Playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) is a unique experience, but something even more unique is playing one as a solo single-player adventure. That’s exactly what CrossCode is, with it having you play as Lea, an avatar on an adventure through the MMO’s primary story campaign and encountering other players as their avatars on the same quest. It’s a clever spin on the RPG genre that is quite ambitious in its own right.
CrossCode‘s combat is unique by combining intense Action-RPG gameplay with the franticness of twin-stick shooters. In addition, you will unlock various fighting elements that allow you to strategise with certain enemies and gauge their weaknesses. This makes for great combat variety and adds a level of strategy that is engaging and welcome.
An aspect borrowed from the RPG genre, CrossCode‘s Circuit skill tree is detailed without being overwhelming. With each level, you’ll earn a Circuit Point (CP) which can be spent to earn additional statistic upgrades and unlock new abilities. This is all quite standard, but I have to complement the design of the tree itself with it commencing from the centre and sprouting out in four directions, similar to a compass. This layout helps the player to gain a better perspective of where Lea’s points are being distributed, making a potentially daunting process easily digestible.
RPGs can grow tiresome if your avatar moves slowly around the world. Luckily, Lea movements are satisfyingly swift, making exploring the world zippy and fun. This does come with its drawbacks however as the frame rate seems inconsistent when running around a densely populated area, diminishing the majesty of the environments.
The main drawback of CrossCode is its slow pace, specifically with the opening hour being full of arduous tutorials that throws a lot of information at you from the get-go. It takes far too long to get into the full swing of things and if you’re a seasoned gamer, this would be especially tedious. However once the game begins to open up, you are rewarded with a fantastic world full of spectacular gameplay mechanics, stunning scenery and charming characters.
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CrossCode‘s combat is exhilarating and engaging, which is why I was disappointed to learn that there was no rumble to be felt. I would have loved some HD haptic feedback coursing through my palms as I took down gargantuas bosses but alas, nothing.
World / Level Design
A lot of thought and attention to detail put into each frame area has you jumping and climbing built layers of hillside platforms in order to reach special items and secrets. This made each frame exciting and dense however due to the topdown viewpoint, it often made it difficult to determine depth perception.
Despite how massive the world may be, making your way around is wonderfully quick and easy. Not only does Lea move satisfyingly quick, but there’s also a convenient fast travel option to any previously activated landmark that can be accessed at any time in the menu (excluding when you’re in the middle of a battle or story beat).
Finally, if you’re one who enjoys a good dungeon, CrossCode delivers in spades. The puzzles are ingeniously clever and their overall designs are grand in their layouts. This does come with the caveat that they may be overwhelming for less experienced players, so you have been warned.
Story / Personality
Having the game set within an MMO makes for a lot of nuances that would only work in this particular setting. The characters and their dialogue often poke their tongues at the genre’s stereotypes and pitfalls, with sly comments that will make you chuckle if you have ever played, or are familiar with, MMOs. On top of that, being able to see characters run through towns and path trails, some in parties and some by themselves, captures that feeling of playing an online experience without the hassle of text boxes everywhere and frustrating lag.
Without revealing too much, the first half of the game fails to develop the main plot in a tangible fashion. Aside from some groundwork being laid down within the first few hours of the game, most of the dialogue and story beats focus on characterisation and world building. This can be a double-edged sword as it can be easy to either lose interest or find yourself lacking motivation to continue onward with the journey however when the plot does take centre stage, it does not disappoint.
Graphics / Art Direction
CrossCode‘s 16 bit-inspired, pixel art style is truly captivating. It’s crisp; it’s colourful; its lighting makes the world shimmer and the world comes to life bursting with personality. Everything about its visual presentation is captivating, with a calming ambience that I almost never thought possible with a 16 bit art design. The characters are charmingly endearing, with loveable quirks that will make you smile. Its visual presentation almost hits the mark on all fronts however as previously mentioned, the depth perception is its only shortcoming.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is wonderful with a whimsy that supports the vast world and picturesque landscapes. It’s exactly what you’d expect (and hope for) in a wide MMORPG that CrossCode has been aiming to replicate in a single-player experience.
Final Score: 88%
CrossCode is a captivating adventure that is worth seeing through until the very end. Its slow start and patchy plot progression can cause some players to lose interest, but the intuitive combat and dazzling visuals will hopefully encourage them to stick around and experience all that this game has to offer. And for all you introverts out there (myself included), sometimes you may just want to play an MMO without having to talk to people.
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