Like DuckTales, But With Cris
HIGH An ambitious story and battle system that combine many ideas cohesively.
LOW The lack of quality-of-life features.
WTF The last third of the story.
There is a saying that often comes to mind when reviewing games — we stand on the shoulders of giants. The meaning is essentially that none of us would be where we are without the people who came before us. This is also, in a way, saying that there is nothing new under the sun.
Based on the sheer amount of art and ideas produced by the human species, nothing is truly, wholly original. With this as a given, what makes something interesting is how existing ideas are used in new and engaging ways, and Cris Tales is a great example of this.
The story follows a young woman named Crisbell. She’s a sweet orphan from a humble town who discovers a frog in a top hat. As the story unfolds, Cris is led to discover that she is a time mage with the ability to see the past, present, and future all at once. She soon meets other mages and forms a team to defend her town (and the world) from the ill intentions of an evil Empress and her minions.
The gameplay is divided between two major types — dialogue-heavy sections in towns and at the end of dungeons, and the combat-heavy segments between them.
Battling enemies takes place in JRPG-style turn-based battle system, with some added flavor. As a parallel to the idea of Crisbell seeing the past, present, and future, the battlefield is also divided into three parts — allies in the middle, and enemies can spawn on either side. Which side they’re on can effect what can be done to them, mainly involving Crisbell’s ability to manipulate the timestate by sending enemies into their past or future, which can then change their stats or accelerate effects in the present timeline.
Different characters each have special skills, eschewing standard class structures for broader types like ‘support’ and ‘DPS’ with flexibility based on equipment. A character’s gear can have massive effects on their stats, and can shift a character from using normal attacks to slinging magic nukes.
The battle system also involves the ability to actively execute blocks and critical hits through timed button presses, very similar to the system that was made famous in Nintendo’s Paper Mario series. This generally works well (barring some enemy attacks that lack good telegraphing) and this, combined with some interesting skill options and a flexible speed-based order of turns give players plenty of options in every encounter.
The art is clearly inspired by popular American cartoons from the early to mid-2000s such as Samurai Jack, with thick black outlines, large, expressive eyes, and a generous color palette. This art style is used consistently in both cinematics and in-game graphics, and it’s well implemented throughout — watching Cris Tales being played almost looks like a cartoon.
Since the initial playthrough for this review, the game has received a couple of big updates including balance changes, more options (including resolution adjustment), a new dungeon, and even a new playable character.
Overall, this is an impressive first title from a young indie studio. An enjoyable cast of characters with great designs combined with an incredibly solid battle system facilitate an engaging story full of twists and turns. It may not win any awards for pure originality, but we do stand on the shoulders of giants, and in this sense Cris Tales rises higher because of it.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK and published by Modus Games. This game is available on PS4/5, XBX/S, PC, and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 35 hours of play was devoted to the single-player modes. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of a mage on a quest to stop an empress from destroying a fantasy kingdom. From a side-scrolling perspective, players traverse the environment, interact with characters, and engage in turn-based combat against human-like enemies and fantastical creatures (e.g., goblins, slime creatures, ghosts). Players use swords and magic (e.g., Fireblasts, Water Bubble, Thunder Sphere) to defeat enemies in combat; battles are accompanied by impact sounds, cries of pain, and screen-shaking effects. The word “pr*ck” is heard in the game.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. Text cannot be altered or resized. (See example above.) Timing some attacks may be harder without sound, as some attacks feature audio tells. This game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. Left stick or WASD are used for movement, and A button or Left Click are used to select objects, menu options, or proceed through dialogue.
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“Like DuckTales, But With Cris”
I expected this meant like the Ducktales video game. If this was just meant as a joke, it conveyed the wrong meaning.