In Stars and Time

released on Nov 20, 2023

In Stars and Time is a time-looping RPG adventure. With each loop, Siffrin gains a new perspective on the world around them, opening up new solutions to puzzles and allowing them to make better choices in conversation. Equip memories as armor, pray to the Change God to improve your team’s capabilities each loop, and challenge deadly foes to Rock, Papers, Scissors as Siffrin seeks the truth.

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I'd been following the development of this game for a while, really excited by its premise and art style. Although the proof of concept for this game, START AGAIN: a prologue, didn't do much for me, I was really excited to see what the full game would deliver. And wow, does In Stars and Time deliver.
Time loops, specifically Groundhog Day time loops, are one of my favourite story devices. ISAT explores an aspect of these kinds of time loops most stories take for granted, though: the nihilistic disregard for others. ISAT is carried by excellent writing and an endearing cast, and Siffrin's slow descent into madness and apathy form a central part of his development which got me invested. He struggles hard with refusing to give into apathy which is a take we don't get to see often. Anything more would be spoilers!
ISAT has the honour of sitting among the few games that made me cry. If you can put up with repeating the same gameplay segments, you owe it to yourself to try this one out.

I’ve always been a fan of games that, rather than prioritizing being “gamey” at all times or even necessarily “fun”, use their interactive medium to their advantage to tell stories and convey things in a manner that would be impossible in any other format. Your 13 Sentinels, your Undertales, your OneShots. In Stars and Time is one of the most incredible, accomplished examples of this I have ever seen. What starts off as a relatively normal-seeming RPG with time loop mechanics twists and turns into something that can only be described as a facsimile of RPGs, ostensibly traditional on the surface but as you progress further and further reveals itself as something else entirely.
As is known, In Stars and Time is about a time loop. About your wily hero being stuck there, being slowly whittled down by the repetitiveness, the tedium, the same battles and dialogue and interactions with the people you love over and over and over, eroding his sanity, slowly. And the game does NOT pull its punches for the player - there are quality of life features like looping to specific places, but Time and Time again you will find yourself experiencing the exact same agony as Siffrin. Constantly I found myself complaining about having to do yet another tour of the game’s singular location, only to catch myself realizing I was behaving exactly like him. It was the intended reaction, and they pulled it out of me unknowingly dozens of times across this 30 hour agony. It is not a “fun” game, most of the time, but ive never played anything that’s made me feel like it. And that is such a fucking risky thing to make, a game so deliberately boring and cyclical and mundane, all with the intent of furthering your narrative. It is not for everyone, definitely not, but if you can stomach going through it all over and over and over and over again then this game will resonate with you.
And yet, even with the framing of its plot, even with how much they just say the same thing all the time, the cast of characters in this game have become one of my favorites in any video game. They are simply just… phenomenally written. You never want to stop being around them, just like Siffrin doesn’t. And the game taking place at the end of a long arduous quest similar to something like Frieren allows for so much to be learned about them throughout the game by you rather than their development being spread throughout it like that - they’ve already grown to this point without your input. Though the series of sidequests in the midgame focused on them, acting as conclusions for their arcs you never entirely saw, are some of my new favorite moments in games ever. Cried at every single one of them….
My mind is still racing, I am sure there’s so more I could say about this thing, but I am not even sure what right now. But it is a truly truly special experience like nothing else out there, not even the inspirations it wears proudly on its sleeve. It might be too cryptic and tedious to reach the fame of something like Undertale but I hope more and more people can find it and it resonates with them as much as it did me. Make sure to regularly use the coin on the tree.
In this moment, you are loved.

This review contains spoilers

This game was so good,
it's like Undertale for even GAYER people.
just joshin tho, everyone who likes a good story should play this.
Groundhog day type stories are always extremely endearing and fascinating when done correctly. And this game does it near perfectly, the story had me stressed, angry, tearing up, laughing, everything. The characters are immaculately written, I love all of them (especially Isabaeu). Solving this games mysteries is extremely rewarding. There are certain things i wish it tackled more (the depression and insanity of Siffrin, and wish it extrapolated more on the dissapeared country he hails from, then again, i could just be missing some interactions that told me more) The only thing I think could've been stronger (and this is just me personally no hate intended) is the soundtrack, other than the final final encounter, nothing stood out as more than passable for me in the music department. Overall, this game is awesome, I love it so much.

I'm just at a loss for words after finishing this game. This is up there with some of the best games of this year, if not decade, IF NOT ALL TIME if i dare go that far
Like i cant even put words in this box this game has me stunned silent. For vagueness sake, the art is superb the Town you start in and House you explore are simple yet hold secrets you will miss after a couple look overs. The characters are the highlight, I love every last one of them. The interactions are hilarious at some parts and thought provoking at others, these are truly 3-dimensional characters done well. Gameplay wise I hold no complaints, loved the explorations and especially the puzzles sewn into the environment, combat is serviceable and gets its job done without being that much of a pain. Story is phenomenal full stop wont say anything else i loved it after I got hooked it was over and I binged until I got sleepy.
This is a serious must play to any rpg fan or even if you just love a good story

A story that's all about the emotional connection with the main character and his companions. It's overall done pretty well and you go on a lot of ups, downs, happy and sad moments that all work well together to form the narrative.
The actual gameplay itself is where it suffers. The concept is a loop and exploring the same things gets a bit annoying since some of it feels like just padding. Up to the third floor then welp back to the first floor then got to go back to the third floor but then back to the 2nd. This wouldn't be so bad except to move quickly between floors requires a currency that you get by killing enemies, so you're forced to kill enemies unless you want to walk your way back to where you want each loop.
Plus the combat itself isn't really engaging to begin with but just gets easier as the game goes on and ultimately serves little purpose after a certain point, the game does eventually give you a way to cause enemies to run though.
But the character writing is very good and the way each character feels unique but exaggerated is nice and it has a nice emotional punch if you can handle the more sloggy portions of the game. Game takes about 20ish hours to get through but can vary a bit depending on how much combat you end up doing.

A heartfelt story about identity and belonging with an immediately lovable found family cast.
Time loops aren't exactly a novel theme for games anymore, but ISAT still surprised me several times with its take on it and how it integrates the whole thing in its gameplay. The permutations that the time loop introduces to the classic command based RPG formula are genuinely impressive, especially considering this is an RPG maker game, and add variety and depth to what looks like a fairly straightforward adventure at first. You'll have to juggle elements such as being able to travel backwards /and forward/ and time, specific save points recording the current state of your party (including every member's level as well as your inventory at the time), a time travel currency that allows you to travel back or forward to specific floors of the main dungeon, with the option of selecting the version of it that has all normally locked doors opened, etc. And that's without mentioning the clever and sometimes harrowing ways time traveling is addressed in the story proper. It's brilliant stuff all around.
The premise itself is quite novel too. You're Siffrin, a mysterious, wandering rogue traveling with a party of heroes accompanying a chosen heroine tasked with defeating a villain that's been freezing the population in time. You're at the end of their journey, starting the day before the final confrontation, and the party has been traveling and getting closer to one another for some time now, so the group dynamic is already established, but all of them have their own struggles and secrets, which makes it so you'll continue unraveling new things about them as well as helping Siffrin break out of their own shell.
The cast is also racially diverse and predominantly (completely?) queer, which makes the found family aspect of the group hit all the harder. My favorite character was Odile, a japanese old lady (this is a fantasy world, but the story clearly takes place in fantasy France and a couple other real world countries are referenced as well) that's the defacto mom of the group. Always sarcastic and a bit jaded, but she'll never hesitate to put her life before the rest's at a moment's notice.
The combat uses ATB and a rock, paper, scissors system that's deceptively versatile and fun, and the dynamic character portraits you see at all times during battle help add further characterization to an already fairly charming cast.
The game does get a bit tedious and repetitive after a certain point, but never by accident, if that makes sense (your mileage may vary on how good of a justification the game's themes will be for that). It worked for me, personally, and honestly, my one gripe with the game would be that it allows you to ignore the critical path at almost all times, but exploring can often be a waste of time because some elements that will become important in further loops have no use before their respective story triggers come into play.
All in all, though, I thought the game was wonderful. It's clearly very inspired by Undertale, but it tackles very different topics, and those it shares with it are handled surprisingly differently. It has one of the most lovable casts I've seen in game in years too. Can't recommend it enough.