Chained Echoes – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Matthias Linda
Publisher: Deck13
Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Chained Echoes – Review

Site Score
Good: A fantastic love letter to old school RPGs
Bad: Occasional difficulty spikes
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It’s been almost four years since the general public was made aware of solo indie developer Matthias Linda’s passion project Chained Echoes, through a massively successful Kickstarter campaign. Like so many titles launched via the platform, the game overshot its projected release date by quite a large margin, having been originally poised to arrive in September 2021. The wait is finally over, as Chained Echoes finally made its way onto a plethora of platforms. Players on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox alike can finally immerse themselves in the retro-inspired world of Valantis. Was it worth the wait?


The first half hour of Chained Echoes acts both as a prologue for the game’s main story and as a tutorial to familiarise players with the basics of the combat system. During this prologue, we’re introduced to the red-haired mech-suit pilot Glenn and his best buddy Kylian. This duo is embroiled in a war, until Glenn causes a climactic catastrophe that inadvertently ends the conflict. Several years later, the continent of Valantis is enjoying a fragile peace, but the flames of war light up again when the distrust between the three main kingdoms reaches a boiling point. This is where our main story begins, and there are several characters, each with their own individual motivation and backstory, that are gradually introduced as they join the game’s party. Things begin in earnest with Lenne, a princess that runs away from her royal responsibilities as she wants to explore the world instead, accompanied by her sworn protector Robb. The pair is soon joined by more characters, including the thief Sienna, who is set to change her ways, and Glenn, who is still dealing with the aftermath of the previous war. How these characters become involved with one another and how they interact is one of Chained Echoes‘ stronger suits.

Chained Echoes juggles a lot of recruitable characters, and each of them has its own story to tell. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is your run-of-the-mill story of good versus evil, as there are a lot of moral grey areas that are being explored here, with sympathetic characters on the side of each of the three warring factions. There are a lot of social commentaries here about how war is both futile AND necessary sometimes, and we were pleasantly surprised with how certain themes were handled. We should note that it isn’t just doom and gloom either. Despite the theme of war, there is still plenty of humor to be found here too, although swear words and inappropriate jokes do prevent Chained Echoes from being a family-friendly adventure.


It’s clear that a lot of care went into designing Valantis and its inhabitants. The vibrant colour palette and intricately detailed environments work wonderfully, even if we feel like the 16-bit pixel art style didn’t feel wholly original. In a vacuum, the game looks great, but it’s hard to be blown away by something that feels like you’ve seen it dozens of times before over the last few decades. If there’s one thing we truly disliked about Chained Echoes’ visuals, however, it’s the static character portraits shown during dialogue scenes. These do follow the general art direction, but each character only gets a single portrait with the same expression, and these don’t always match up with the emotions that are being conveyed through dialogue.


Given that Chained Echoes sticks close to the conventions of the RPGs that it pays homage to, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is no voice acting here. However, in a stroke of brilliance, characters are given a “voice” by having a leitmotif of their own. These musical snippets capture much of the cast’s personalities and really help define them. There are around 50 musical tracks in Chained Echoes’ soundtrack in total, all lovingly rendered by composer Eddie Marianukroh. A fantastic set of sound effects further fleshes out Chained Echoes’ audio, adding a lot of depth to the world while also sticking close to the retro atmosphere that the game tries to evoke.


It took Matthias Linda a total of seven years to bring Chained Echoes to fruition, and now that the final result is out in the wild, it’s clear that those seven years were a labor of love. Chained Echoes presents players with an old-school RPG experience that harkens back to the days of the SNES and the PS1, but the fast-paced gameplay and helpful interface also ensure that everything feels streamlined and modern. As you guide your party through the overarching main story, you’ll explore the massive world of Valantis, which is filled with mysterious woods, sprawling settlements, and ancient, derelict dungeons. Everything you’d expect from a classic RPG is present here, from a loveable cast of NPCs to a plethora of secrets to find and an expansive turn-based combat system.

That combat system is an undeniable highlight, and it rivals some of Square Enix’s best mechanics. It centers around Overdrive, a state for your party that has to be built up gradually and balanced carefully. Up to four of your party members can take to the battlefield simultaneously and are able to use free basic attacks as well as more powerful combat abilities, which cost TP to use. As the party delivers its attacks, it builds synergy, and once a certain synergy threshold is reached, Overdrive is activated. When the party is in Overdrive, combat abilities become cheaper to use and attacks hit harder. However, you can’t just activate Overdrive and spam your most powerful attacks. You’ll need to keep your Overdrive meter in the green, because if you overshoot and go into the red, you’ll suffer negative consequences. You’ll need to carefully balance the Overdrive meter by using abilities highlighted in yellow or simply go all out and use a party member’s ultimate attack, resetting the Overdrive meter in the process.

It’s a surprisingly accessible system, while still offering plenty of tactical depth. Each party member brings unique abilities to the table, with their toolbox expanding as they learn new skills through Grimoire shards, obtained through boss fights. Customizable equipment adds another layer of possibilities to honing your party to your strategy of choice. Of note is that Chained Echoes’ combat system completely eschews the traditional leveling system in favor of being able to manually level up specific skills. This requires skill points, which are obtained through battles against low-level enemies. Mastering your party’s combat prowess is essential because Chained Echoes throws severe difficulty spikes your way with its boss battles. It’s a bit of a shame because the amount of backtracking to grind out the improved skills required to overcome some of the more sudden speedbumps can take the flow out of the game. Of course, Chained Echoes is about far more than just grinding out battles, as it is a story-driven affair first and foremost. Exploring the rich, secret-filled world helps to make the necessary grind to overcome those difficulty spikes more palatable.

The world feels very much alive and your actions and choices feel like they have consequences beyond simply upgrading your party. We could go on and on about what Chained Echoes has to offer in terms of worldbuilding and side quests, but the best way to summarise how much variety there is to be found here is to simply tell you that this is a game where you can grind to equip your party with flying ‘Sky Armor’ mech suits but where you can also simply enjoy an adrenaline-filled turtle race minigame. The 35-ish hours it takes to play through the game is never disappointing, apart from those aforementioned difficulty spikes. You’ll find that time flies by as you spend more time with these characters, engaging in side-quests and minigames. There is nothing genre-changing or revolutionary here, but what’s present is a carefully crafted love letter to classic games like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, and Chained Echoes has everything in it to become a bona fide classic of its own.


It’s fair to say that Chained Echoes is a fantastic showcase of Matthias Linda’s talent as well as his love for classic RPGs. Taking inspiration from some of the best RPGs from the SNES and PS1 era, Chained Echoes is a game that feels modern and old-school at the same time. The layered story, accessible combat system, and surprising amount of gameplay variety come together to deliver one of the best retro RPG experiences we’ve experienced in recent years. We could have done without the difficulty spikes and the character portraits could have used a little more love, but if those are our only gripes with the game -and they are- then that should tell you enough.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Chained Echoes - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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