CrossCode [Early Access] Review: It’s Hard To Say No

Title: CrossCode [Early Access]

Developer: Radical Fish Games

Publisher: Deck13

Released For: Windows (PC)

DRM Versions Available      

Released On: May 15, 2015

MSRP: $19.99

Version Played: 5.1

Purchased Copy

 


CrossCode
is the worst possible game type that we’ve played in Early Access. Not because it’s a bad game. In fact, we not only like how it plays, but we like the concept, where we ‘think’ the story is going, the excellent enemy variety, the animations, the visuals, the control layout, etc. In fact, if this game was done, we might even consider it to be one of the better indie role-playing games we’ve played. There’s just one problem, one small, yet gigantic problem that stops us from recommending CrossCode in its current state; you can’t finish the game.

Before we continue and get extreme levels of hate, please READ THIS POST to understand how we review games in Early Access that charge full price. To explain, here’s a small quote:

 

“When we review early access games or anything that is under that guideline but charges people to play it, then we review it as a full product that’s done and in it’s final state….We review the game as we get them, and a game that charges us for a full experience is getting the privilege of a full-experience review. Once a game comes out of early access or beta, we may or may not give the game a second look/review.”

Understand? Good, let’s continue.

The game starts off playing as a character named ‘Shizuka’ who’s trying to rescue her brother. After failing to save her brother, the game starts up after not playing as Shizuka, but as Lea. Lea lost her memory, and wakes up in an MMO game on a ship heading towards the mainlands. Lea is told that she’s playing the game in hopes to regain her memory. She ends up however waking up a mute, and only learning certain words when they’re coded into her by a friend you talk to on the ship. After fighting an enemy who seems to know you and fighting the only actual boss in the game which could be described only as a giant mechanical crab, you emerge off the ship and begin your adventures. Well…after a tutorial ‘prologue’ section of course, that lasts 40 minutes…

Visually, it looks quite nice. CrossCode is a retro-inspired 2D action RPG set in the distant future, with 16bit style graphics (looks far more like 32bit style to be honest) and puzzle galore. The game uses a rich pallet of colors to bring out the decent looking bit art style, and everything looks well designed. We especially enjoyed the portrait faces of the characters. Specifically, Lea looks extremely detailed and we enjoyed the whole ‘mute’ aspect to her character. The world is both well designed so far, and well created. The developers compliment themselves on the fluid animation, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it certainly dose look quite nice. Everything has a nice style and design to it that makes everything feel more alive. It reminds us of a higher detail, action RPG version of Phantasy Star II. There’s 4 main areas so far, including Rookie Harbor, Autumn’s Rise, Bergen Trail, and Bergen Village.

The audio and sound is also well done. The soundtrack is well done so far, the audio library is small but well done, and it all feels like it fits into the universe quite well. As with Guardians of Orion, we think a larger soundtrack would better fit the game, and more sound bites would also be greatly appreciated.

The controls were also fairly okay. Controller is still the preferred choice, and both Xbox 360 controllers and our Xbox One controller had any problems. The keyboard controls were okay, but nothing ground breaking or great by any means. The keyboard controls are also rebindable, as well as the controller controls, and the game has plenty of options. There’s no visual options per se, but we didn’t expect any. With this type of art style, it’s hard to go downhill.

20160416152309_1

That being said, things could certainly be improved. For one, more meaningful side quests with longer length that aren’t just over glorified fetch quests need to exist, as the ones they have implemented now feel bland, and unmemorable. The other big thing is items. There is a very short variety of actual usable items, and while the idea that you can trade items for other items is cool, it’s annoying because those items serve no other purpose besides to trade for other items. It’s an over glorified crafting system essentially, except you can only craft things. You also have no option to sell items or armor, at all. Spelling errors and grammatical errors are also abundant.

As for the game itself, it’s entertaining enough so far. We have a really big soft spot for 2D RPGs, especially ones that remind us of Phantasy Star, which is a personal favorite genre of the founder of the website. The game is at its heart a really pretty, but basic A-RPG with some interesting elements and nice visuals. Gameplay wise, it doesn’t do too much outside of other A-RPGs. It has a skill system which allows you choose from a limited number of perks, you get perk points when you level up, you get slightly more health when leveling up, etc. As for combat, you have either melee (blades) or shooting balls. You can get better melee weapons, but the only way you can improve your shooting balls are to put those perk points into those skills, but there are few that actually directly affect your ball throwing skills. You also have special attacks for both melee and the shooting of balls that requires you to use up SP. There’s also a fast travel system to certain locations, which is a nice touch, and a party system allowing you to party up with certain characters, however there’s only one currently you can party up with. Again, fairly standard stuff for A-RPG games, and while CrossCode does it all well and in a really nice, stylized manner, it’s clear it’s missing content. A lot of content actually. Not just a lot of content, you actually can’t finish the game….

Ya, kind of a big oversight.

So far, they have roughly 2 chapters of the game done, and (based on the menu inside the encyclopedia) there’s room on that menu for at least 8 chapters, but we couldn’t figure how many chapters they’ll exactly have. Because of this (remember our rules for Early Access now) we can’t give the game a good review and recommend it to consumers. At least, not in the current state it’s in. Trust us, we want to suggest this game to consumers, we really do! However, in the current state it’s in, we can’t in good faith do that. It’s not done, and doesn’t feel finished, and they seem to focusing far too heavily on minor details while doing nothing to hammer out the bigger and more important elements of the game. Just like Secrets of Grindia, it has to go into the large pile of ‘Those early access games that we really like the concept of and enjoy so far but can’t suggest because they’re not done.’

It’s not just that it doesn’t feel complete, but it literally can’t be completed. It more or less just ends with a message telling you where they’re at in development. Don’t get us wrong, that’s great that you’re constantly posting updates, but updates aren’t the game, and it’s difficult for us to review a game that’s possibly not even 1/3 of the way completed. If the lands were at least done and the story part at least completed, then we could at the very least review the game based on those elements. However, we don’t have those to review, and all we’ve been given are some really pretty visuals, great music, some standard A-RPG elements, and really generic side quests. It’s a fun game for what we have of it, but the rest of it isn’t there, and while the story starts off well, for all we know it could end with everyone in banana costumes singing the song ‘Trying Everything’ while watching Zootopia. We don’t care if they ‘promise they’ll finish it’, because the consumer can’t play a promise, and we can only speculate what the promise is unless they follow through on it. However until then, it’s a promise costing the consumer $19.99. And reportedly the game first started in 2013-2014, and they still have at least 60% of a game to complete, and the game is suggested to release in 2017. This not only makes us nervous about the release date of completion, but nervous about them either;

  • Rushing to try and finish the game before quarter 2 of 2017
  • Or not finishing it all


From their own website:

“Development of CrossCode started back in 2011 as a small experiment with the impact.js HTML5 game engine. The project quickly evolved into something serious as Team Radical Fish Games was formed so that several people could joint forces to push development. At the end of 2012, we released the first TechDemo (shortly followed by the TechDemo++). On Nov 30, 2014, we released the first Demo with a higher focus on RPG-featyres and content. On Feb 25, 2015, we started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to fund further development. Since then we continously release small updates for the current demo version…”

 

Overall, there’s a lot of promise to the game, and they’re on the right path towards a great game and we really enjoyed what of the game that there was, but we can’t in good thought suggest the game in its incomplete state. This would be different if we could at least finish the game, but we can’t. There’s a lot of great elements here, and we hope they continue, but as it stands, it’s simply not worth $20.00. We bet it will be when it’s released, but it’s simply not worth it as is. Wait until release, and we’ll see if their rapture holds water.

Please ignore the score as is, as it’s hard to review a game that doesn’t even have it’s main components done.

 

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Urinstein
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Urinstein

I think lachsen has made clear on Steam why he thinks their course of action is the right one in this specific case. But I do wonder how you would review a game that actually does what you are asking for. Let’s say a roguelike or survival/sandbox game consists of all accessible areas however in a rather raw/unpolished state without any variety in enemy types. The gameplay is barebones and lacks both polish and features. The only possible conclusion, when reviewing such a game the way you did this one, is: “It’s a bad game, we cannot recommend it just… Read more »

LostReaction
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LostReaction

I completely agree with how painful it is that the story isn’t finished. This game is such a tease considering how polished it is for an early access title!

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