Reviewing Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode I - Tides of Fate ~ Enhanced Edition has been a unique experience for me. Creeper was contacted by Kisareth Studios, the team responsible for the game. They asked if we'd be interested in downloading the game to play if we were to review it. This is a first for Empty Apartment and I was lucky enough to be the one to get the job!
When I think of Chronicles of a Dark Lord [from now on known as CoaDL] and what to compare it to, I immediately think of a few, very well known games; Final Fantasy IV. Phantasy Star II. Chrono Trigger. Growing up, these were some of my first RPGs and they will forever have a special pedastal in my hall of gaming history. To be able to compare a game that came out recently to those classics of old is extremely rare.
I had a few hiccups with the game, but don't take that the wrong way. I'm extremely critical of a game when I know it's up for review. I can assure you though, Kisareth Studios has made a gem here.
The story didn't grab my attention in the beginning. For some reason, it didn't feel special. Then it all settled in. I took a look at what was really going on. I said to myself, "Holy crap, I'm playing as a complete jerk-off! This main character is a total villain. AND HE IS MINE TO CONTROL."
CoaDL has a surprisingly deep and well-thought out story that I, frankly, don't want to give away here. My suggestion is to play the game and enjoy it like that.
The combat is extremely reminiscent of the previously mentioned titles. Classic, turn-based, strategy fighting. The controls are extremely simple on a keyboard, which keeps the game flowing smoothly. Never once did I question what I was about to press/just pressed [something I, unsurprisingly, do often]. If there is one thing I could hug the entirety of Kisareth Studios for, it's the simple menu layout. Easy to navigate, easy to understand.
There are side quests to pick up here and there, but they won't be handed to you. Talk to everyone. Do everything. The quests can offer some good stuff that you don't want to miss out on, but they can be easily missed if you're not vigilant.
The game does require some grinding. More grinding than I'd like to do in a game, but that's just my personal preference. Grinding isn't bad, it's just never been my thing. I get too impatient. But I have to remember...CoaDL is truly sticking to the classic RPG formula here, so grinding, while a tad annoying to me in particular, truly fits in this game.
The game doesn't hold your hand, which is always refreshing in this day and age. The player has to work to find their way around. Items are hidden everywhere and I've noticed that keeps me on my toes. I'm constantly looking at everything to find free items. The game has a real 'Hit 'A' on Everything' Syndrome, which started to get tiring after a while, but I realized finding items is definitely worth it. Exploring is rewarded and I love it.
One...nitpick [can't really call this a complaint] is that bosses don't have health bars. While it's a nice touch and adds to the difficulty, it can be super hard to tell which attacks are more effective than others.
The sprites and animations are great for a budget title. Everything is clear. There is no need to strain yourself over trying to recognize one sprite over another.
I love the various environments. The overworld map sends nostalgia waves down my spine and truly brings back even more memories of my favorite classics.
The hand-drawn portraits for characters are fantasic - little things like this show the developer's love.
The music is simply enchanting. Probably my overall favorite part of this game. I went into this totally expecting a 16-bit track, but no. Kisareth is apparently employing people with 'Master's Degrees in Genius' to do their music. I started the game and was greeted with a symphony of amazing sound that just surprised the crap out of me.
The sound effects are kind of overshadowed by the soundtrack, but they are in no way bad. They're just kind of...there.
Chronicles of a Dark Lord shows dedication to quality games. There is attention to detail and love for the game is very apparent. Kisareth Studios is on to something great and I highly anticipate the next installment of the series.
I highly suggest anybody looking for a deep and unique story framed in classic-inspired genius get Chronicles of a Dark Lord. Some may say that this game is riding on large nostalgia waves into success and I can see how they could use that argumet. I say the game is just downright solid. Either way, why is nostalgia a bad thing if it's enjoyable?
---Tyrannikos ~ Contributor