Developer: Radical Fish Games
Genre: 2D Action RPG
Available On: Linux, macOS, Windows
Official Site: https://www.cross-code.com/en/home
Release Date: September 20th, 2018
Where to Buy it: Steam
Radical Fish Games have not done themselves justice with their attempts to harbor more coverage of CrossCode. It says a lot that I, an invested games critic who follows the industry closely, more or less completely missed this release back in September. When offered the chance to review CrossCode I didn’t initially expect all that much from this SNES inspired action RPG. What I’ve ended up playing through though should have been an unmistakably potential game of the year for 2018.
CrossCode’s plot revolves around Lea, an amnesiac woman who is using hit MMO CrossWorlds to help regain her memory. CrossWorlds is unique as whilst it’s an MMO game, it also takes place in the real world. A small moon called Shadoon has been reserved as the physical space for CrossWorlds. Remote players use physical avatars to exist and play CrossWorlds on this moon. The plot behind CrossWorlds is that you have to traverse through several alien temples to recover lost technology but the actual plot of CrossCode instead focuses on our protagonist. I won’t go into details here as CrossCode is very plot heavy but long story short, it’s a good narrative to get invested in.
One of the biggest surprises of all is just how complete a package CrossCode is. If you plan to do even a fair amount of the side content, you can easily expect a 50-hour plus playthrough. The first proper dungeon alone, ‘Temple Mine’, took me over an hour to get through even with light guide usage for the couple spots I got stuck at. Turns out I’m not as MLG pro as I’d like to think. I’ve read about that the developers initially only intended for CrossCode to be around 10 hours long. What on Earth happened then? A flash of pure inspiration must have hit them because they went well and beyond that.
The world is simply beautiful. I’m not just referencing the gorgeous 16-bit environments when I say that either. The scale of the primary continent CrossCode takes place on is really impressive. Whilst there is a fast travel system in place, traversing from one area to another can often feel more enjoyable. We aren’t talking about Bethesda’s definition of open-world, plagued with empty areas and repetitive content. Every area feels unique. Everywhere links together seamlessly. It feels real which is pretty amusing considering CrossCode’s isekai theme.
There are NPCs everywhere too. You can tell Radical Fish Games have done their best at creating a true MMO environment whilst obviously still remaining a single-player game. It reminds me of what Idea Factory tried to do with Cyberdimension Neptunia but here it’s executed far better. Character interactions are both full of personality and come off as very natural.
Small conversations take place between random NPCs that didn’t necessarily have to be added. Also, when you add characters to your party they often comment on your surroundings or things that are happening around you. These kinds of features can come off as feeling a little strange and unnecessary when not implemented well but there’s no sign of that here. Instead, these little touches go a long way to immersing you into the world. With how fluent the overall experience feels, it’s easy to forget you’re not actually playing an MMO at times.
Whilst impressive content-wise, the dungeons of CrossCode can feel a little oppressive. A fine line exists when trying to deliver a satisfying journey to an end goal. When you exceed this what you get is a tiresome grind. I wouldn’t go as far to say CrossCode’s dungeons ever get truly tiresome but completing them can feel a little much. You have to go through tons of puzzles and several floors. Collect keys to unlock more floors. Do more puzzles with a sprinkle of combat thrown in then and there. I imagine the developers were simply trying to channel their passion into this project they fell in love with, but CrossCode would have benefited from all that content being split up more. It’s just too dense.
Mechanically speaking, CrossCode is perfectly competent but nothing specifically stood out to me. It all feels very fluent, works extremely well on both controller and keyboard alike but there are many other titles that perform just as well in this regard. On the bright side, since they’re so capable there’s little reason to avoid this if its game mechanics you are looking for.
Thankfully, CrossCode avoids elitist and arbitrary difficulty implementation and remains accessible to all. The base game is a nice challenge for people like myself who are up for it but the assists sliders are a great feature. You can tweak values like what percentage of damage you take and how forgiving the puzzle timers are, suited to your personal preference. This is something all single player games should feature in truth. It lets you pick to either experience the game as a core, challenging RPG or a more relaxing, story-based title.
Perhaps there’s a little bias in me when I say this due to my love of character-focused games, but CrossCode is something special. The world building and characterization alone are enough to sell it for the crazy cheap price of just $19,99/£14.99. I managed to fall in love with Lea’s character even though she’s a mute who can only say a handful of words. To produce that level of attachment with practically no dialogue from the protagonist herself is awe-inspiring. As an industry critic, it’s not every day I say this but there’s a genuine argument to make that Radical Fish Games should actually have charged more for this brilliant package. Considering some of the absolute tripe I’ve stomached from the AAA industry, getting something this good for that cheap is extraordinary.
Perhaps I should expect nothing less though as Radical Fish Games have shown themselves to be nothing but pro-consumer. A quick skim through the Steam discussions will reveal an extremely active group of staff doing their best to reply to everyone. Over on their site too they show remarkable transparency, even giving open thoughts on the potential for a Nintendo Switch port down the line.
Verdict: I’m not sure how this slid under the radar so hard but make no mistake, CrossCode should have been a serious 2018 game of the year candidate. Radical Fish Games have effectively showcased a model development cycle by listening to consumer feedback, interacting with their community and releasing an outstanding title. Minor flaws aside, CrossCode is a special game that is completely worth your time and money. The developers should be proud of what they have made.
- A stunning world filled with meaningful things to do
- Tons of content, both the main story and side story wise.
- The visual homage to classic SNES titles should not be understated. CrossCode is drop dead gorgeous.
- I honestly can't remember when I last saw characterization this good. That alone is saying something.
- Very accessible. Reflective of the overall fantastic attitude to game development Radical Fish Games take.
- Dungeons are too just too long. It can feel like a real grind to get through them and not the good kind of grind.
- Some minor navigation issues. The art style can make it difficult to figure out where you can and can't go at times.