“Life is a journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all…Experiences to enjoy.” And what a journey it was! Chained Echoes is one of the most recent additions to the RPG genre, created by a one-man dev team by the name of Matthias Linda. It took seven long years of development - and it turned out to be a truly special product.
It does much more than be another one among many: it’s a love letter to what came before. Chained Echoes plays and looks like classic RPGs, but it adds to their legacy with love, reverence and its own spin. For a game that set out to stand on the shoulders of titans of the genre, Chained Echoes might just have what it takes to be a title of equal grandeur to those that inspired it.
The Good: The special ingredient is love.
The developer of Chained Echoes took inspiration from so many classic RPGs, and it more than shows. The game is a wonderfully crafted, carefully put-together love letter to the genre and to what came before it.
The most popular aspects of classic RPGs are given the respect and care they need in this game: the story is expansive and engaging, the characters are active and memorable, the worldbuilding is interesting, and it’s all tied up with solid gameplay that takes the normal turn-based strategy players are used to and enhances it with a new spin.
And not only did the developer enhance the good, he cut down on the unpopular aspects: in Chained Echoes, the player isn’t subjected to lengthy grinding sessions or infuriating random encounters. Mechanics in Chained Echoes are distilled from classic RPGs into being the best and most fun versions of themselves.
A special mention must be given to the quality of the characterisation. The character-driven story provides every single one of them their due importance and screen time, establishing their personalities brilliantly.
Following the ever-growing cast of Chained Echoes as they travel through the continent of Valandis is a treat as each character shines bright; from the mild-mannered yet capable and driven Glenn, the harsh and focused Robb, and to the unlucky yet skilled thief Sienna, them and many other characters add colour and a personal touch to the story.
Combat feels dynamic, engaging and interesting; it is very rare that the player can tune out completely and click their strongest move until victory. Although it’s a turn-based combat system, Chained Echoes makes use of the Overdrive bar system which encourages strategy and careful action management. On top of that, the game gives the player free rein to swap in-and-out up to eight characters divided into 2-person teams in the middle of battle.
The world of Chained Echoes is incredibly fun to explore. Every aspect of the worldbuilding is well established and explored in the story, but the true fun lies in the actual exploration: areas and maps are massive and absolutely filled with hidden secrets, caves, treasure, clues, and sidequests. From simple collectibles to powerful class emblems that unlock a whole new layer of customisation for the playable characters, Unchained Echoes encourages and thoroughly rewards exploration.
Finally, the cherry on top of a long list of positives is how much fun the game oozes. Chained Echoes is filled to the brim with out-there design choices, mechanics, references, jokes and situations that truly give the impression that the developer was pouring everything they enjoyed into the game. Chained Echoes, above everything else, feels like a game made by someone that wishes as much fun to the players as they themselves had creating it.
- The best aspects of the genre are further enhanced
- Fantastic character-driven story and moments
- Interesting takes on turn-based combat
- Fun worldbuilding in both plot and gameplay
- Areas filled with content and secrets, encouraging exploration
- Palpable passion from the developer.
The Bad: Where’s the map?!
With how much Chained Echoes gives the player in the ways of game mechanics, options and strategies, it doesn’t make it simple to actually keep track of all the information. The game is somewhat obtuse with its mechanics: unique status effects and strategies are explained in depth once they are introduced, but the game does not provide access to any form of refresher or codex regarding its many mechanics. A glossary is a simple yet needed addition to the experience. It’s fun to learn what status effects and mechanics do without help, but it’s aggravating to need to open a wiki just for a quick refresher 20 hours in.
Chained Echoes has a very involved and complex plot with many characters, factions and nations. While it is all very well crafted, the fact remains that fantasy names and terms can feel obtuse and having a glossary, “story-so-far” tag or even the option to re-watch cutscenes would do wonders for retention and to make sure players don’t get lost while following the intricate plot.
Certain menus can offer confusing or even spoiler-bearing visual feedback. Characters have their picture placed beside a piece of equipment they own, and for some reason, characters that are implied to be dead or otherwise unavailable at the beginning of the game continue to be shown besides their equipment. This can ruin future plot twists, cause accidental misdirection or simply deeply confuse the player.
- Lack of glossary for recapping
- Potential spoilers in the menu
Final Score: 9/10
Chained Echoes is absolutely fantastic. It is one of the most solid, high-quality RPGs I have ever experienced, indie or not. It delivers quality, fun, engagement, characters and adventure in a way that can only ever come from a developer that truly loves and respects their work. It takes its time to build something truly special, and constantly delivers on its promises and much more.
The game is a massive game with massive quality that reflects how well-spent its massive development time was. Fantastic is the only word capable of describing it. It is worthy to stand right beside its legendary inspirations such as Chrono Trigger and Suikoden and more than deserves the title “masterpiece”.
Thank you for checking out our Chained Echoes Switch review, thank you to Deck 13 (via PR Hound) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: