Rating : 8/10
A genre that I’ve dipped my toe in a few times with, I will admit that visual novels are an acquired taste. ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos is a visual novel, but is exclusively a virtual reality title. That gives it a lot more interactivity than your run-of-the-mill visual novel, as well as giving you full environments to explore. It’s also fully voiced in English, in case you don’t like reading.
A sequel to TOKYO CHRONOS, ALTDEUS actually takes place 200 years afterwards, so can be played on its own. The world was decimated by giant alien spheres called Meteoras, making the surface uninhabitable. Humanity has moved underground, making everything look nice thanks to augmented reality – dowdy, blank buildings become billboard-filled Tokyo with the press of a button.
Of course, the Meteoras haven’t vanished; they make regular visits to Earth for unknown reasons. And so it’s up to Chloe, and the military organisation Prometheus, to protect humanity with 400-meter tall mechs called Makhia.
In between missions, you hang around your friend’s house reminiscing about her, as she was killed by a Meteora sometime before the events of the game. Or, of course, at work on the middle level of the facility, high above the human population.
Being a visual novel, you’ll spend most of the game listening to people talk, but there’s a fair bit of interactivity. When you’re on a mission to fight a Meteora, you’re given control of the weapons systems. An AI called Noa controls everything else, but it requires a human hand to activate the weapons, take hold of them and fire. You will also have to look around for items in a few places, but those aren’t the most difficult of things. Looking for a key? Try the only object in the room that is in colour.
Whenever you need to decide what Chloe says it will come up with a menu showing your options – it’s even explained in-game as Libra, a system to help people make choices. This comes into play with the multiple endings, and after my chunk of time playing ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos I still don’t have all of the achievements, so I’m not sure exactly how many there are. It’s easy to go back to make different choices thanks to the Ariadne system, which in-universe is a kind of time travel. It’s just sending you back to major parts of the story so that you can try to get a different outcome, but it’s effective.
There are some really nice touches in the game that you might not even notice. When people speak, the subtitles appear from their direction. If you’re looking around while someone’s talking, there are symbols on top of the subtitle box that show you which direction they are.
I haven’t played many story-based VR games, but it was a surprise when I looked down and saw breasts. As a cis male, I’m not used to seeing them when I look at “my” body, and most of the VR titles I’ve played don’t give you a body to even see. While playing through the first few hours, I was surprised to see them multiple times while looking around some of the great environments.
The graphics are really nice, though some of the textures for billboards – or the Makhia as seen through windows – look a little grainy. The character models are great, though, and everyone’s face is nice and expressive. The voice actors are really good, too, especially Asia Mattu as Julie, the mad scientist.
ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos, as I’ve mentioned, is a visual novel. That means it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste. However, if you’re in the mood to sit down and go through a well-written story that will take upwards of 10 hours, acted by a decent cast, then you’re in luck.
An enjoyable visual novel that really benefits from being in VR.
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