Altdeus: Beyond Chronos Review
Visual novels are a strange beast under normal circumstances. The introduction of virtual reality to the format is sure to, if nothing else, keep things fresh. In fact, Altdeus: Beyond Chronos could represent the future of visual novels, even if the vision is not yet fully realized. Whereas regular VNs can sometimes struggle with immersion, Beyond Chronos almost effortlessly draws in the audience. So long as you understand just what it is you’re getting into, you’re sure to be sucked into this fascinating story.
To be perfectly clear, that’s exactly what Beyond Chronos is: a story. While there are some game elements to interact with, this is a pure visual novel experience from start to finish. Keeping that in mind, I’ll try and be mindful of spoilers. On the other hand, this game is 100% story. So reading any further will inevitably detract from the purity of your own experience. Just know that, before you skip down to the score, that there are a couple issues that detracted from my own enjoyment of the narrative. But let’s talk about that narrative a little bit first.
Get In The Robot, Chloe
You experience Altdeus: Beyond Chronos from the direct perspective of Chloe, a Makhia pilot. Her job is to defend a fragile underground settlement of humans from the invading forces known as Meteoras. Your time is split between the cockpit, the settlement streets, and your base of operations. You’ve got choices at every turn, though they’re not always immediately obvious. The game is diligent about pushing the Libra choice system, to remind you that decisions are important. Which they are! Just not the ones brought up by Libra.
If you beat the game and found it a little on the short side, don’t worry! You are nowhere near the end of your journey. There are multiple endings to uncover, each of which is more insane than the last. I won’t get into the gritty details, but things escalate rather quickly. The actual story is utterly fascinating, though the delivery is a bit uneven from time to time. This is thanks to the voice acting, which ranges from excellent to baffling. I normally wouldn’t have even noticed, but there is no option for Japanese audio. That said, some of the performances are terrific!
Update: Immediately after publishing the review, we were contacted by the developer. It turns out I’m just a damn fool after all! There is in fact an option for Japanese audio, which comes as a huge relief to me. Now the prospect of going back and getting the rest of the endings I’m missing comes with the added zest of Japanese audio. If you’re the sort of hardcore nerd (like me!) who chooses subs over dubs every time, you can rest easy.
Even though this is a visual novel, there are a limited number of interactive moments peppered in. The mech combat sections make clever use of the motion controls, with you activating weapons arrays through holographic panels. The series of exaggerated movements required to fire up your main gun do an excellent job of putting you in the pilot’s seat without overwhelming you. The non-combat mechanics are just involved enough to keep you plugged into the story. The overall interactivity level for Beyond Chronos is actually a bit higher than you’d expect for most visual novel titles. But what about the immersion level?
Really Makes You Feel Like A Mech Pilot
Here’s where the VR factor is critical. Against all odds, the game’s virtual reality components both helped and hindered my immersion. The 360 visuals, the music selection, and the 3D audio dialogue all kept me glued to my seat. On the other hand, the only visible parts of your avatar are her hands and her boobs. That last part is exactly as distracting as you’d expect, by the way. Another detraction is the background textures. This is such an integral part of the Oculus Quest experience it hardly needs mentioning, but this is not the most powerful headset on the market. This means that processing power is scarce. Thus, things like backgrounds and environments tend to suffer a bit. As a seasoned Quest user by this point, I hardly noticed. All the same, be prepared for some fuzzy textures.
VR still comes with a lot of caveats, but the experience is rapidly improving. Though even with our current limitations, visual novels feel like a natural fit for the medium. The elevated immersion, the low levels of interactivity required, and the pace all feel like inevitable steps forward for the whole visual novel genre. To that end, Beyond Chronos is a great example of what can be done with visual novels in VR. While the voice acting and some of the dialogue is a little rough, the major story beats are truly engaging. The mech battles are fun, and the multiple endings are enough to ensure your long-term investment in the game. Small problems aside, Altdeus: Beyond Chronos is just the weird, heartfelt mecha story you’ve been hoping for.
***An Oculus Quest code was provided by the publisher***
- Fascinating story
- Cool controls during mech battles
- Deceptive amount of content
- Uneven voice acting
Quest version is English audio only
- Background textures are especially fuzzy