Cris Tales bills itself as an “indie love letter to classic jRPGs.” Instead, it so completely misunderstands what makes them great that it comes across like a creepy kidnapper letter composed out of letters cut from various magazines. This is a game that looks fantastic while doing everything at least a little wrong; entire mechanics are outright broken, bugs can strike and render certain battles unwinnable, and stats randomly see massive rises and drops that make it impossible to tell how powerful your characters actually are. Add in Cris Tales‘ slow movement speed and insistence on making you run around doing busy work and you have a recipe for a truly painful experience.
This is a game that gets a lot of things right—things that bigger teams often struggle with. At the same time, the game’s smaller scope results in a paucity of content/secrets and an overabundance of filler opponents who sabotage the pacing. I enjoyed my time with Guild of Darksteel, but it ultimately feels like a third of an incredible game let down by its limited scope.
This is the ultimate “easy to learn, difficult to master” tRPG, being made up of a few basic stats that are easy to keep track of. That’s in addition to numerous more subtle mechanics that occur behind the scenes, and these can be safely ignored or manipulated for an even greater advantage over your opponents. Wildermyth‘s difficulty curve becomes incredibly uneven toward the end of its fourth campaign, however, and the fifth and final campaign’s difficulty arises primarily from a number of annoying mechanics that exist to waste your time. Still, Wildermyth is great. It feels like it’s one balancing patch away from becoming one of the best tRPGs on the market.
Everything about it is clearly inspired by Final Fantasy VI—one of the games from my childhood that I know front to back—and yet all of the features and priorities that made that game work have been watered down and replaced with gimmicks that appear to have been designed solely to waste as much time as possible. Octopath Traveler‘s dialog drags. Its story meanders aimlessly. Its characters are dull tropes. Its mechanics never evolve. There’s very little to recommend here.
Biomutant is briskly paced but also a drag at certain points. It’s frequently overwhelming and somehow deceptively simple. Most of the time, it exists in this superposition of contradictory states where its successes and failures coexist and commingle, which lends an undeniably singular quality to a game that, at a glance, doesn’t stray too far from the open-world mold. I haven’t played anything quite like Biomutant before and neither have you. Not everyone will be able to look past the price tag and a parade of minor flaws to appreciate that uniqueness. Regardless, I’m glad that this exists.
How much of the bigger picture you’re capable of piecing together matters, with the fate of your job and the lives of numerous different characters hanging in the balance. Lacuna is a well-written, wonderfully reactive game where many of your decisions make a very real difference.