After seven years of development, Matthias Linda has managed to create a virtual world destined to enter the category of classics of the genre.
It is strange to be amazed in front of a project that draws heavily from a glorious past, that of the JRPGs of the 90s. And yet, the German developer Matthias Linda he worked almost entirely alone for seven long years on a video game that managed to literally leave us speechless, making use of some collaborators for the creation of the backdrops and the soundtrack. Linda has shown that she knows perfectly the great classics from which she drew inspiration, such as Suikoden, Final Fantasy VI, Xenogears and Chrono Trigger, without, however, lapsing into empty quotationismmanaging to create a convincing and coherent world.
Seven years is a long time, but on the other hand we have been delivered an impeccable product also from a technical point of view, as the Nintendo Switch version we tested has shown us. By ambition and result, Chained Echoes reminded us of that Stardew Valley that made the fortune of Eric Barone, its solitary developer, employed for five years in an adventure that led him to sell millions of copies. In this case, the publisher Deck13 has confirmed that he has an excellent eye for heavy RPGs, as already happened with the excellent Crosscode. here, however, we are in the realm of absolute excellence: we tell you why in our review of Chained Echoes.
Divine powers and political intrigues
The story of Chained Echoes begins by putting us in the shoes of Glenn, a Sky Armor pilot, gigantic mecha used for war purposes on the continent of Valandis. This land has been tormented by wars for many years, so much so that many of its inhabitants doubt the arrival of a possible peace, having always lived in a world plagued by death and destruction.
And it is precisely a disastrous event to mark Glenn’s life: charged with the destruction of a very powerful magic stone in the hands of enemy forces, the mercenary manages to reach and fragment the artifact, but this leads to the tragic end of thousands and thousands of people, soldiers and civilians, within the radius of the thunderous – and mysterious – explosion that follows. Chained Echoes is brilliant in combining elements of classic fantasy, such as magic, with modern and avant-garde technologies, in the style of what has been seen in masterpieces of the caliber of Final Fantasy VII (here the review of Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion). It does so by keeping the players’ attention high with a plot marked by wars, betrayals and political intrigues, thanks also to a cast with real peaks of excellence in characterization: honorable mention for Sienna and Lenne, two convincing female characters in their motivations and memorable for the events in which they are protagonists. The choice to include extra members in the party on the occasion of particular secondary missions is courageous, then keeping them for the rest of the adventure: the likeable Tomke is indispensable, endowed with the power to eat enemies to absorb their abilities, just like Quina Quen in Final Fantasy IX. Including this mechanism, the player will feel even more enticed to carefully explore the world, to listen to the stories of its inhabitants and to lend a hand when they ask for help.
The plot moves on solid tracks, between twists and surprising characters who prove to be very different from their appearances, except for some isolated moments in which we found some dialogues forced or irrational particular choices. Nothing that could jeopardize the overall quality of the product, which remains very high and keeps everyone’s attention high the 25 hours needed to complete the adventurewithout taking into account the side missions and interesting endgame content.
Clever quests and challenging fights
Exploring all that Valandis has to offer – on foot or by mechawhich once unlocked revolutionize the navigation of the game world, just like the inevitable airship – Chained Echoes reaches and easily exceeds the total 40 hours. This happens without repetitive fetch quests, but with secondary content which, in terms of importance and in-depth analysis of the characters and the setting, can easily rival the missions aimed at completing the plot.
Well, Matthias’s visible talent also (and perhaps above all) lies in his respect for the player, of his time and his intelligence. We affirm this also for the happy management of the fights, never overabundant and with enemies always visible on the screen: Linda rejects, and with excellent reasons, the formula of random encounters, and introduces gameplay elements such as to avoid repetitiveness and to encourage the discovery and use of new techniques and skill.
Paradoxically, the fights are longer than those of many classic JRPGs, but they are also much less boring: this is thanks to the Overdrive and Overheatto be controlled during the battle and to be managed through the use of skills and attacks capable of moving the indicator to the right or to the left. The ideal is to stay in the centrein the green area of Overdrive, to have greater attack power and greater defense.
The actions must therefore be calculated and, to a certain extent, premeditated, exploiting the characters according to the type of their talents and replacing them when necessary. Changing the protagonists during the fight costs nothing and does not involve the loss of turns: in other words, the tandem between the warriors is not only simple, but also explicitly encouraged and often crucialespecially in more challenging battles.
A similar system – but with some variations on the theme – is also implemented when the mechas enter battle, characterized by different power levels that can be scaled according to need, with boosts and penalties that vary according to the situation. If the design of the characters and enemies is not always very inspired, it’s in the boss battles that Linda is at her besteven graphically. The mechas are also beautiful to see, available in different models and colors, equipped with skills totally in themselves.
Without introducing a leveling system, Chained Echoes keeps the customization of the fighters and the sense of progression high thanks to unique talents and the development of techniques through dedicated points, earned in combat, and Grimoire Shard, intended for learning new powers. All these elements make up an apparently simple system, but very layered in practiceand combine to make each warrior unrepeatable.
Art in motion
Valandis is a continent with a tormented and bloody history, but capable of offering wonderful views and treasures hidden in the most unthinkable places. From snow-capped mountains and tropical seas, through dark caves and seemingly peaceful valleys, the game world is diverse, colorful, graced by an always inspired pixel art. In other words, Chained Echoes does exactly what a JRPG with a strong exploratory vocation should do: offer the player an experience of discovery, hard to forget.
It is clear that within the framework of an overall high quality there are points of excellence and less brilliantly characterized places: the latter is above all the case of some of the initial locations, but the desire to reserve the most amazing settings for the second half of the adventure is understandable. All is accompanied by soundtrack by Eddie Marianukroh, capable of reminding us of the style adopted in the unforgettable Golden Sun series a few years ago. Some sore points come from the writing side. We played the English version of the title: there is currently no Italian translation, but we are confident that the considerable success that Chained Echoes is achieving and the future publication of physical versions of the title will change things. Here, from the point of view of the English language there are several naiveties and expressions that are not exactly apt in certain contexts: the advice of a native speaker would have been useful in order to make the language of the protagonists more appropriate to the various game situations.
Nothing dramatic, it’s true, but the fact remains that the English of Chained Echoes – the language in which most users will find themselves playing it – is certainly inelegant and, in some cases, even unrealistic and out of place.
Chained EchoesNintendo Switch Analyzed VersionMatthias Linda and his collaborators sign the perfect title to close 2022 that has just ended, packing a hit that – we are sure – made the Christmas holidays unforgettable for many JRPG fans. True, Chained Echoes is a love letter to great classics from the 90s and early 2000s, but it’s also an adventure with a spirit that’s fiercely its own, unique and special. We sincerely hope that Linda decides to make Chained Echoes a saga and we believe that he will be able to treasure this experience and his (few) defects to create other equally memorable adventures in the future. Meanwhile, Chained Echoes is destined to become a new, great classic, entering the illustrious firmament to which it refers. The quality-quantity-price ratio is excellent, with forty hours of always new and surprising content and an entrance ticket costing €24.99, absolutely modest if compared to the characteristics of the product. If you then have a Game Pass subscription, keep in mind that Chained Echoes is available in the Microsoft service. Ultimately, Matthias Linda’s video game is a must for fans of the genre as well as for those who want to approach JRPGs in an accessible way, in the name of absolute excellence.