Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder by developer and publisher Square Weasel Studio is not your average fantasy adventure. Open this software and you are immediately confronted by a stark warning:
“The game includes descriptions of sexual themes, violence, blood, physical and mental abuse, self harm, death, and suicide. Characters are going through emotional struggle and are dealing with a life threatening situation. If you are sensitive to some of this content please proceed with care. Recommended to a mature audience.“
They aren’t kidding. The first time I played, I clicked past the warning with a jaded ‘yeah, whatever’. Shortly thereafter, I messaged my editor in shock: “I….lasted 16 minutes. And died. To a magic knife with a living eyeball in the handle that took over my hand and made me stab myself. I, uh, I was not prepared for this game.”
Don’t be like me. If there are things mentioned in that warning that you’re not prepared to deal with, this is not a game you want to open.
With that out of the way, let’s get on with the review!
Chronicles is an absolutely gorgeous game, presented in a very text-heavy visual novel style that brought me back to childhood days reading choose-your-own-adventure novels. There is interaction to be had and choices to be made here, and the obvious path is not always the right one. The player takes the role of Vyn, one of two magi in a tower dealing with a magic ritual. Having awoken with no memory, you need to quickly gather what clues you can to guide you as you try to unravel the mysteries around you – starting with ‘why am I standing over here when I can clearly see myself over there at the same time?’.
Your inconstant companion in this journey is Ilar, another magi whose motivations, abilities and honesty are at times unclear. Even the relationship between the characters needs to be explored and discovered as you progress, if you truly want to understand what is going on. Keep in mind that this is a game for mature audiences, and that the developer saw fit to put a giant content warning out front, and you’ll be fine – right? Along that line is one of Chronicles most interesting assumptions that underpin the game: death happens, and sometimes it is the only way to learn. Don’t be discouraged when you find yourself in a bad end, just use the knowledge to make better (or at least different) choices the next time.
For being the first game out of the two-person team at Square Weasel Studios, Chronicles gets a lot of things right. Careful use of audio to enhance the scenes, limited splashes of colour in a mostly sepia-toned palette, and just enough timed decisions (where not choosing is in itself a choice) keep the player engaged and on their toes. Decision timers in particular really woke me up when I was indulging in ill-considered late night play sessions – from reading a few lazy paragraphs of text, suddenly I had to choose, and if I didn’t choose that was a choice too and it had its own consequences and !!! ….and now I was wide awake and giving things the attention they deserved. Nicely done, Square Weasel Studios, nicely done.
Normally I would be filling paragraphs here picking into the pros and cons of graphics, audio, gameplay choices and the foibles that make things not quite right. Chronicles is the first game that I’ve run into in a long time where that has become surprisingly hard – while I have criticized text-heavy games in the past for being too static and unengaging, Chronicles has managed to sidestep that here. While admittedly there is a lot to read, it unveils itself line by line in a manner that feels like it is being spoken, but yet is fast enough that it doesn’t frustrate faster readers.
The artwork too has managed to bypass beefs that I have expressed with previous titles – while the main body of the artwork in a given scene is often static, there are enough animated touches that the area feels alive where it needs to, and feels like enhancements on a static novel rather than a video recording of a PowerPoint presentation. Perhaps the only beef I have with the game is its name – every time I have to laboriously type out the whole thing during this review I wonder if I can just get away with calling it “Chronicles” again!
In summary, Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder is a gem of a visual novel, a real must-have for players who want a solid story with good presentation, and don’t mind the mature themes that come with that. That said, this is a visual novel first and foremost, so players looking for the latest action-adventure or D&D-derived isometric RPG won’t find it here.
The small team at Square Weasel Studios has delivered an understated hit of an interactive visual novel, and I highly recommend it for people interested in that style of gaming experience.Score: 9.5 / 10