To paraphrase a classic line from Doctor Who, time is not necessarily a linear progression of events, at least not when you’re operating outside of it. To one who views the past, present, and future simultaneously, it all becomes a big ball of wibbly wobbly- well, you know the bit. The point is that time travel is an inherently powerful ability, and in the wrong hands, tainting the flow of history becomes all too easy. We need a champion, a steward of history to guide the timeline in the best possible direction. We need… a little girl named Crisbell? Well, sure, there have been less likely heroes in history, and outside of it!
Cris Tales is an upcoming indie RPG developed by Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK and published by Modus Games. It features the aforementioned Crisbell, a bright-eyed young orphan going about her life without many things weighing her down. That swiftly changes when, after meeting Matias the talking frog, Crisbell’s perceptions are forever altered by the power of the Crystals of Time. Suddenly, Crisbell can see the past, present, and future all at once, and with these new abilities comes a frightening revelation: the Time Empress and her army is bearing down on history as a whole, and if she gets her way, nowhere and nowhen will be safe. It’s up to Crisbell to master her new Time Mage powers to bring about a proper future.
Cris Tales has a beautiful, hand-drawn art style reminiscent of classic fairy tale story books. Each of the four kingdoms of the land have their own distinct styles, from modest villages to massive cities, smoky slums to shimmering spires. You could totally imagine all of these settings and characters appearing in a pop-up book. Of course, just because it’s pastel doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. Crisbell’s glimpses into the past and future can show you terrible tragedies to come; seeing buildings standing tall in the present only to be reduced to rubble in the future makes you wonder just what went wrong, and if there’s perhaps something you can do about it.
As it turns out, there is something you can do about it. At numerous points throughout the story, you’ll get opportunities to alter the events of the past and present to affect the future. Homes crumbled by a wood-decaying disease in the future, for instance, can be saved with an intervention in the present. However, history isn’t something to be trifled with; if you make a rash decision without properly investigating the events of the past, present, and future, your actions could have rippling consequences. Depending on the decisions you make at the critical junctures, the events of the game’s story can shift radically, though on the bright side, this branching narrative does encourage repeat playthroughs.
If you thought the time shenanigans were limited to the story, though, think again. Cris Tales features a combat system reminiscent of RPGs like Paper Mario, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Bravely Default. In combat, your party takes the center stage while enemies surround you. With timed button presses, you can increase the damage you deal to foes with your attacks and decrease the damage they deal to you. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though; the real strategy revolves around Crisbell’s time manipulation abilities.
Crisbell can use the power of the Crystals of Time to force enemies to her left back to the past and drag enemies to her right into the future. Enemies fight differently depending on where they are in their personal histories; for instance, a fully grown goblin warrior becomes a slightly weaker, yet much faster thief in its youth, and a wizened spellcaster in old age. Shifting enemies in time doesn’t make them weaker, it changes how they interact with you and you with them. Crisbell’s Crystals of Time can also be used in conjunction with the abilities of her party members. For instance, warrior mage Christopher can cast basic elemental magic. If you chuck a water spell at a metallic foe, then shove them into the future, suddenly they’ve become a rusted heap. In another example, fellow Time Mage Willhelm can plant magical seedlings in the past, which sprout and burst in the present, inflicting damage and status ailments. Later members of the party can also change enemy placement on the battlefield, setting them up for a trip to the past or future depending on where they land. It’s a multidimensional take on RPG puzzle battles, and you’ll really need to rack your brain to find a foe’s most vulnerable point in history.
Cris Tales will be released on July 20th, 2021, on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Google Stadia. Pre-orders and wishlisting are already available on digital storefronts, and you can also pre-order a physical copy from the Cris Tales website.