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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Chained Echoes

Have you ever seen an obnoxious movie or stage show where every conversation sounds like one person arguing with themselves, using the exact same limited vocabulary and speech patterns and cutesy turns of phrase and empty platitudes over and over for the entire runtime because it's painfully clear it's written by a single smug douchebag who thinks they're some kind of genius?  That's Chained Echoes - the biggest pile of self-indulgent slop I've seen in some time.  It's not any fun to play either, just lifting design elements from games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6 and Xenogears while sparing no thought for their mechanical cohesiveness or pacing whatsoever.  There are tons of time wasting click-on-everything-to-find-the-arbitrary-plot-flag segments, obnoxiously boring and drawn-out dungeons, and huge labyrinthine towns with nobody and nothing interesting to interact with; just the same old bland NPCs who wander randomly and repeat inanities forever. Characters are just dropped into the narrative with a 3x5 card of flat explosion laying out their motivations and personality traits in plain text, and that's all the development they ever get.  Battles move fast yet still somehow feel drawn-out and boring, with your options constantly restricted at the whim of an incomprehensible meter and every single battle pitting you against damage-sponge enemies that take dozens of special move hits to kill, which is clearly by design since you get healed to full between fights.  Basically, this is yet another "homage game" that just uses that label as a free license to waste your time with dated design tropes and steal characterizations and plot points wholesale while contributing nothing worthwhile of its own.  And that's the key word - steal.  There's no layers of depth or fresh twists to anything it does, and none of it is even approached in any sort of self-aware, genre savvy fashion to mock the clichΓ©s; it's just theft.  Theft perpetrated not out of any genuine reverence for classic RPGs, but solely to skim a quick buck off gamers nostalgic for an earlier era while propping up the author's own lackluster writing and design skills in the process.  So instead of rewarding yet more plagiarism with a topping of personal vanity by someone whose love of classic JRPGs only stretches as far as they can exploit your memories of them for personal gain, just save your money for a few of the games it's blatantly lifting ideas from; nearly all of which are available today for well under this game's $30 price point.  Or if you want some fun, strongly written, well-paced indie RPGs that pay tribute to the classics while setting themselves apart too, play Hades, Symphony of War, Ikenfell, Deltarune, Sea of Stars, Kingsvein or Horizon's Gate instead.  But hey, at least the title is apt for a game with design sensibilities chained to the worst kind of arrogant mediocrity and a plot that's a faint echo of several much better games.

Developer: Matthias Linda
Publisher: Deck13 Spotlight
Platform: PS4, PS5, PC, Linux, Max OS, XBox One, XBox Series, Switch
Released: 2022