Crymachina looks to be a promising Action RPG, but the story hasn't hooked us yet
I've said it before, and here I'll say it again - previewing any game is tough, as getting a good grasp on a title's strengths and weaknesses within the span of half an hour or less can be hard at the best of times; and it's only all the more difficult when the game in question is an RPG. Such is the dilemma I face with NIS America and FuRyu's upcoming Crymachina, based on an in-development build of the game.
Crymachina's story takes players to the far distant future, after humanity itself had gone extinct; with the reanimated "soul" of Leben Distel having been pieced together by an AI whose job it was to recreate humanity after its destruction; the plot setup itself is interesting enough, and the art style surrounding the game is striking, even within the confines of the Nintendo Switch version that we had the chance to demo; but within the confines of our about 20-minute session neither Leben or the assisting characters in Enoa and Mikoto managed to hook me on the game's narrative. This is fine, of course, when there's far more to an RPG than just its story - and especially so when you're being rushed through the opening moments of a game.
What did stand out to me was the game's combat, even early on, where lesser Action RPGs might fall into the trap of feeling overly restrictive. Not only does Crymachina offer some interesting gameplay systems - such as how the bumpers and triggers can both activate weapons levitating over a character's shoulders, that can then tie into combos - but the overall flow and responsiveness of combat and its animations stood out to me. While there's only so much that you can glean about a game's story from a short preview session, one aspect of a game's design that can be communicated much more easily is the gameplay.
Much of this comes down to how many options you have to play with in the combat even early on, how they flow together, and how enemies react to your attacks. Crymachina also has a "just dodge" system where dodging into attacks at the right moment will lead to you avoiding damage, and briefly slowing down time; I won't say that it's the best battle system I've engaged with in an Action RPG, but even with our early hands-on I was immediately curious to know if there was anyone notable I had missed that was working on the game's combat. Even the features I didn't have quite as much time to engage with, such as the ability to swap out your ranged attacks depending on the distance you're standing from your opponent, was a nice touch that helped bring the whole battle system together.
As for the actual RPG elements of the title - well, we didn't have a chance to engage with them, as our demo brought us up to right before the RPG aspects of the game itself became available. Going by the game's advertising there should be plenty of side content to engage with, that ties into both enhancing your character as well as learning more about the world and the characters that lived in it - but without having a chance to experience it for ourselves, we can't rightly make any claims about how well it works in practice.
In other words; maybe these features will help enamor me to the story and characters where the opening moments of the game did not. To be blunt; I can't say I'm a huge fan of either Leben or Enoa yet, though of course I would love to have my mind changed. For now, Crymachina ended up interesting me more than I expected heading into our demo; enough to make me curious about how the full game will turn out when it releases later this Fall for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC.