Time travel in a linear story is difficult. There are so many different ways of approaching it and so many examples of how it works (and doesn’t) in all kinds of entertainment like movies, books, and video games. Tales of Cries from Modus Games is the latest title to tackle time travel in its own way. What if a character and the player could visualize different stages of time at the same time? Is Modus Games capable of pulling off a time-based RPG adventure?
In Tales of Cries, you play as the orphan Crisbell, with no memory of her family, she was raised in the orphanage in the small town of Narim. Our adventure begins with Crisbell interacting with the stained glass window at the rear of the cathedral and awakening the power to look through time into the past and into the future. What Crisbell sees in the future, however, is baffling as she also suffers from an exploding vision of Narim and other cities around the world, all signs point to the Time Empress being the cause of this destruction.
Teaming up with another time mage, Willhelm, and Talking Frog companion Matias, Crisbell sets out to visit each of the world’s major cathedrals to further develop his temporal powers, hoping they will be the key to saving the world. Along the journey, Crisbell and his ever-growing group travel to cities beset by economic conflict, ravaged volcanic regions, and dense, lush forests.
Even though Crisbell visits places she’s never seen before, due to a shared connection in the party or previously encountered NPCs, the story does a good job of enveloping the party in the local conversation. It’s not just that Crisbell shows up and is allowed to attend important meetings as the ‘chosen one’, instead party members could be connections with local activists or girls from well-known inventors. It’s never strange that Crisbell is present and so involved in local politics.
The framing of the world through Crisbell’s eyes and the ability to see past, present, and future do amazing things for world building. Even when you first walk into a city and have an amazing view of the landscape, you can see where a city was built from, but there is also the ever-present sight of destruction as you strive for it. to prevent.
It’s a fantastic way to show the effects of characters’ actions when solving a dilemma in the past and you can see how that will directly affect a city’s future. It also removes any need for exposure to the history of the town, or the player being able to see a flashback, but characters should be made aware of this if Crisbell is able to see everything as well.
Tales of Cries starts with lots of very clever ways of dealing with Crisbell’s powers over time and Matias’ ability to leap into the future and the past. At first, a special fruit is needed to create an antidote to the rotting of the wood you see taking the village. You can use your temporal powers to plant seeds in the past and reap the rewards in the present. Even in the main story, you can pick up information from the past or use knowledge of the future to get important characters on your side. Unfortunately, at the end of the game, the time shenanigans go off the rails a bit.
Just as you feel like you are at the end of the game, Tales of Cries delves deeply into the theme of time travel and into a whole fourth and fifth act. Time travel and the impact it has on a linear narrative has been seen to make or break a lot of video games, movies, and books and Tales of Cries is unfortunately not exempt from this. In that case Tales of Cries the plot, unfortunately, gets a bit too enthusiastic in the alternate timelines and time travel clones for its own good, and while the game’s first twenty hours or so keep a consistent tone, the past ten hours have blurred the history.
An additional issue with this comeback ten is how unnecessary the plot points are. Any other game would see the adventure you have taken and the conclusion you have come to and call it there, but Tales of Cries loops in additional recovery quest-style missions requiring you to return to previous areas of the game multiple times, which doesn’t even add much more than hours to the game’s runtime.
While I cannot speak for all versions of the game, I have encountered a number of technical issues while playing on Nintendo Switch. These included frequent game crashes with only the left joy-con vibe working (but only at maximum vibration), frequent entries, and a final boss fight where he just stopped attacking me.
Fight in Tales of Cries also has its share of ups and downs. These turn-based battles pit your party of three against enemies placed to your left or right. Tales of Cries has an interactive, Mario-esque fighting style. You’ll select your attack, then try to time a button press to maximize damage. You can also actively block to reduce incoming damage. It’s a fun system and a good way to add an active, engaging component to combat, but the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining when you have the right timing, or the window of opportunity is extremely precise.
The timing of button presses is also an issue with some characters’ special attacks that require repeated presses, hit the button as fast as you want to “load the meter” and I found the bar would drop, but that there would be perfect timing which better work. It’s unclear if difficulty in syncing or button responses is a desired effect, which would be odd to change a counter, or if the game frequently loses entries. Some enemy attacks that I couldn’t even find a window where I COULD attempt to block, instead, sitting helpless as my party took all the damage.
Scaling enemies and your character’s stats also don’t seem to balance out properly. At the start of the game, almost every encounter was difficult, and resources and money were extremely limited. While you could certainly walk through areas of the game, you would be forced to use whatever you had. After the second city, it seemed to be completely turned upside down. The increase in HP and MP would far exceed the costs of advanced technique spells allowing you to give your all in each battle and still have enough MP to reach the next inn. When your most effective move is only 18 MP and you have 500 MP, you can just keep sending those fireballs. Aside from a few key fights that seem to require you to adopt a specific strategy, expect to go through a lot of fights.
It would be impossible to complete an exam for Tales of Cries not to mention the quality of the game. Each building and character has so many intricate details, creating so many unique looks and great character styles. This attention to detail is further accentuated when walking around a city with a part-time view. Seeing a cathedral being built in the past and seeing it align perfectly with the way it is laid out in the present is an incredible sight.
The character designs also remain extremely readable from afar, but when you get close to them you can see a lot of unique details as well. As you travel the world, there is a certain level of cohesion between the different inhabitants of the world that immediately tells you who they are and what kind of life they lead. You can tell that visually creating this world’s past, present, and future was a job, but a labor of love.
Tales of Cries manages to put together a lot of good aspects. The story has a solid hook and a fully fleshed out world for the characters to explore, but then manages to not stick to the landing by letting the plot slip away. Likewise, combat is enjoyable, but with the active mechanics seemingly dropping entrances and struggling not to scale properly, he finds and then loses that sweet spot. Yes Tales of Cries was about 80% of its ambition, it could have been a more succinct title. If you fancy a new RPG to play, then Tales of Cries should scratch that itch, just beware of when it gets lost.
A copy of Tales of Cries for Nintendo Switch was provided to TechRaptor by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, Stadia, and PC through Steam and the Epic Game Store.