My Final Thoughts On Chained Echoes

I finished Chained Echoes last night (you can find my early thoughts here). I mean, I’ve still got a bit of post-game type stuff to do (unlocking the last two ultimate weapons, getting and upgrading some of the ultimate armors, etc), but I’m most of the way through that as well and only the final (extra) boss fight really appeals to me. Clearly, I didn’t need the fully upgraded ultimate everything to finish the game. I managed to figure out a system of abilitys and debilities in battle that has worked pretty well for me and I can now reliably put out enough damage while keeping my Damage Per Second anchors alive that I was able to get through the final plot boss fight fast enough that I think the game was struggling to do all the cool stages of the fight before I blew the boss away. I even tested it against a timed encounter that’s part of the “collect the macguffins to unlock the ultimate hidden boss fight” line of challenges that had been absolutely unbeatable only a few gaming hours earlier (I’d literally tried it before heading off to the final area where I got the ultimate armors and weapons and whatnot) and managed to end it faster than I thought was possible. I’m not sure I really need to do more of this kind of collection and gear imrpovement stuff before I take the hidden boss on, so I might try to bang that out tonight or this weekend.

Honestly, I still don’t think I’ve enjoyed a game since Breath of the Wild as much as I’ve enjoyed Chained Echoes. I mean, Kirby and The Forgotten Land was great, but half of my love for the game is built on nostalgia so there’s a bittersweet element to it. My love for Chained Echoes is built on nothing but itself. The story has been riveting, if not as unpredictable and twisting as the review I heard made it seem to be (though I’ve got a track record of seeing these things coming, so maybe that’s more of a me problem.). That said, I don’t have any complaints other than “I wasn’t really surprised,” which isn’t really a complaint so much as a statement of fact. The story was genuinely interesting enough that I didn’t need to be surprised to be eagerly awaiting every plot development, plus it was rewarding to figure it out as I played and then get all my suspicions confirmed. There is a lot of heart to this story and while it might seem (in the early parts of the game) like it doesn’t have much to say beyond the story pieces required for your average fantasy game, it winds up pulling all of the threads together into a relatively simple but heartfelt message the game emphasises right up to the moment the credits roll.

There was a part of me that wanted to dismiss the idea the game presented as naive or clichĂ©. It is difficult for me to embrace simple, straight-forward ideas sometimes because of the complex, difficult world we all live in, but not everything needs to be complex. Sometimes what seems like naivety is actually faith in the people around us and what seems like foolishness is actually hope being put into action. It was honestly difficult to see all of my thoughts and feelings about the game’s message get set up and taken down one after the other as the game made it clear that sometimes a simple, firm belief is all that you need when you back it up with the actions required to put that belief into practice. We do not see all the results of the actions the heroes take, since the game ends at a point where the main conflict is resolved but there are yet other conflicts on the horizon, but the game was ready for this as well. Rarely do I enjoy a game that wraps itself up so neatly, addressing every single one of its themes in not just the beats of the story and the characters’ arcs but in the way the story itself ends. It never once flinches from the story it is trying to tell, the points it is trying to make, and message the whole game is trying to send. I really wish I could talk more explicitly about the game and I’m sorry if none of this made any sense, but you really should play through the game so we can talk about it.

This is one of those games I wish I could go back and play all over again, without any of the knowledge I’ve gained from having already played it. I want to experience it again with fresh eyes. I might go back and play it again just for the fun of it, to see how the whole thing feels now that I know how it all plays out, but I’m going to wait a while before I do that. I want to sit with it a while longer and I’m not exactly eager to go from feeling like a total powerhouse to feeling like a weakling. I’d probably do a lot better the second time around, though, since I understand how the battle mechanics work now, which has more of an impact on combat results than the specific abilities I’ve unlocked. I recently had a map encounter with some mooks on my way to a boss fight and I almost lost the fight because I was careless, which mostly just proved that the only reason fights have been easy for me is because I’ve been addressing each fight as a serious, focused endeavor. Even some level-appropriate mooks can become an issue if you’re not careful. It might be fun to fight all my old battles again now that I understand the importance of layering buffs, debuffs, and abilities.

While playing through the game, I actually wound up turning my podcasts down a bit and my stereo up a bit. The sound design of the game hit that perfect level of being just noticeable enough to enjoy when I was getting amped up in a tough fight or dramatic moment but also just subtle enough that it would fade out of my attention when I’ve spent twenty minutes running around a section of the map looking for the one chest I know is somewhere on the screen but can’t locate. That, mixed in with the fun puzzles and events required to force some of the unique monsters to show up, the massive array of challenges (that I’m SO CLOSE to being 100% done with), and the beautiful and varied environments of the game’s world, makes this one heck of a masterpiece. Nothing went to waste in this game and every single minute of my play time was rewarding, informative, or enriching. No other game I’ve played in years has been both this consistently fun to play and as impactful as this game has been. I’m not about to go rewrite my personal philosphies, nor am I seeing the world in a whole new light, but I am considering that maybe I’ve become too jaded to appreciate the somewhat simple but nevertheless true feelings and thoughts I have about the world and people around me.

As loathe as I am to assign numerical values to a game, I feel incredibly tempted to provide this game with a perfect score. For very different reasons than most other games I’ve enjoyed this much, as this one was not only a delight to play, but it kept itself conscise. It didn’t linger over any developments or events longer than they deserved. It kept itself moving and avoided a lot of the “dock a couple points” pitfalls of most similar games. I genuinely can’t think of a single moment that I didn’t enjoy that wasn’t my own damn fault for insisting I take on enemies I’m clearly not supposed to battle until much later in the game. I recognize that this is my opinion and a lot of my raving about this game can be chalked up to it being exactly my shit, but I think the game is strong enough to stand up to the scrutiny of anyone who enjoys RPGs. I suggest you give it a try.

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