Chronos: Before the Ashes, the prequel to Remnant: From the Ashes, is already available on all current-gen and old-gen platforms. If you're familiar with Remnant or you own a copy of Chronos for the Oculus Rift (Chronos debuted as a VR game back in 2016), then you'll definitely enjoy playing this non-VR version since you already know a part of this universe's lore. If you're new, though, you'll have a hard time trying not to compare it to other more popular—and probably better—Souls-like games...
Yet Another Souls-Like Game?
This is an RPG adventure about ancient civilizations where you play as yet another hero that will try to save their land from an evil ruler. If you want to succeed, you'll have to explore several labyrinthine ruins and perfect your melee combat skills to make it back in one piece. Luckily enough, Chronos: Before the Ashes doesn't have that many bosses waiting for you, but we're still not sure if that's a good thing for those looking for a true Souls experience.
Don't get us wrong, this is not a bad game. If you enjoy beating games like Dark Souls, though, then we assume you like tough challenges, and Chronos: Before the Ashes is not that difficult, to begin with. Foes aren't hard to defeat, and it's rare to find areas with more than 2 or 3 enemies coming at you at the same time... unless you avoid fighting and just keep running past them.
The Souls mechanics are there, but the limited number of animations and combat options make it all feel rather dated.
Puzzles Are a Nice Addition to Exploration
In other games, exploring means finding new paths and enemies, so you have to be extremely careful every step you take, considering a powerful enemy could be waiting for you around the corner. In this one, however, we also have some environmental puzzles similar to those in old survival horror titles, so you really need to pay attention to every suspicious thing around you. To make things worse, Chronos: Before the Ashes has no map or list of objectives; if you get stuck, you better check everything twice!
Not everyone will like it, but all things considered, we think they did a good job with these puzzles. Chronos: Before the Ashes, like every other Souls-like, is a game of patience, and finding that item you need to combine to open a new area feels so rewarding you even forget about how simple the rest of the game is.
Die, For You're Still Too Young to Kill Me
While the combat feels clumsy at times, the aging mechanic is a nice addition that really compensates for it. You see, every time our character dies, they have to wait a whole year to come back and try again, which means you not only level up but also earn some facial wrinkles and gray hair.
You can't customize your character that much, as you only can choose to play as a female or male and decide what's your favorite weapon. Of course, this is an RPG, so you can spend your experience points on the 5 available stats to hit harder/faster, go for a tankier build, or rely on arcane magic. Sadly, since you can only use melee weapons, that only affects how fast or slow your fights will be, not your play-style. That's why the aging mechanic is so important because that's a cool way of messing with your character stats and forcing you to try something different the more you die.
Starting at age 20 (you're 18 when you start your journey) and every 10 years, our adventurer gets 3 options for a new perk. That means your character will, at some point, become powerful enough to finally defeat that monster that keeps killing you, but at what cost? Well, the older you are, the more you'll have to focus on arcane magic since your body won't be that responsive and physical stats will cost more.
From a gaming perspective, all this means Chronos: Before the Ashes is a great game to speedrun or, at least, try a perfect run, but death also brings discovery and new builds!
There are a lot of reasons why Chronos: Before the Ashes is far from being the best game in its subgenre, but it's still a nice experiment and a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, it can serve as proof that puzzles can definitely work in Souls games, and death doesn't always have to be a punishment.
If you're in for a not-so-unforgiving experience where logic plays a big part, give this one a try! Truth be told, Remnant: From the Ashes is way, way better, but playing this sequel is a nice start.