One genre of video games that we have kind of avoided reviewing here on Geeky Hobbies is the RPG genre. While I was a big fan of RPGs when I was younger, I have to admit that my interest in the genre is not what it used to be. I still like the genre, but I have been kind of avoiding it for a while as games from the genre generally require a pretty large time commitment. This is especially true for reviews as it is hard to play a large enough section of a 50+ hour RPG to write up a review within a reasonable amount of time. When I saw CrossCode though I was intrigued because the gameplay looked more like Zelda or other 2D action games than a typical RPG. In addition the story premise of playing a MMO inside of another video game was really interesting. Originally released back in September of 2018 on PC, the game is going to make its console debut for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on July 9th, 2020. Due to getting a free review copy of the game from the developers I was able to check it out early. CrossCode may share a lot in common with your typical action RPG, but it shines with an unexpected level of polish, content, and an overall interesting environment that the game should delight anyone who is a fan of the genre.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Radical Fish Games, Deck13, WhisperGames, DANGEN Entertainment, and Mayflower Entertainment for the review copy of CrossCode used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In CrossCode you play as Lea who wakes up on a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean with no knowledge of what is going on. You are informed that you are in fact an avatar from the popular MMORPG CrossCode. You have no knowledge or your own life or your life in the game so you must enter the game to try and recover your memories as the game has a strong link to your actual life. The CrossCode is an unique MMORPG as is it kind of a hybrid of game code and real life elements from the distant future. As you make progress in the game you start to relive memories from your past. Can you successfully complete CrossCode and discover your missing past in the process?
CrossCode takes inspiration from quite a few different video game genres, but at its core it is a RPG. Instead of turn based combat like a lot of RPGs, the gameplay is real time. In a lot of ways the combat reminds me of games like the 2D Zelda games and other 2D action games. For its combat the game gives you two main options. You have a melee attack that mostly utilizes button mashing as there is only one attack button. Hit a target enough times and you will perform more powerful attacks that deal more damage. The game also gives you a ranged attack where you shoot balls at enemies. You aim with one of the analog sticks and the longer you aim the more accurate your shots will be. You can then either shoot a barrage of bullets or take your time to shoot more powerful blasts. In addition to these two attacks you have a shield that you can pull up that reduces damage. There is also a dodge ability that lets you quickly jump out of the way of attacks. Finally you have access to one special melee and ranged attack which you can unlock as you progress through the skill trees in the game.
Much of the combat in the game involves fighting various creatures that you will encounter while exploring. You will also have to fight in various duels as well as boss battles. Defeating enemies will give you experience, money, and various goods that you can use to purchase consumable items or better equipment. When you acquire enough experience you will raise your level which will increase your stats and allow you to unlock additional spaces in your skill tree. While gaining levels is important, upgrading your equipment is just as important to your success in the game. For the most part the character customization element of the game is similar to most RPGs.
In addition to the combat the game features various exploration mechanics. You will find a lot of different missions to complete throughout the game. These can include retrieving a certain amount of items, beating certain types of enemies, or other general exploration tasks. You will explore various regions of the CrossCode world. Throughout your journey there are various puzzles that you have to complete. One of these types of puzzles are the game’s many jumping puzzles. For these puzzles you mostly need to figure out the right path through the area by jumping between various platforms to reach areas that otherwise would be inaccessible. The game also has a number of puzzles that involve using your ranged attack to hit buttons/switches in a designated order. These mostly involve figuring out the correct way to use the rebound ability of your projectiles to hit all of the buttons in an area within one shot.
For the most part I would say that CrossCode plays a lot like your typical 2D action RPG. The game has a few twists on the typical formula, but many of the elements are similar to most games from the genre. CrossCode may not revolutionize the genre, but I don’t know if it really had to. CrossCode is a good game because it takes what people enjoy about the genre and refines it. The game is really polished and isn’t filled with a bunch of half finished ideas. I had quite a bit of fun playing the game.
I think the main reason I enjoyed the CrossCode is that the gameplay is really satisfying. The game’s controls are quite straightforward but they are precise. When you die in the game it will be your fault as I can’t think of a single death that I would say were the controls fault. As for difficulty I would say that the game is pretty challenging at its highest difficulty. The game never becomes frustrating though due to two factors. First if you are having trouble beating enemies you can always do some grinding in order to level up and increase your stats. The game also has robust difficulty settings. Instead of having your typical easy/medium/hard settings, the game gives you various sliders for things like combat and puzzles which you can fine tune to make the game as easy or as difficult as you want. This is a really good idea since if you want to just enjoy the story/atmosphere you can turn down the difficulty. If you want a real challenge though you can crank all of the settings to their max and this should give you enough challenge that you will be satisfied.
As for the overall atmosphere I think CrossCode does a good job. The game’s graphical style is very reminiscent of the SNES era of video games as it uses a 16-bit style. Fans of this style should really like CrossCode’s graphical style. The game’s world, creatures, and characters are well designed which shows a lot of creativity went into creating the world. As for the story it shows a lot of promise. The basic idea behind the story is that you are playing a MMORPG inside a video game as the characters you meet are a combination of other “players” and NPCs. I think this is a clever idea and the game does a good job utilizing it to sneak in some jokes that make fun of MMORPGs and RPGs in general. Anyone who thinks this premise sounds interesting will probably really like the story.
I would say that the biggest problem that I had with CrossCode is the biggest problem that I have with the RPG genre in general. Like most RPGs CrossCode seems to rely on quite a bit of grinding. Unlike a lot of RPGs most of the enemies you encounter in the game won’t attack you unless you attack them or another nearby enemy. This means that if you are really good at the combat you can actually skip out on battling many of the enemies as you won’t need to upgrade your character as much. You are likely going to want to fight a lot of enemies though in order to gain experience to increase your level and stats. Many of the sidequests also require you to beat up a lot of the creatures and acquire resources for certain equipment and items. I don’t mind a little grinding but it seems like there is a little too much grinding in the game.
The other main complaint that I had with the game is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the game’s jumping puzzles. Many of these are optional as they are mostly used to reach special areas or treasure chests spread throughout the world. I didn’t mind the shorter more obvious puzzles where it is pretty easy to figure out where you have to go. The longer less obvious puzzles are kind of frustrating though. This is in part because the jumping mechanics aren’t perfect. Instead of having a jump button your character will just jump when they reach the edge of a platform. The problem with this comes from the fact that the game utilizes a top down 2D style. This makes it hard to see which platforms are on the same level. When you make one wrong jump either due to your mistake or thinking two platforms are on the same level, you will have to start again from the beginning. This is the main reason that I will probably skip most of these puzzles except for those that are required as they feel like more work than they are worth.
One of the greatest strengths of most RPGs is the fact that they generally contain a lot of content. The same holds true for CrossCode. At this point I have played the game for around six hours and have only made it through a small fraction of everything that the game has to offer. The main story is supposed to be around 30-40 hours which I can definitely see as the game is set up to have a pretty long story. If you delve into the side quests and the other optional quest you are likely to add many more hours to the total length. If you want to see literally everything the game has to offer I think you could easily get over 100 hours out of the game. With the game retailing for $20 you are definitely going to get your money’s worth if you like a good RPG.
CrossCode is basically what every fan of 2D action RPGs should want. The game features a number of different mechanics but for the most part plays like your typical action RPG. CrossCode differentiates itself from most games in the genre though because it does a good job fine tuning things to make the gameplay really enjoyable. The combat and puzzles are satisfying which is helped by the game’s controls which are quite precise. The game’s atmosphere and story of playing an MMORPG inside a video game is interesting and leads to an adventure that fans of the genre should enjoy. The game also has a ton of content especially for those that want to explore every corner of the world. The biggest problem that I had with CrossCode is the fact that the game does rely on quite a bit of grinding and fetch quests. I also wasn’t a huge fan of some of the jumping puzzles.
My recommendation for CrossCode is actually pretty simple. If you aren’t that interested in the game’s premise or you don’t typical enjoy 2D action RPGs I don’t think you will enjoy CrossCode. Those that really like the premise or action RPGs though should really enjoy CrossCode and should consider picking it up. Note for those that have Xbox One Game Pass, CrossCode is supposed to be on the service when the game launches.