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Chained Echoes review: Homage to the classics of old but a new star on its own

Chained Echoes review: Homage to the classics of old but a new star on its own
PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter/Chained Echoes

In a modern gaming landscape that touts cutting-edge graphical fidelity, going back to a simpler time can make a world of difference. When you are able to do that while delivering an awesome role-playing experience, then you have a gem on your hands.

That is exactly what Chained Echoes is, a homage to the classics of old but a new star on its own, brought to us by publisher Deck13 and solo developer Matthias Linda.

There is very little doubt that Chained Echoes was inspired by the likes of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, with the biggest compliment perhaps being that it wouldn't look out of place amidst these masterpieces.

Yet, it does more than just keep up; instead, it contains a level of sophistication that shows why melding new ideas with proven formulas can be so rewarding. 


A 16-bit style RPG set in a fantasy world where dragons are as common as piloted mechanical suits, the narrative objective may be simple in trying to stop a war between kingdoms, but it is the details that shine through that truly elevates Chained Echoes to another level.

This is a mature story at play here, full of fine gradients and distinctions, and touching a variety of themes such as fate, trauma, and guilt.

Even if they appear to be genre tropes, the care and precise nature of how these themes come across in Chained Echoes is truly an art, given plenty of room to breathe and unfold, and helps to colour the journey ahead in the best of ways.

The story pacing is oftentimes perfectly constructed to keep players on the edge, adding new gameplay elements at the optimal time to keep things fresh.

Just when you think everything is going the way it's supposed to, a surprise twist delights and astonishes, not to mention the various ways in which combat is switched up to keep players coming back for more and staying the course. 

Diving deeper into the combat, Chained Echoes never once felt grindy or repetitive, even if battles are a common sight like any good old JRPG.

There is always a good reward for the time spent clashing with the enemies, and the fact that engaging in combat feels involved and engaging does not hurt either.

Enemies can come in all shapes and sizes, touting various strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to the player to adapt and strategise on the move in order to win.

Perhaps certain character abilities are the perfect counter to one particular foe, or a switch in formation is required so that you have a better chance of survival.

In addition to these layers is the unique overdrive mechanic, which makes damage dealing a fun and rewarding exercise that does not wear out its welcome. 

The obstacles in your way in Chained Echoes do not back down, and throughout the entire adventure, combat was never a throwaway experience, but rather an integral aspect of the game that demonstrates just why it is ahead of the competition.

The bonus is that your party fully heals up between encounters as well, so no more of that potion spamming and worrying about resources when the swords are clashing.

This is all also complemented by character progression that once again takes into account each player’s tendencies and approaches. Depending on how you want to grow your crew, skills can be upgraded — heroes can be specialised to bring more power to the table, while gear can be enhanced through upgrades and gems that can bring new perks.

It is all a pleasant cycle that makes sure players are always rewarded one way or another, even if it is just fiddling around in the menus for the best numbers. 

Yet, not all the systems are on the same level, with the Crystal and Sky Armor systems being more distractions than essentials compared to the rest of the mechanics. It is a matter of good to have, but not exactly a plus or minus when it comes to the impact on the experience.

And as you are enjoying exploring this strange and fascinating world while jumping into combat with enthusiasm, Chained Echoes' music also takes things up a notch. The musical score instantly feels right home with the retro-ness of it all, evoking a sense of familiarity that is ultimately a brand new take.

The visuals are also marvellous in the use of pixel art, even if the delivery of the story can be a tad stunted by the lack of more interaction and action on-screen.

Having released in this day and age where the classics of the genre are probably a memory for most, Chained Echoes has everything going for it to make a mark. It meshes modern-day conveniences and improvements with old-school formulas, making it a much more refined JRPG experience that simply needs to be played.

While there are some stumbles along the way, it is an impressive effort from a solo developer, and a giant leap in what is hopefully the first of many successes to come.

Chained Echoes is available on the PSN Store for $35.22.

This article was first published in Geek Culture.

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