Let’s be honest, for a lot of us, it’s hard to want to support Blizzard right now. But all of that aside, I’ll also admit that as enjoyable as Diablo 2 was back in the day, I feel the remaster has stuck too much to old, frustrating “features” of the genre that other, newer games have moved on from to provide better quality of life to their experience.
And Chronicon is one such game. A mostly one man effort that creates one of the most enjoyable “Loot Action RPG” experiences I’ve ever had. More after the jump.
Genre: Loot Collecting Action RPG
GET IT HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/375480/Chronicon/
Chronicon is a game that, at its core, is about providing the most enjoyable, QoL driven Diablo style experience I’ve ever played. As usual, I will start off by assuming you know nothing about Diablo. Diablo more or less pioneered what I like to call the Loot Action RPG genre. An action RPG that is, at its core, about collecting randomized loot while strengthening your character in order to make a build strong enough to conquer the challenges that lie before you. You’ll find yourself re-challenging old haunts to try and get rare items from them, all in the name of becoming bigger and better, usually fighting hordes of monsters and some bosses in the process.
Chronicon took this core gameplay concept and loop, distilling and refining it until we have what I would argue is near perfection of the genre. It is, without a doubt, the most enjoyable experience I’ve had with any loot driven action RPG. What it lacks in the AAA level of production and visuals its competitors may bring, it more than makes up for in just being fun and satisfying to play. But I’m hardly going to leave things at that, of course, what kind of review would this be if I did? So, let’s start out with what you’re getting into:
The concept and story of Chronicon is somewhat different, and I’ll admit, a little odd. While I don’t consider Chronicon a game you come into for the story, it would be unfair to completely ignore it. In the world of Chronicon, there’s just…No more evils to be slain. No challenges to be overcome. Every great evil has been destroyed. Every race is at peace. There’s no war, no strife, just…Peace. Someone decided that in order to break the monotony, and to pay respect to those who made this ideal world possible, they should create a way to let people re-live the battles heroes fought to bring this world into being: That method being the Chronicon. The Chronicon is a magical construct that allows people to enter the memories of the heroes of old, re-living their battles and experiences. And you’re one of the lucky few who got chosen this year to participate. And so, throughout the course of five acts, you’ll fight through the history of the storied heroes of old, overcoming the challenges they faced, ultimately leading up to the confrontation that truly brought an end to the evils that plagued the world.
Like I said, it’s certainly different for a concept. And the five acts that make up Chronicon certainly won’t come off as anything particularly new or original, as they check off various Fantasy RPG checkboxes. But at the end of the day, the story of Chronicon comes second to its very significant first: The gameplay.
Like most RPGs of this genre, you’ll have several character classes to chose from: The Templar who wields holy power to aid allies and smite foes alike, the Warden who can fight afar with archery or the forces of nature itself, the Berserker who overwhelms their enemies with brute strength, or the Warlock who calls upon the forces of the arcane to obliterate their foes with magic. Each of these classes has multiple skill trees that drastically change how they play, with each having its own focus on a particular element such as fire, ice, physical, and soforth, and you’ll be able to mix and match abilities from different trees to build your character. On top of this are Masteries, which are a separate EXP bar from your character level, but are gained alongside your normal levels. Most games that use a system like this wait until you level cap to offer you its “infinite progression” form of upgrades. Chronicon sees fit to let you have these alongside your normal level ups, giving you further character customization and progression, with several Masteries tying into one of your skill trees, alongside several universal Masteries that benefit any build type. I welcome this, as it gives you a chance to use and understand Masteries without having to hit the game’s level cap, and in turn give you far more customization in your build. And you’ll definitely feel like you’re getting stronger, as you may start out only killing enemies one by one, but by the level cap, you’ll be murdering enemies by the hundreds with relative ease.
Once you pick your class and get your initial story briefing from the Chronicon’s master of trials, you’ll be off to your first task: Cleansing a haunted monastery of evil. Each act consists of fighting your way through hordes of monsters while tackling a variety of main and side quests found throughout each act. Each act has numerous bosses to fight as well, with a big boss at the end of each act, and plenty beforehand as well. And so, every act does admittedly come down to the same thing at the end: Advance its main quest, do the sidequests for extra rewards, and kill the boss at the end. Admittedly, how most RPGs of this type play. But again, it’s the QoL aspects that make this experience so good, and what I intend to touch on now.
So, it’s time to talk about the QoL that sets Chronicon apart from the rest of its ARPG brethren. And boy is there a lot to talk about. First and foremost: Respecs! In Chronicon, you can freely refund your skill trees at the Master of Trials, meaning you can try a new build whenever it suits your fancy. No costs. No resources. You can just go “I want to change things up” and be done with it. And on top of that, you can save build presets so that you don’t need to manually re-allocate your points should you desire to return to an old build. Thus, experimentation and wanting to try new things is smiled upon, with no extra work being forced your way if you want to try something new.
But it doesn’t end there. Because you will also collect various Essences that play into the second major aspect of QoL: Loot enhancement and augmentation. In most RPGs of this type, you are always trying to go for the fabled “godroll.” Because it’s not enough to just get a legendary piece of loot: often you need that piece of loot to have a certain, exact set of bonuses that your build requires, meaning you may have to find the same item several times before you can have the perfect one you need, or you have to settle for a near perfect one. Chronicon doesn’t go like that. Chronicon is about making the “godroll” you long for. The vendors in the Chronicon don’t just provide items for you to buy, but can also use special essences you pick up through your adventures to modify and enhance your gear. These services include being able to re-roll the bonuses your gear has, changing one out for another. And once you have bonuses you like, you can Augment them to make them stronger, locking them from being re-rolled again. This augmentation is per ability slot, meaning you can lock in bonuses you want as you get them, re-rolling the rest until they are also what you want, at which point you augment them. And through augmentation, you can upgrade effects to the highest possible roll they can be assigned when found randomly, meaning you can turn an item with bad abilities into good ones. And since you’re constantly finding the various essences you need to do this, finding the item you want paves the way for a sense of progression as you upgrade and fine tune it to fit your build. Gone is the frustration of having to repeatedly find the same legendary drop. The re-roll and augment systems instead give you a sense of progression by letting you gradually upgrade your gear into the perfect, ideal forms you desire.
At the end of the day, this focus on having a tangible sense of progression through enhancing your equipment gives Chronicon a feeling of reward and progress most other loot RPGs lack. Often you may have some ways to improve your gear or re-roll it, but never have I seen a game that provides this level of control. And that makes its endgame far more enjoyable. After you finish the main story, you have the option to challenge Anomalies: Randomly generated dungeons of infinitely increasing difficulty. And as they get tougher, you’ll need to further improve your build and equipment to overcome them. Which, given how gear enhancement works in this game, feels like an actual form of progression rather than trying to get the same piece over and over again and hoping it has what you want on it. You’ll always feel like you’re getting stronger as you squeeze more power out of your gear, and delve into deeper Anomalies to challenge it with, creating the perfect endgame loop: Do an Anomaly, get stronger, do a tougher Anomaly.
There is one small thing I do have to fault Chronicon on, unfortunately. And for many, it may be a dealbreaker. The game lacks any form of online co-op, only allowing for local co-op play. The game does support Steam’s Remote play Together feature however, so those with good connections can still play co-op using this feature. That said, everyone is going to need gamepads for this mode, so Keyboard+Mouse folks may not be as keen on it. I however love the controller support, as someone who prefers to kick back in a chair and use a gamepad instead of having my arms stretched out over said KB+M setup. But that said, if you’re here for online co-op loot fests, it may not be what you’re hoping for. But as a local co-op looter, it’s absolutely fantastic. And obviously just as fun even if you’re solo. It’s how great the QoL in this game is that makes me recommend it, even if you are a solo player. No other Loot ARPG offers the level of satisfaction Chronicon does, letting you truly make the “perfect” build with minimal frustration, by giving you the tools to fully customize not only your character, but every piece of gear they use.
When you consider the majority of Chronicon’s work aside from the music is a single man’s efforts, it’s hard not to respect what went into this game. And thus, it’s easy for me to give Chronicon a recommendation. If you like Diablo style games? You owe it to yourself to play this one.