Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK
Publisher Modus Games
Format PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
With the world perhaps finally waking up to its responsibility to work towards a better future, Cris Tales’ premise seems particularly apposite. Protagonist Crisbell can view the past, present and future simultaneously, and hop between all three, providing a means to alter events and improve the lives of those around her. This dazzling time manipulation mechanic is presented within the familiar framework of a side-scrolling JRPG, but given its own identity with lavish 2D hand-drawn art that reflects the people and culture of the developer’s native Colombia.
It’s also the device by which its creator has been able to add layers of depth and social commentary to the game without it coming across as heavy-handed. “We see videogames as art, an interactive medium that allows you to have fun but also to offer a message,” explains Cris Tales’ creative director Carlos Rocha Silva. “We have a lot of sensitive subjects: refugees, civil war, a lot of the things that we have felt here in Colombia, but portrayed in, let’s say, a safe way. A lot of people don’t realise it, but when they play games they actually enjoy a lot of those messages that the creators have put in.”
Said messages are woven into the game’s narrative and sidequests, and how you choose to act as Crisbell will affect not only her progress, but the lives of others and entire social groups within each kingdom. The city of St Clarity, for example, has a huge divide between the rich and the poor, and there are characters on both sides of this who you can choose to help. Over time, you can improve the slums, perhaps taking some of the shine from the affluent walled city in the process, or help the wealthy and let the poorer districts suffer – the future consequences of which you can see being changed by your present actions.
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