One thing I like about NIS America titles is a willingness to publish Japanese games that might not otherwise make it to the west. These are not always the best, though they often contain experiences that resonate with someone. Among their more unusual choices is Crymachina. The weird action RPG has a unique tone that immediately caused it to stand out. Now that we’ve had an opportunity to check it out, does Crymachina meet expectations or is it so bad it causes you to cry out in pain?
Crymachina starts with a fascinating introduction to the world. Players meet Leben, a young girl that is hooked up to medical equipment surrounded by others in similar circumstances. During this we find out she loathes humans. It’s intriguing because all of these pieces are not quite explained, yet there are enough there to build several wildly different reasons for them to exist.
Shortly after things are explained and the core narrative is similar to Horizon Zero Dawn. Leben wakes up in a future where humans are extinct and a number of AI programs created to usher in their return have gone awry. While the stakes are immediately understood, the narrative slowly expands upon this, Leben’s feelings, and how those around her play a role in her adventure.
Even if the core narrative can be a bit heavy, the supporting cast does a good job of lighten the load. These scene range from explaining what they hope to accomplish, to how they view the situation itself. None of these characters are given deeply complex reasons, instead relying on an understandably small vision. It helps keep things grounded over getting lost in the complexities and gravity of the situation they’re in.
For the most part these scenes work. I never found myself rolling my eyes at their comments, though banter can be a bit tiresome. Crymachina often tries to make Leben’s dialogue natural, just in a way that fails to flow well with the narrative. Instead, these scenes feel intrusive, unnecessary, and to be perfectly honest, redundant. This is most noticeable at the beginning where she comments about the exposition dump confusing her multiple times as the world is explained. Later sections do a slightly better job of it, like when corrects herself with newfound information. It just often takes away from the experience.
Outside of narrative, which there is a lot of, players need to navigate through various locations to defeat powerful foes and slowly work towards becoming a “real human.” These sections are an unusual mixture of things that work well and other aspects that honestly don’t.
Most locations are largely linear places that look rather bland. This is a stark contrast to narrative events and character models where a strong emphasis was placed on design. It’s a similar type of feeling Tales of Symphonia‘s latest remaster offered. Fascinating designs are met with an uninspired world that unfortunately takes away from things.
It’s honestly rather unfortunate given the world is more prevalent than the occasional well designed cutscene. Still, the good scenes will leave more of an impression than the lazy laser wall, or barren wasteland you’re expected to walk through.
Why Can’t Everything Look Like This?
Combat is in a similar place. Crymachina tries to expand on the rudimentary action RPG base with some expanded functionality. These include a rather basic dodge, woefully simple parry, and some unique special attacks. Part of what makes these elements feel hollow is how low the stakes are. Excluding certain bosses, most enemies are easy to read and even easier to overwhelm. Even on the default difficulty they struggle to pose an actual challenge. Well, besides getting used to the somewhat delayed timing needed to parry an incoming attack.
Thankfully, Crymachina tries to spice things up by adding other mechanics. One I like is the inability to become too powerful for any given section. This forces players to improve over simply playing more. There is also a wide variety of gear to equip and stats to explore. It’s slightly more complicated than simply equipping the next sword, or dumping every point in attack to defeat an enemy in an instant.
Still, several of these mechanics feel underwhelming. There is often distinctly better gear, which gives the same aforementioned underwhelming feeling linear upgrade options offer. It would be nice to see options expanded further, though it simply isn’t that type of experience.
Crymachina Review Verdict
Crymachina: Whether you love or hate Crymachina ultimately hinges on what you're looking for. In regard to narrative it's a fascinating story that only has the occasional bump along the way. However, anyone hoping for revolutionary gameplay will likely walk away disappointed. At best it's around what I'd expect from a modern action RPG and at worst it's a mere step up from Dynasty Warriors. At the end of the day, I do think there is enough to like to see the value in picking it up. It's far from perfect, but the scenes Crymachina does right it knocks out of the park. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Crymachina was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.