Souls of Chronos Review – Fantasy Gangster Simulator

Souls of Chronos Review

Souls of Chronos feels like a combination of mobile games and classic RPGs. Its art direction is modern, but the writing is clearly inspired by iconic JRPG titles. Meanwhile, the mechanics draw on retro top-down RPGs while taking advantage of modern hardware. The result is an experience that’s both old and new. I like it, but I can see it being an acquired taste. Especially for people who dislike the art style.

15 years ago, the world was ravaged by a disaster known as the Apocalypse. Seven heroes managed to save the day, but the survivors are still grappling with the aftermath. In the port city of Astella, a boy named Sid and a girl named Tori have teamed up to survive.

He’s a surprisingly idealistic gangster whose pure heart may not survive what the world has in store for them. She’s a strange lifeform known as a Chronus that can stop and devour time… and although she saves Sid’s life, she’s also eating his lifespan. Together, they set out to solve an unusual crime. What they discover could shake Astella–and the whole world–to its core.

Everyone Has Their Price

Astella is full of complex and morally ambiguous characters, most of whom are in conflict with each other. No matter what decisions you make, Sid and Tori will end up with a lot of enemies. A gang war is brewing in Astella. But things get complicated when a third faction seeking to restore a lost empire gets involved. A storm is coming to the city. No matter who wins, there will be blood.

Souls of Chronos Kiji

I really like the choice of protagonists here. It takes guts to make your main heroes a career criminal and an amoral creature that may only look human. Having said that, Sid and Tori are downright adorable. Their relationship takes center stage both mechanically and story-wise. You can stop and have a conversation with Tori at any time. What you say to her will guide both story developments and her stat builds. Depending on your choices, she can unlock new skills like pickpocketing or get you a discount at shops.

Your dialog options also guide Sid’s stat builds and help determine the story’s path. Whether Sid is ambitious or philosophical, callous or kind-hearted, is up to you. Which character traits Sid possesses–and how much you’ve focused on them–determines which options you have access to. Some of these choices are small and of little consequence. Others are much further-reaching.

Souls of Chronos is a Tribute to Classic JRPGs

Souls of Chronos draws a lot of inspiration from RPGs of the past. However, its focus on poverty and the way oppression and crime can choke the life out of a community feels unique. Astella is not doing well, and Sid is both a victim and part of the problem. You can decide whether to accept this harsh reality or struggle against it. This isn’t the first title to look harshly at the cycle of poverty, but it does feel genuine.

Souls of Chronos mysterious man

Let’s be real here: Souls of Chronos looks like a mobile game. It has the soft, rounded sprites running around on the map. The more detailed character portraits don’t have many expressions and the art style would fit a gacha game. This isn’t really a bad thing, but it is confusing. Maybe this choice was made to allow for simpler graphics that move gorgeously. If so, it definitely paid off, because the action in this game is a thing to behold. I didn’t see the game freeze or stutter once, no matter how often I spammed the A button.

The character designs aren’t exactly groundbreaking—as I said, the cast very much looks like it stepped out of a gacha game. However, they aren’t exactly unpleasant to look at, either. And when they’re running around in adorable chibi form on the world map, they’re really endearing. I’m less fond of their more detailed portraits, but I’ll put up with a lot for cute chibis. The sound design is quite nice, too. A lot of the music reminds me of classic JRPGs, which I’m sure is intentional.

Speaking of combat, the game’s action is fast-paced and intense. I do wish you could change styles mid-fight, though. That would allow for more complex combos and strategies. At least Tori’s ability to stop time is fun. There are some clever puzzles that require you to use this power and it’s always a nice break from the combat.

Souls of Chronos combat

Could Be Deeper

Souls of Chronos has a lot going for it. The city of Astella is lovingly realized, for example. And while the dungeons can get repetitive, their design is nice. It’s very difficult to get lost, even in the sewers. Some of the environments are absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, while the UI is pretty, the map can be hard to navigate. It’s tricky to explore Astella for the first time. Trying to figure out which arrow on the screen leads to which icon on the map is frustrating.

I really wish there was voice acting. But maybe that’s for the best–this title really needs a better translation. A lot of dialog reads awkwardly and the narration is full of repeated text. This leads to my next point: while this game is very fun, it has some serious technical issues. It crashed several times and I noticed a number of annoying bugs. I couldn’t even figure out how to equip one type of weapon. Hopefully the Day One patch fixes these problems.

Souls of Chronos bugs

Structurally, I noticed a few more problems. For one, every time I left a room, a short loading screen would pop up for a few seconds. It never lasted long, but it did get irritating. There’s also no prolonged dash function to make backtracking faster. Rushing around to finish side quests can be quite time-consuming as a result. Beyond that, Souls of Chronos advertises its choice mechanics heavily. It would be nice if choices mattered a bit more, especially in the early chapters. Also, the game is pretty short and there isn’t a ton of side content in each chapter.

All in all, Souls of Chronos is a fun ride. It combines polished action with an unpolished translation, but the bones of the story are still engaging. It explores the cycle of poverty, betrayal, and desperation. I don’t think it will be anyone’s game of the year. But if you’re a fan of nice action and RPGs, you should check this title out.

***PC code provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Interesting story
  • Slick action
  • Fun protagonists
  • Moral ambiguity
  • Pretty environments

The Bad

  • Short
  • Not a ton of side content
  • Questionable translation
  • Buggy
  • Confusing map