Unraveling a Post-Apocalyptic Tale – CRYMACHINA Review
CRYMACHINA is the latest game from FuRyu, known for The Caligula Effect 1 and 2 and Monark. It’s a hack-and-slash action RPG that’s fun and it definitely has a unique plot with great reveals, but at the same time it does have similar flaws to the developer’s previous games, notably a plot that has too much jargon and is slow to get started, as well as having a limited budget.
Like other FuRyu games, the premise of the game is a bit tricky to explain because it is very unique. I’ll only give a brief synopsis of only the first hour of plot to ensure no spoilers. Humanity has ended and mechanical girls (with memories of their ordinary life) explore Eden and struggle in an attempt to receive “Real Humanity”. There are many different teams of mechanical girls and there are alliances and betrayals. You play as Leben, a high school student who now has a robotic body, and she works alongside Mikoto, Enoa and Ami.
This title has no English dub and offers English subtitles with Japanese voice acting. One benefit is that every single line of dialogue in the game has voice acting.
This game has a similar name to the game Crystar and has a very similar aesthetic and themes, but from playing both Crystar and CRYMACHINA the games’ plots are completely unrelated and you can enjoy either game on their own. There are definitely developers who have worked on both games and this game does play like a spiritual successor to Crystar.
I really enjoyed the character designs. The art direction of the game is top-notch. It’s not the fanciest looking title on a technical level but for its budget this game really looks great and certainly stands out compared to its contemporaries. The cutscenes are done in a visual novel style, with character models and 2D character portraits talking on the screen. The 2D character portraits are phenomenal and the characters all have distinct designs to differentiate them, along with a variety of different expressions.
The game is heavily narrative based and many cutscenes in the game are lengthy. I liked how there were options to choose how long the game would wait between dialogue lines, so unlike other games with heavy dialog I didn’t have wait on long silent gaps between the different dialogue lines. Unfortunately, there aren’t any dialogue choices or routes in the game.
The gameplay isn’t too complicated. You explore stages and need to reach the end of the levels or defeat the boss. The enemies in CRYMACHINA are called Cherubim robots. You can hack and slash them normally, launch them and use finishing moves. You also have left and right auxiliary weapons and abilities you can use, from emergency healing to releasing your limits.
I thought that the user interface while exploring dungeons was confusing at first, but I got used to it. You can dodge with the right trigger or parry purple-colored attacks by pressing Y/triangle at the right moment.
For some reason it was difficult to tell when the generic enemies were attacking. The game isn’t hard by any means and the enemies do have red or purple indicators for attacks, but often I’d find myself getting stunlocked by generic enemies and instantly killed. I think that the enemies needed more animations such as “wind-up” animations to telegraph they were attacking. There are also too many visual effects going on during battles, making it difficult to see the red and purple indicators when an enemy will attack. This problem isn’t present with main story bosses, who telegraph their attacks significantly better.
Interestingly, I found this game to be similar to Samurai Maiden in terms of how the gameplay was handled (but not necessarily atmosphere, lore, or story) because of the three controllable protagonists and how you explored levels and had simple hack-and-slash combat, with both games also having a similar budget, Japanese voice acting and lengthy visual-novel style cutscenes.
My main criticism with the game is that the plot can be tricky to understand (like other FuRyu games unfortunately). The game is extremely frontloaded with lore in the beginning and the game throws a lot of jargon and acronyms at first. You get used to it as you experience more of the game, but some choices were definitely odd such as how ExP and EXP were two different acronyms used in the narrative (not just for stats and gameplay, they use this narratively for plot events).
I also disliked how the base between missions was just a simple menu. It would’ve been better if there was a hub area to explore and you could talk to the other supporting characters and possibly mini-games or some activity to break up the story and gameplay segments. At the base you are able to change your equipment loadout, level up your characters, go to a new mission, check lore, or go to tea parties.
The term tea party sounds cheesy but it’s really the story cutscenes between missions. There are also optional events where the characters talk about documents they found. This gives players an incentive to search the levels for collectibles such as secret documents. Some of the conversations involve interesting conspiracies such as how “designer babies” were invented through modifying babies’ genes as well as animal test subjects for experiments.
One highlight of the game is that the characters all have really great chemistry with each other and the conversations are really fun to listen to. The characters are also extremely multi-faceted, and you’ll often have many scenes where characters will snap and betray you or even the opposite, where someone looks bad but ends up being friendly. The villains are extremely interesting and it really feels like every team in the game has their own motivations and goals.
The levels themselves are fun to explore. You can explore the levels with different characters to obtain more materials and collectibles. There are optional strong enemies you can fight (and they’re clearly marked), but it seems to be meant for end-game content and often they’d have enemies 40+ levels above you capable of one-shotting your character. There aren’t checkpoints within the individual levels meaning you’ll have to restart the entire level so I stopped going for strong encounters after getting one-shotted (the levels are only about 10 minutes each, not bad but I wouldn’t want to risk it).
Otherwise, the levels weren’t hard at all. The levels really could’ve used more complexity and this title does play like a hallway simulator at time. The story and characters make up for it, but I’d really like more branching corridors and more optional areas.
I’d prefer if there were elite encounters with only slightly higher levels than my party that I could’ve challenged myself with, rather than just having strong enemies being 40+ levels above me curb-stomping me. The problem with how the game implemented it is that you can’t realistically do these optional strong enemy encounters until post-game, and then you’ll have to completely re-explore all those levels to find those challenging encounters. The game should’ve had collectibles listed checklist in the mission select screen to clearly show which collectibles you did or didn’t obtain, and I found myself keeping track of collectibles and strong encounter locations with a physical notepad.
The regular encounters can catch you off guard once in a while but after investing into emergency healing skills I could heal 3 times per level which was more than sufficient. There’s a casual mode if you’re struggling with the game but I played it on the standard difficulty and found the game more than manageable with a few difficulty spikes in certain sections. There are level caps every few stages in the game that increases as you progress through the game, meaning you can’t break the game early on.
All experience is also stored into a pool that you can distribute between whichever characters you want, meaning you can level up underutilized characters very easily or even choose to do low level runs if you want. It’s similar to how Final Fantasy XV and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 did bonus experience where it accumulates experience into a pool you can use on whoever you want at any time you want, except that is for all of the experience gained in this game.
I was still able to break the game early on by carefully selecting my upgrades. There was an option to increase my regular attack speed, and I was able to grind for Ego points and upgrade it to the point where I could stunlock any enemy or boss. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the game, if you pay attention to good upgrades you can make very powerful builds.
The level design isn’t too good. Most levels are extremely linear with a branch every once in a while. There are platforming sections where you can jump across moving platforms, but it’s generally easy and if you fall down a pit you can generally just restart from where you fell (this game even did a section where you run away from a monster Crash Bandicoot style).
The boss fights are a major highlight of the game. The villains and bosses have really interesting designs and movesets. Some bosses, especially the final one, are challenging and reasonably fair. The gameplay was addicting, and I often found myself re-visiting old levels searching for collectibles.
On the other hand, the game can get grindy and I found the game reasonable as long as I hit the level cap for the mission. Similar to hack//GU Last Recode and Monark, you can actually input certain codes to generate levels which is a rarity in games. At the same time, it’s not like the levels are that unique or interesting and you’ll still be grinding levels nonetheless.
Other criticisms I had is that the equipment system is confusing. The game doesn’t have traditional stats (attack, magic attack, defense, etc.) like most JRPGs. The game does have explanations, but you do need to read through a lot of menus to understand how the uniquely named stats in this game work and it can be very confusing. The name of stats include include Composure, Defiance, Responsibility, Rationality, and Assertion, meaning you do need to check the game’s help menus and do significant research on how these stats work and interact with each other.
Choosing equipment is more challenging then it needed to be, especially because equipment would often have trade-offs and generally wouldn’t just be higher stats overall. Higher tiers of equipment also require your characters to have more Stability points, which is easy to increase using Ego points in the menus (you get Ego points from watching new tea party events), but one problem is that you can only increase it by one point at a time and you need to do that almost a hundred times for all your characters. It only takes a few minutes of button mashing but it’s definitely an oversight. You can increase your characters’ stats using Ego points as well, but again it seemed to be one point at a time even though I’d have hundreds of Ego points.
The soundtrack of this game is phenomenal. The hub area music is especially sorrowful and expresses melancholy. There are certain impactful scenes in the game with 2D animation and songs and they’re downright gorgeous.
Although the characters and their designs look charming, be aware that there is a lot of violence in the game including dismemberment and even beheading and it’s definitely a game for adults despite the charming artstyle (similar to Labyrinth of Galleria).
The game is on the shorter side, taking around 20-25 hours to complete the main story. Of note is the unique title screen, which you should pay attention to after beating the game to get the true ending because the normal ending can be disappointing. Thankfully you can get the true ending without any extra requirements, just be sure to take a careful look at the title screen after completing it.
There is a lot of optional content and collectibles, as well as post-game dungeons (without extra story) that can add additional playtime.
CRYMACHINA does have the faults that other FuRyu games have, notably a slow and convoluted plot with a lot of jargon and an overcomplicated stats system. At the same time, the game does have very interesting characters and villains, great dialogue, and really interesting plot reveals once the plot gets going along with a great soundtrack. The character portraits, drawn by Rolua, are simply astonishing and this probably has my favorite character portraits out of any artist of along with Hidari, known for his work on Fire Emblem: Echoes and Atelier.
I really would’ve preferred if the game had more substance such as more complex dungeons, a longer story, and an explorable hub area with other side activities, and maybe even post-game dungeons with unvoiced scenes, but the game isn’t bad as is and the plot really is one of the most unique out of any game I’ve played. If you’re used to the quirkiness and charm of FuRyu’s games such as The Caligula Effect 2 or Monark you’ll definitely like this game. Or even if you’ve never played FuRyu games before and you just want to experience something a little different and unique CRYMACHINA will definitely be up your alley if you don’t mind overlooking its few faults.
- The characters and villains are very interesting and drive the plot forward. A lot of interesting plot twists and betrayals.
- The combat is addicting and the boss fights are fun.
- The artwork is some of the best I’ve seen. The soundtrack was really well-done, and reflects the melancholy of the game.
- Gameplay becomes repetitive after a while. The dungeons are mostly linear with a few branches and enemies are recycled a lot.
- The plot can be confusing at times. The narrative is frontloaded and slow to get started.
- There are difficulty spikes. You do need to grind for experience and levels at times. Some enemies gang up on you and stunlock you without so much of an indication, leaving you wondering how you got a game over.
- Although the bosses are great, the regular enemies are extremely generic and bland. Although the levels’ art design is great, there is a lack of variety and distinct biomes in the levels. Most of the stages from beginning to end look like a cyberspace environment.
– Brandon Harris
Reviewed on the PC