JRPGs create a certain kind of feeling when it comes to questing. While most big-name games talk of a singular hero saving the day, JRPGs almost always follow a group of heroes. Yes, there’s usually a main character who’s dubbed “most important,” but they usually meet others who join and help them defeat the game’s ultimate evil. If it’s a good journey, you come to know each character for who they are and want to watch them succeed. Developer Guld attempts to add their cast to the story-driven RPG roster with The Last Chronomancer. A time traveler crosses the ages to unite heroes in order to stop a great evil. With a demo ready to play, we get to experience the introduction to this growing story.
What Time Is It?
The usual formula for RPG stories is that there’s a world-ending evil and a hero must rise up to defeat it. Sometimes the hero is a descendant of someone important, or they’re just in the right place at the right time, or some other classic scenario. Chronomancer presents its heroes as Chosen Ones, but there are actually six such heroes. A time-traveling being known as the Chronomancer glimpses into the future and sees a coming calamity. In order to stop it, she learns that she must find several heroes who together can find the power to stop it. After traveling to one of their timelines, she assembles the party and they begin their quest. Gathering a bunch of folks to save time and space is a solid premise.
The Best Time of Day
Time feels different for everyone, and each day may be good for some or bad for others. One thing for sure is that everyone has favorite times of day for varying reasons. The Last Chronomancer has those times throughout the day that is its demo. The first is the aesthetic. The character and enemy models are quite smooth and clean. For how small the sprites may appear, they all have enough detail to tell them apart from each other. There’s also a fair amount of SFX that mainly appear in combat. Spells are vibrant and colorful while physical attacks are sharp and flashy. It feels good to land hits and hurts to take them.
The combat system is also nice. It uses the not-unfamiliar but still uncommon row layout. To put it simply, both the player and enemy teams have a front and back row on the battlefield. Those in front are most vulnerable, but they’re free to dish out physical damage and protect the back row. Those in back are more protected, but are limited to ranged attacks such as magic. You need to make the best of each character’s stats in combination with their position in battle. Some are obviously more suited to the front or back, but each character has the potential to be useful no matter their position.
Then there’s the sheer scale of the game. Even though this is only the demo, Chronomancer has a lot to show off. There are plenty of characters to play with, lots of battles to get a feel for your lineup, and big environments to explore. As the game grows, we’re likely to see an even larger world than what the demo teases.
Having A Bad Time
In the blink of eye, a great day can head downhill fast. It doesn’t take much to ruin good rhythm and The Last Chronomancer has some of these kinds of interruptions. One of them is the party size. As far as I can tell, you only get six characters for the whole game, and you can only take four into battle. It’s quite large in terms of a fighting force, but when there are two characters left in reserve, it feels limiting. Plenty of other games have only three to four party members in battle, but those games usually have many more characters to pick and choose. Here you only get six, and there’s no discernible reason why you can’t use them all. The two-by-two formation looks odd as well, and it’s even more baffling when enemies can freely have more on their side than yours.
Another issue is the misleading title. It definitely sounds grand and fantastical, but it’s all on the surface. The Chronomancer appears as a character in the game, though she is limited to narrative sequences. She’s essentially a “turn the page” kind of character who simply keeps the plot going. However, considering how powerful she appears and her importance, it’s a real shame that you can’t control her in a more interesting way. She barely interacts with the heroes and doesn’t seem to help them in battle. Considering that she’s the only one who sees this universe-ending catastrophe coming, you’d think she’d want to have a more hands-on role.
Oh, but we can’t forget the characters themselves. Even though this is a game about gathering heroes from across time, all them seem to come from the same time. They’re all distinct in appearance and they’re also from a standard medieval fantasy setting. What’s even more confusing is that each hero is shown having a different timeline. I chose one at random and within about 20 minutes, the hero I was following ran into the others and boom, full party. The Last Chronomancer could learn from Chrono Trigger with its time-travel storyline recruiting party members from different time periods.
Maybe Next Time…
In a nutshell, The Last Chronomancer is an upcoming RPG about a time-wizard who gathers a bunch of heroes to stop a time-breaking event. It looks nice thanks to its smooth retro visuals, and it features a combat system that’s more engaging than you may anticipate. There are some narrative issues to be found, and the overall lack of variety seems to drag the experience down. Stiil, both RPGs and JRPGs tend to have lots of content and huge expansive worlds. The Last Chronomancer demo definitely feels like it’s building up to something grand with the few glimpses it shows. With someone like a Chronomancer on board, there’s more than enough time to fix it up. To check the game out for yourself, download The Last Chronomancer demo on Itch.io.