Welcome to CrossWorlds, a full dive MMORPG that blends real environments with virtual reality gameplay. The environment takes place on a moon that has been strictly dedicated to the game, allowing for a unique blend of actual physical environments with virtual reality players. Player Avatars and other constructs are made out of instant matter, which is a substance found on this moon which makes the construction of this game even possible. Sounds interesting right? Something you’d definitely like to play? Well, you’re in luck, this is our CrossCode review!
CrossCode is a retro-inspired 16-bit action RPG set in the distant future. You control a character named Lea, and will spend the vast majority of your time playing in the world of CrossWorlds, a full dive VR MMORPG. Yes, you’re playing a game where you’re playing a game. At its core, CrossCode is a straight up retro take on the action RPG genre. It combines fluid action combat with Zelda-esque puzzles to solve. I’ll be honest, I never heard of CrossCode before until very recently. As an RPG fan, I am thankful to have found it when I did. I grew up playing 8 and 16-bit RPGs, it was a staple of my life. To see a company like Radical Fish bring back that feeling of nostalgia and do it in a way that is actually very fun, but very refreshing is simply astounding to me. There are a lot of companies that try that, not many succeed. Sure, the games are okay, but it’s different. They’re typically banking on just nostalgia to make sells, CrossCode goes well beyond that. The game is genuinely fun to play.
Does the MMORPG Game inside a Game work?
Yes, to put it bluntly, it does. When I read that the game was set within an MMORPG universe, my interest instantly piqued. I am extremely surprised more companies haven’t taken this approach to storytelling. Many of us love a good RPG, many of us also enjoy a good MMORPG. Combining the two into a single player game is a unique way to tell a story if it succeeds. I admit, this is can be a big gamble, you’re basically writing two stories and mashing them together. If they don’t flow together well it can flop easily. I’m proud to say that Radical Fish took that idea and made it a reality. You control a character named Lea within an MMORPG setting. Everything you do is through the MMORPG game, you have no interaction outside of the game. I think maybe this is the reason the story works, little to no interaction with the character outside of the game. The story itself can be confusing, I will admit, but the gameplay mechanics are on point. You have traditional quests as you would have in an MMORPG, you’ve got a party system and even a guild (even if scripted into the plot). The world is full of NPCs and other players running around doing their own thing. It really makes you feel like you’re inside an MMORPG and not just playing a singleplayer game.
The Story, or lack thereof
Maybe that heading is a little harsh or misleading. The story is there, it’s definitely there. It’s also good, it can just be a little confusing at times. Your character Lea has amnesia. If you started watching the game on twitch, for example, you’d be lost almost immediately and with no real hope to catch up. Even following the story from start to finish can leave you scratching your head at times. Your character has no memories, you don’t know how you even got into the game, to begin with. Sure, you know what happened leading up to “waking up” inside the game world, but it never really shows you what really happened. So at points, you’re simply wondering what exactly the point is. You’re basically playing the MMORPG at this point. CrossWorlds has its own story, wherein you play a Seeker looking to unlock the mysteries of the world and defeat the monsters causing problems…basically. The real story of CrossCode involves you working your way through the MMORPG alongside your new friend Emilie in hopes to regain your memories. When you “log off” for the night, you don’t wake up in a body outside of the world. Instead, you see visions, dreams that are sometimes very hard to make out. Some you can move around in, slowly regaining the memories and unlocking more detail about the story.
The story is there if you’re looking. I can foresee a lot of players totally ignoring it though, opting to just play the game as it is not really caring a lot about the true goal of the game. Which actually works to be honest. The general story, the dialogue, and the MMORPG setting just work and flow together nicely. Even without a real main story, you’ve got plenty to take your mind away from the fact.
Combat is either a selling point or a hard turnoff to some players. Let me state right away that this is not a turn based game. It is very action oriented and heavily focused on. It works extremely well and I have no complains over it. The flow of combat is on point. You can seamlessly switch elements on the fire and go right into combos very easily, even on keyboard and mouse. Blocking and attacking are simple and not overly complicated, and the combo system is fairly simple to understand. Combos come from your circuit board, which is your skill tree. You have many paths to choose from, and can swap the branch you choose easily enough, allowing you to swap to a different combo if you don’t like the one you just chose. In general, combat is fun and fluid, it simply works, and is one of the defining characteristics of the game.
Let’s not fool ourselves, there’s a lot to do in this game. You’re playing within an MMORPG, that means quests, and lots of them. You can get quests from random NPCs such as an Ice cream vendor. There are enough of them to keep you busy while also ensuring your level is sufficient for the next area.
Aside from quests, you’ve got your typical lineup of RPG mechanics. Stats play a role, though you cannot alter them. Equipment comes with stats associated with them, allowing you to customize your character to your play style. While being able to allocate stats manually is preferable, this system still works to the benefit of the game. It prevents you from being absolutely overpowered or underpowered simply due to stat allocation one way or another.
Because it combines traditional RPG elements with action and zelda-esque puzzles, you’ve got a lot of gear to choose from. Not only from drops and quest rewards, but crafting them as well. Yes, there is a crafting system in CrossCode, albeit very simple and limited. You bring materials to a vendor which turns those materials into other materials. You then take those materials over to the vendor that has the recipe to make the item you’re wanting to craft. Each town has vendors that offer a select few recipes to craft. While limited, it adds an extra feature to the game that I can say has taken far too many hours of my time so far. Instead of rushing ahead, I actually cared enough to sit back and farm materials just to make some gear. I don’t particularly enjoy farming like that, but I’m glad I had the option to do so. The equipment generally offered by crafting is typically better by a fair margin than the vendor sold equipment. With items not dropping very often, you’re hard pressed to find better.
Don’t expect a traditional turn-based combat system, this is an action combat game. You will be dashing around and blocking while trying to get hits in to defeat the foe in front of you. Yes, there is a guard mode that allows you to block attacks. It’s limited to a number of hits and once it breaks it has a decent cooldown, so don’t expect to just hide behind the guard button. What really makes the game shine, combat wise, is the element system. Starting off you have no element power, you must rely solely on your physical ability. As you progress through the story inside CrossWorlds you unlock different elements: Heat, Cold, Shock, and Wave. You can guess by the name as to what these bring to the table. To progress through the story you are required to use these elements to your advantage. Take the first dungeon for example. There are areas in the dungeon that are blocked off with ice, requiring you to obtain Fire from inside the dungeon somehow to break through them. Whether that means using a torch to throw your balls through to burn the ice up, or unlocking the fire element. Each element plays a roll in a puzzle. To get through dungeons you have to use your head and think about what each of the elements do and how they affect the current situation. It truly makes you think about these puzzles, it really brings back memories of the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. Several times in my initial playthrough I got stuck for hours on end. CrossCode is no exception, I have had to sit many a time to just sit and think about how I was going to get Fire across the way when everything is blocked, only to realize I needed to use Cold first to freeze objects so my fire can bounce off of them. These puzzles aren’t easy!
There is a party and guild system in the game. This was a nice touch to the game. These two features are basically here for immersion only. You cannot really do much with the guild aside from talking to them. There is a guild raid, but its not really what I would call a “guild raid” in any sense of the meaning we all know. It’s more just another dungeon to go around with your party to defeat. The party system has it’s upsides and downsides. The upsides again is the immersion to help you feel like you’re inside an MMORPG. Then there’s the fact that you can have up to two additional characters in your party for a total of three: Lea, Emilie, and Toby. This increases your damage output overall but with some trade offs. Damage per is reduced per added character to the party. Solo you will deal more damage per hit, but in a part of three, you deal more damage overall. The reduction in damage is to counteract this a little, to prevent you from steam rolling over everything simply because you’re in a party. Experience is also decreased slightly with each additional party member. It has it’s trade offs, it’s generally up to you and the current situation as to whether you should bring them or not. I enjoy the idle banter, and the additional overall damage, so I always play with a full party if available.
Map design is pretty cool in regards to incorporating puzzles into each map. There are several hidden chests out in the wild for you to find, some you can even see, you just have to figure out how to get to them. This is where the awesome level design comes into play. Getting to a chest on one map may include backtracking to another area to jump up onto a ledge that leads into the other map. This opens a new path for you, allowing you to “parkour” your way towards the chest. The game is full of puzzles, some (like these) you don’t even realize are there.
Hardcore Parkour! Some puzzles involve simple parkour. You cannot jump in this game, therefore you use ledges to jump across to other ledges. This is what I call parkour, and you’ll be doing a lot of it to solve puzzles both inside of dungeons and in towns. I liked being able to jump onto the top of shop tents, running across them to get to another ledge, finding a chest to open. Seeing the chest and not understanding how to get to it, then finding out you can just jump on top of the tents was simply fun.
If you don’t go prepared, you will likely fail and hit a never ending brick wall of shame. Some of these bosses are hard and unforgiving. Much like most of the dungeon each boss has a puzzle associated with it. Which element breaks the shield? Which does the most damage? How do I get the boss to fall so I can actually damage it? It’s all a big puzzle, only one with a lot of damage flying your way with little cover to fend it off.
I really think the boss fights make the game shine. It really incorporates Zelda style boss encounters, with it’s awesome puzzles, with action combat. They’re quick, and can take many attempts before you’re successful. The only bit of advice I can give you is come prepared. Have healing items, have boost items, bring anything you can to help you. Also don’t be under-leveled. That helps.
The Beautiful World
CrossCode is a beautiful game. The 16-bit graphics are extremely pleasing to the eyes, and the musical score helps set the atmosphere. The attention to detail to ensure the game flows cohesively together using 16-bit graphics is really awesome. Going from the town into the wilderness it just flows perfectly to the point you actually forget you’re playing a retro-styled game. The game offers many different climates to play through. Staples like Grasslands, Deserts, and even Snowy mountains and forest. The design of each area really has a special touch. Climbing to the top of a mountain and looking out over the top to a gorgeous backdrop just because you can, it’s just one of the many simple pleasures the game has to offer. That’s not even taking the soundtrack into consideration. If you’re a fan of oldschool SNES era soundtracks, this will be right up your alley.
What’s more is each character has a personality. The developers took the time to animate those personalities to really brighten up the game. It helps with immersion too, even if it’s more of a comedy point. The dialogue between characters, and the smug looks from Lea, her shocked expressions, her lack of words, it all plays a part in making the game alive and beautiful. Overall the entire graphical development of the game is extremely pleasing and really works well for the game.
CrossCode is currently on sale on steam for $19.99. If you are a retro RPG fan, or just an RPG fan in general, this is a no brainer definite buy from me!