Chronos: Before the Ashes

In my impressions of Chronos: Before the Ashes, I intimated that the game’s touted aging system amounted to little more than a gimmick. Rather than wallow in disappointment, I want to touch on why I felt that way and, to do so, we need to discuss my expectations, as set by the game.

When you first boot up a new game of Chronos: Before the Ashes, an older woman exposits the background narrative of your adventure. She tells you what events have led to this moment, why you are the one who will be dungeon-delving, and how you will be doing so. It’s the last that sets up the aging mechanic: the method by which you enter the rift is available only one day of each year. She then states that you’ll have the year between each journey to prepare for the next one.

That the actual aging mechanic consists mostly of you respawning at the nearest, unlocked, fast-travel stone upon death, your age number one higher and perhaps your character model altered to reflect a milestone, was underwhelming in the face of that. It’s later indicated that you require the full year to recover between journeys, but the initial implication seemed to be that you’d have a chance to develop your stats further during the intermission. A basic management sim, or the opportunity to have some interactions with the other humans in your community with potential minor rewards (or storyline shifts) would have helped flesh the system out.

Chronos: Before the Ashes

As it is, you get a perk every ten years (some of these are flat boosts to a stat, others shape your development in a more variable and fundamental manner), and the Strength, Agility, and Vitality attributes gradually shift to cost more per upgrade as Arcane becomes cheaper.

In the context of the story, this does work. And the ending may imply that the intervening year between each attempt doesn’t actually exist, with the game as a whole taking place within the rift. But given such an unusual hook, drawing on one of the earliest and grandest promises of the original Fable (which never truly came to pass), I can’t help wishing they’d done a bit more.

Chronos: Before the Ashes is still a good game, and well worth playing if you’re in the mood for a tightly constructed adventure. But I look forward to Gunfire Games matching their execution to their ambition in the future.

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