Action RPG CrossCode‘s first hours have a lot to offer!
CrossCode is a recently-emergent indie project on IndieGoGo. Mixing story and visual design elements sure to be familiar to fans of .Hack or Kirbopher’s TOME series on YouTube, the game is set in a futuristic super-MMO setting. However, its story, combat, and overall design are actually those of an action RPG. As the project allocates funds on IndieGoGo, developer Radical Fish Games has released a demo on the game’s official website, to be either downloaded or played in-browser. Want to hear some impressions, and a basic idea of what to expect from the demo (and presumably the game as a whole)? Well you would be in luck, because that’s exactly what I’m here to do!
The demo opens right into the action, putting us in the shoes of a mysterious figure hellbent on a mission. She fights through some waves of enemies, working her way towards a strange old shrine where someone is awaiting her. Through non-intrusive dialogue boxes that progress on the side, we see the character and another person converse, and begin to get just enough semblance of what’s going on to make us want to progress; assuming, of course, that such a goal hadn’t already been accomplished via exposure to the games combat. We are introduced to movement, dodging, and some good old hack-n’-slashing as a fast but even pace.
After this high-velocity introduction, the focus changes we meet the game’s main character, Lea. Lea is mute, and not just in the “silent protagonist” style of Legend of Zelda and the like; no sir, Lea is quite literally mute. This is how we start to understand the pseudo-MMO nature of the world. CrossCode is set on a planet that plays host to both real life and “CrossWorlds”, an MMO where players from elsewhere in the stars control avatar bodies that are every bit as real as their owners. Lea is an avatar, controlled by a player with seemingly few memories of her history with the game. Unable to communicate by voice, and thoroughly confused about her own circumstances, Lea has been dragged into a scenario full of interesting characters – human and avatar alike – who players will get to know as they learn the ropes of the game.
Combat in CrossCode involves more than just the elements from the demo’s opening. Lea can move, dodge, and slice every bit as well as her mysterious introductory counterpart, but her most important feature is a different one altogether. Lea can fire balls of energy anywhere around her, aiming using a reticle controlled by the right stick and firing at the tap of a bumper. Normal shots will break apart upon impact with a target, but holding the reticle for longer will allow Lea to charge up a shot, which can produce both higher damage and a limited bounce effect.
Lea’s ball-shooting abilities tie in to what I was personally most pleasantly surprised with in CrossCode‘s demo; puzzle design. Not unlike a two-dimensional Portal or Quantum Conundrum in design philosophy, CrossCode‘s puzzles are simple at their core. Shoot your balls in the right way to hit the desired target, and you’re good as gold. How to get this simple task done, however, is where things get complicated. Within the scope of the demo, some puzzles require players to think about how to ricochet their shots, while others require different solutions altogether, like moving obstacles or hitting a switch with a quick series of shots. Considering that the demo opens with a heavy focus on combat, it’s nice to see its mechanics translate well into the space of puzzle design.
Combat itself incorporates the balls as well, fitting them in as the long-range counterpart to melee’s short range capabilities and creating a combat experience that pulls you in from the first moment. Battle is fast-paced and engaging, and insofar as the demo allows, never gets too complex for its own good. A full skill array rounds out the game, reminding us that it is still at least in part an RPG. Those wanting to spice up their strikes will gain access to four elements; heat, cold, shock and wave.
CrossCode‘s presentation isn’t exactly lacking, either. Rendered in detailed and colorful pixel art, everything stands out and glows enticingly. There was something magical about seeing a large-scale view of the world for the first time, like I was really looking at something with tons to offer. In certain areas, the heights of some objects may not be very clear, but are usually marked by color to indicate their order and height. Keeping track of your location within the perspective can be tricky do to the top-down nature of the game, but CrossCode doesn’t seem to suffer from it too badly.
CrossCode still has time left on IndieGoGo. Gamers interested in jacking in to an adventure in CrossWorlds can fund the project now, or visit the game’s official website to play the demo for themselves. CrossCode is currently set for a release on PC, with a hopeful expansion onto Wii U in the farther future. Until then, go marathon Code Lyoko for a while.