ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos and I started off on the wrong giant foot.
Overjoyed at the prospect of using VR to control a giant mech, I grasped the Oculus Quest controls, grinning as my mech’s arms rose to mirror mine. Two minutes later, when I realised that was the most control I’d ever have over my mech, I was cursing developer MyDearest. How can it claim ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos sees you “piloting a 400-meter tall mecha” when it’s as interactive as flipping a light switch? Yes, you get to fire a rail cannon but you sure as hell can’t choose which direction it fires. As for actually controlling your mech? Dream on – every step the machine takes is entirely pre-scripted.
Half an hour later, I was just as furious, but this time my anger was directed against the Terry’s Chocolate Orange that had murdered my best friend. Sure, the Meteoras (as the game dubs them) may have decimated the planet, but they crossed a line by dispatching Coco, the girl who’d taught my cybernetic protagonist how to feel. Standing toe-to-toe with my fellow mech-pilots, raising my Quest controllers aloft, I swore I’d never rest until the planet was free of those segmented, stocking-filling monstrosities. For Coco!
Okay, maybe there’s a little dramatic licence there, but once you accept that ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos isn’t the mech-sim you were looking for, you can enjoy it for what it is; an engrossing visual novel with some neat VR twists. You spend a great deal of time jawing with your friends, though depending upon the choices you make, you’re also free to take the Grumpy Anime Protagonist route and strike out on your own.
Chloe is an appealing protagonist, which is a little odd given her strange cadence and fondness for introspection. I couldn’t quite decide whether the voice actress was having an off day or whether Chloe’s voice was meant to be so strange but, either way, it works. Her desire for vengeance initially seems a little ham-headed, but then you realise that she was created to be utterly emotionless, as nothing more than a walking weapon. Her obsession makes perfect sense when you realise Coco was the one light in her miserable world.
While ALTDEUS‘s flashbacks service the story, they’re the weakest in terms of VR. There aren’t any real puzzles in the game but at one point you get your hands on a music box and are instructed to use find oil to make it work. So you pick up the oil from the shelf behind you and… that’s it. The oil vanishes, there’s no sequence where you have to pour the oil into the box, nothing.
Conversely, there are moments when ALTDEUS really makes VR work. Sure, putting together the two halves of a railgun from inside the relative safety of a giant robot is cool. But a few scenes later you’re on the ground, gazing as a Meteora cracks open and out comes… well, I won’t spoil the surprise. I will say that Coco’s fate is woven throughout the whole game, lending ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos real emotional weight.
Overall, ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos’ writing is excellent, with rounded characters who dodge most of the usual anime tropes. It may not have delivered the mech-piloting mayhem I was expecting, but it’s a smart visual novel, with enough interactivity, plot twists and emotional gut-punches to keep you engaged. Throw in multiple endings, some of which can only be unlocked on subsequent playthrough and, even though you don’t get to personally punch Space Godzilla in the face, it’s well worth suiting up for.
I’d still kill for Mechwarrior: Oculus Quest Edition, though.