They say you’ll always remember your first, and I certainly remember mine. My first 10/10 score that is. CrossCode blew me away when I played it in 2020, with its exceptional premise and tricky dungeons I immediately fell in love with the pretend MMO. Deck13 are probably better known for games like Lords of the Fallen and The Surge than publishing phenomenal indie games, but it turns out they do both. And that looks to be continuing with Chained Echoes.
Developer Matthias Linda has clearly put a lot of love into this gorgeous 16-bit style JRPG over the last seven years. With incredible visuals and turn-based combat that looks anything but slow paced, it immediately grabbed my attention. Releasing next month, Chained Echoes is looking like the perfect way to round off a year of phenomenal games. I was lucky enough to interview Matthias in the run up to launch, and he his answers pretty much confirmed that this game is going to be a must play for fans of classic RPGs.
Lyle Carr: I adored the last game from your Publisher in these veins, CrossCode, but it was much more action oriented then Chained Echoes. What made you decide to create a turn-based game?
Matthias Linda: I know the devteam of CrossCode and in general we share a similar vision to be honest. We both picked certain games from the past and developed our own title in a way… hmm… how to explain that? So, what I did, I tried to create a game which looks and feels how I remember the games I grew up with. I did not try to recreate them but I tried to recreate them how I remembered them. And from what I know the CrossCode Team did the very same. Just that they grew up on more action oriented titles while I was always a fan of turn based RPGs.
LC: I was so glad to hear that random battles don’t exist in Chained Echoes. Was it always important to avoid this more dated design choice?
ML: There are games where random encounters do make sense. But – and that might sound a bit silly – there are story reasons why I didn’t go for them. Plus, back in the days, it was also most times a way to save resources. A technical reason why developers went for random encounters. Luckily times have changed.
LC: I’ve always been a huge fan of mechs, so I was delighted to see them in Chained Echoes. Did you take any inspiration from other mechs in video games or any other media?
ML: Oh I loved Xenogears. And I grew up in a time where kids played with robot action figures. And remember Power Rangers? Yes, they were bad but as a kid… Robots were always awesome and I wanted to have them in my game. Still. The main reason is Xenogears.
LC: Chained Echoes features combat on land and in these incredible hulking mechs, how does this combat differ?
ML: Oh snap. That’s the first time this question comes up. And I am sorry to let you down but I don’t want to spoil that. Of course, damage numbers are higher and some enemies can only be defeated in Sky Armors. But there is a twist with them I don’t want to spoil. What I can say is that players might be facing a new… variant of the combat system they’ve learned and mastered until then.
LC: You’ve discussed previously that Chained Echoes will have choices that impact the fate of the world. How much will these decisions affect different playthroughs?
ML: The choices are part of the story, so they will happen naturally. It is not a choice the player can actively take although it might feel like it. In the end, there is just one end for the game. When I started the development, I wanted to have choices with impacts on the story itself but decided against it at some point. I wanted to deliver a message. And that is pretty hard if not impossible if you have multiple endings.
LC: The world of Valandis seems very much rooted in a fantasy setting. What makes Valandis interesting?
ML: It is a mix of fantasy and steampunk. It is a world where lizardmen and goatlike characters are just a normal thing where they walk around. And no one cares. It is just a normal thing. A Utopia. But at the same time a Dystopia as war is always right around the corner.
LC: One of my favourite aspects of classic JRPGs are the optional mini games. You’ve mentioned there’s going to be some of these in Chained Echoes, could you give us a sneak peek of what to expect?
ML: I did not include too many mini games for the sake of having mini games. There is one specific part in the game where you have multiple ones. I can really recommend the turtle race. But besides that, the mini games usually became game mechanics to discover things in the world. Like digging for hidden loot.
LC: Chained Echoes very much looks to be a game for long time JRPG fans. Are there any systems in the game you think will particularly hook the genre veterans?
ML: I really hope they will enjoy the Overdrive system in the fights. It makes the fights fast paced and yet tactical. Besides that I really hope they will enjoy all the little details I’ve hidden everywhere and if they find specific references and played certain games, I hope they’ll sit there and just nod, happily.
LC: Finally, Chained Echoes is releasing next month. Is there anything else people should know about the game before it arrives very very soon?
ML: Yes. Besides some backgrounds I gave to outsourcers and the keyart for the game there is one thing I didn’t do on my own. The soundtrack. My composer, Eddie, he is a godlike master. So even if you hate JRPGs. Even if you hate pixelart. Even if you hate turn based combat. Even if you know Chained Echoes is not made for you. Check out the soundtrack. It is well worth it. I still can’t believe I was able to work with such an amazing talent. And after seven years I really hate playing through my own game by now. Don’t get me wrong. I love the game. But playtesting builds… I am happy that soon I don’t have to play through it anymore. But the soundtrack, I can still listen to it for hours.