The best RPGs don’t always have to come from studios like Square Enix, Atlus, or Monolith Soft. Sometimes, they can come from indie developers – or, in the case of Chained Echoes, a solo indie developer. Whilst it’s a game I had been keeping my eye on for some time, I didn’t expect to love Chained Echoes quite as much as I did. This is old-school RPG action at its finest and a real treat for fans of the genre, with just about every aspect of the game flawlessly executed.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Chained Echoes tells the tale of the world of Valandis, which had found itself in a state of war between three separate kingdoms for many, many years. That conflict seemed to have subsided when a peace treaty was signed following a disastrous explosion that killed thousands, but with dark intentions always lingering in the background, there’s no certainty as to how long this truce will last.
Players take charge of a party that are tasked with preventing any threat to the peace re-emerging, with a colourful cast of heroes available to lead the fight against evil. One of those is Glenn, who is seemingly an ordinary mercenary, but actually bears the guilt of being one of those involved in accidentally causing that explosion that took so many lives. Then you have Lenne, who is born of nobility, but blends herself in with the city guard in order to embrace the lower lifestyle that she had never been a part of. There are also the likes of Robb who acts as a bodyguard to Lenne, and Sienna, whose thievery and tricks make her feel like the lovable rogue of the group, just to name a few.
The game brings with it an intriguing cast of characters and does a good job of highlighting each one by giving the player the opportunity to experience events from their perspective early on. A lot of RPGs give you the main protagonist and let you learn more about their allies along the way, but Chained Echoes lets you play as them and see what drives them forward. It helps players bond with each character early on, all whilst emphasising their importance in the grander scale of the plot. No-one feels tacked on for the sake of it, with each party member a significant cog in the machine.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, but I will say this: it’s brilliant. From start to end, everything about Chained Echoes’ narrative kept me fully invested in the tale, with the many twists, turns, and revelations genuinely feeling impactful and significant. There’s plenty of lore to be found in the narrative, but the game does a good job of exploring it all in a way that doesn’t feel tiresome; instead, players will be eager to learn more and understand how every piece of the puzzle falls into place. Add to that the genuinely likable cast of characters (as well as a few villains you’ll end up hating) and you’ll find it hard not to be completely engrossed in the game’s captivating story.
“Chained Echoes gets so many things right across its narrative, combat, and world design, but it also does so many little things that ensure the experience ALWAYS remains fun to the player.”
What’s equally engaging is the game’s combat. The core of it feels like your typical turn-based battling, with players following a turn order displayed in the top right of the screen to issue orders to their party. Each party member has their own variety of abilities to utilise, with their different strengths better suited for specific encounters. You’ll increase your party’s stats and get stronger as you progress, whilst upgrading your gear will make you more powerful too. So far, so RPG.
It’s the additional features that tie into combat that make it feel so unique and enjoyable, though. For one, there’s the Overdrive meter, which constantly fills up at the top of the screen as battles go on. When it’s in the green zone? Players will see a buff to their stats whilst the cost of performing certain abilities will go down. If the overdrive meter goes too high and into the red zone? You’ll take a hit to your stats instead, giving your enemies the advantage. Fortunately, players do have some control over it, with certain actions highlighted between turns that, when used, can bring the Overdrive meter down a little bit. It makes the whole system feel like a balancing act where the player can take advantage of the boosts that Overdrive offers, but also have to make sure that they play the system to their advantage to ensure they keep it under control. It might sound a little stressful, but it’s actually a really clever mechanic that brings more strategic flair to each showdown.
There’s also a character-switching mechanic in place where you can partner up one of your active party members with one of those in reserve, with players then able to switch these around in-combat during their turn. Again, this offers more strategic options to the player, with certain party members often better suited for specific encounters – being able to switch them in to battle (or take a weakened one out) means you can always take advantage of your party’s individual strengths.
Check out some screenshots down below:
There are so many different elements at play in combat that ensure it NEVER grows repetitive during the game’s meaty adventure. I haven’t even mentioned the Ultra Moves which your characters can use to unleash devastating attacks on enemies or provide miraculous buffs, whilst you even get access to mechs later in the game which completely change how battling feels. With a wonderful variety of enemies to face off against and some stellar boss encounters that force players to think a little differently to defeat them, it’s hard not to be left mighty impressed with Chained Echoes’ creative take on traditional turn-based battling.
Outside of combat, there’s a wide variety of vast and beautiful landscapes to explore, with Chained Echoes’ world full of wondrous sights and things to do. You’ll rarely find yourself lost when exploring, but there’s also plenty of treasure to discover or optional tasks to complete to keep yourself busy if you do decide to venture off the beaten path. Side quests are in abundance thanks to the game’s Reward Board which keeps track of the tasks you complete, whilst some of the set pieces found in certain areas diversify the traditional RPG gameplay by having players complete more unique tasks.
One of the best things about Chained Echoes is how it does a lot of little things to ensure the experience never gets frustrating for the player, with it clear that developer Matthias Linda has played PLENTY of RPGs to learn what sort of features are sought after. Full healing after every battle? You got it. Don’t like random battles? Good, there aren’t any. A fast-travel system that makes it easier to re-visit previous locales? Explore to your heart’s intent. Plenty of flexibility when improving your party’s stats and abilities? It’s there. Chained Echoes gets so many things right across its narrative, combat, and world design, but it also does so many little things that ensure the experience ALWAYS remains fun to the player. Add to that the brilliant pixel art and a wonderful soundtrack that fits the tone of the fantasy adventure perfectly, and it’ll become crystal clear why this is one of the best RPGs available right now.
Chained Echoes Review
Chained Echoes is an outstanding experience that tells a gripping story, offers brilliant battling, and features a beautiful world to explore. I was completely engrossed in the game from start to end, with the startling plot revelations and strategic action ensuring players ALWAYS have something impactful to invest themselves in. It’s insane to think that the ambition and scope of the title came from just one developer, but Mattias Linda really has produced one of the best modern RPGs that I’ve played.
Developer: Matthias Linda
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch