Review: Chronos

Gunfire Games brings The Legend of Zelda style adventuring to the Oculus Rift.

Arguably one of the most high profile titles in the Oculus Rift launch line-up, Gunfire Games’ Chronos has a lot of eyes upon it. A fresh new studio that cut their teeth working on expanding Oculus Studios’ Herobound franchise, Gunfire Games is actually made up largely of veterans of Vigil Studios – developers of the Darksiders franchise – and in Chronos this experience most definitely shows.

Chronos screenshot

Chronos is a third-person videogame that uses the unique attributes of virtual reality (VR) in an interesting way. Opposed to having the camera follow the player’s on-screen avatar or allowing free look throughout the environments, Chronos uses fixed camera points reminiscent to that of the original Resident Evil simply allowing the player to turn and elevate their view from this centralised location. One room may displayed front-facing while the next is slightly elevated, however when passing between the on-screen avatar will always be located at the same point of exit upon re-entry. It’s an interesting technique that has clearly been born of great amounts of experimentation and playtesting, and is used to great effect later in the videogame.

An adventure videogame that throws the player into a world seemingly far removed from our own, a story is told about how there is a place that can only be accessed once a year through the power of Dragon Stones. The player begins their quest at the tender age of 18, looking for the first Dragon Stone that will teleport them into this different place.

It turns out that the character you play as is actually from Earth, but it’s so far removed from the world we know today that it might as well be somewhere else entirely different. In truth, it’s largely irrelevant to the gameplay: Chronos is all about the adventure and the environments you will journey through vary so wildly that the name of the locations is distinctly unimportant.

Chronos screenshot

The Dragon Stones are of key importance, however. These large glowing orbs are teleportation devices that allow you to travel to new areas. Accessing them is rarely easy as Chronos‘ central mechanic is its puzzle system. Everything the player needs to utilise is adequately signposted – from glowing items and icons appearing above the player’s avatar for interactive items, to literal writing on the walls – yet as the videogame progresses the challenge does so, too.

Chronos will frequently be compared to The Legend of Zelda – and with good reason – but the closest comparison has to be in that of its combat system. Using the Xbox One controller, the X button can be pressed for light attacks or held for heavier attacks, with Y offering parry and B used for dodging. The L trigger allows for a lock-on similar to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time‘s infamous Z-Targeting system, and when multiple enemies are present on screen a flick of the right analog stick will move the lock between potential targets.

However, where Chronos stands aside is from Nintendo’s beloved franchise is in the character progression system. Beginning the videogame at 18 years-old, each time the player suffers death they age one year and continue their quest from the last Dragon Stone reached (with all solved puzzles remaining as such, but with defeated enemies returning) having aged one year. The player gains experience for each enemy defeated and can attribute points to various attributes upon levelling up. When young upgrading strength and agility costs fewer points, but upon aging these become expensive and instead arcane powers can be upgraded at a lower cost. Additionally, when reaching specific levels the player can unlock traits, such as increased strength or experience gain. A character at 40-years-of-age will undoubtedly vary wildly in one playthrough from the next, as the combinations of upgrade options available definitely make a noticeable impact on gameplay.

Chronos screenshot

Chronos is a good looking videogame but does have obvious areas of weakness. The player character often looks as if they’re floating and there are some areas which have obviously received far less love and attention than others. The sound quality however, is near immaculate. Hearing the rain beating down on the outside of a cave and then venturing fourth into the storm as the tempo rushes up and the lightning crackles is simply astounding.

Chronos is an interesting mix of mechanics with an arguably slow gameplay loop, yet it’s clearly an experience that’s more than the sum of it’s parts. The pacing lends itself to the compulsion to see what lies in wait in the next room, and though the occasional puzzle or environment layout can lead to a bottleneck there’s rarely a point during the videogame’s extensive campaign that is cause for disappointment. Chronos is a genuinely compelling videogame that sets a high standard for Gunfire Games to follow with their next VR project.

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