly stick with your chosen three.
Other minor issues with the battle system start to come to the forefront in the game’s third act. As stated before, when the game enters its third and final act, it forces the player to backtrack multiple times. Hence, having to face similar enemies, explore the same dungeons and face the same bosses you encountered earlier in the game. Eventually, I got annoyed with the force backtracking, and I kept fleeing the battles.
There’s not much to do besides battling. There are some side quests but only a handful. Besides dungeons, there’s no need to explore, and the world is barren. Its mainly used for getting from one place to another.
Overall, Cris Tales is a beautiful indie RPG that is held back by various issues, keeping it from being one of the greats. Incredible story, filled with exciting characters, areas and interesting time powers, makes it worth the play. However, held back by an uninteresting battle system that becomes stale and too easy, a horrible third act of the game slows it down to a crawl.
You’ll find something to love with Cris Tales if you can look over some of its flaws. Cris Tales is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Google Stadia.
Last Updated: August 11, 2021