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.
This will be so many people's favorite game of all time. It's not mine, and I may have my issues, but I write this because I absolutely wanna celebrate games that have such unbelievably good production, such interesting and rich worlds, characters with expansive perspectives, such beautiful diversity and take something that has already been a staple of several amazing games over the past few years and just experiment with it further and further to see the way players react. It didn't perfectly click with me, but if it does with someone, HOOOOOLY I can't imagine that feeling. It's so rare that games with such incredible production try and reach further than they maybe can, then they maybe should, and not play it safe, and I think even this game maybe goes a bit safe at specific points, but it GOES for it otherwise. It's just such a rare thing to take something that works perfectly well and decide to risk it all. Just, fuck yeah, video games.
if you like quirky earthbound inspired indie rpgs this is one of the best ones ive played. story wise its pretty good and you probably can tell that just by looking at it, but its also pretty cool gameplay wise. less in terms of the actual combat, and more in the exploration and level design. its pretty non linear, or at the very least it does a good job of feeling that way.
La review en la web aqui: https://www.nextn.es/2023/11/analisis-in-stars-and-time-nintendo-switch/
Desde aqui lo mismo hay spoilers (o no)
Tuve la suerte de descubrir este juego y tenerlo 3 semanas antes de que saliese para review. Y tuve la desgracia de no tener a nadie con quien hablar del juego durante 3 semanas porque ¡oh boy! sí me ha comido la cabeza. Historia de found family LGTB, con bucles temporales, angst, mucho angst, y temas jodidos. En cuanto salió me fui al discord a hablar con le dev porque tenia que hablarlo con alguien y joer. Que alegria de que haya salido bien. GOTY 2023 personal. Y que diga eso el año que ha salido ToTK y Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.... telita
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.
Ok I'm gonna be writing a bit about this but just gonna preface it with I think the game was extremely obnoxious with how it handled being a Ludonarrative. But I do want to clarify with this that yeah the story is pretty good imo.
Starting with the characters I think they're good. You constantly get to learn about Siffrin without the game telling you outright what he's like at the start and that is awesome! I think every1 is written in a fun way!
I will not go deep into story bcus yeah just in case idk whos gonna play it but there's that. But gameplay? Dude the gameplay? I love exploring the same 3 floor dungeon for hours. For so many hours. Yes. Its a time loop. I got exactly what I should've expected But like, Yeah? I guess I did but did I have fun scrambling back and forth for all those hours? No? Wow just like siffrin haha you see its a ludonarrative because I am suffering like siffrin haha. Having to see the same 3 floors over and over and over and over and over again
They try? To mix it up in act 3? They try kind of? But it does literally nothing? You start seeing enemies from floor 3 in floor 1 and its like "Oh cool I guess enemies will be stronger from now on I wonder what new enemies I am going to see in future floors" and it turns out that no not really its just randomizing where enemies show up thats cool. Its meaningless though. Nothing changed. Its still just enemies that I have to hit and kill in 2 actions. So if that can change though, why not change literally anything else? Anything at all?
This is what I mean by the ludonarrative is too much. It just overpowers everything else. Act 5 changes layout a bit yeah but it just. Sucks. Act 5 sucks. Other than the ending. I think the ending is really good. Im free. Siffrin is free. At least it gives us both catharsis from it all
But overall? I had a good time with the story yeah. But. Yeah I wrote what I did not like. I can't recommend anyone to play it in good faith. If you can accept a ludonarrative as overpowering as this then yeah, play it, you'd probably enjoy it. If not then probably don't play it.
In Stars and Time feels like when a director takes their short film they made for school and decides to film additional scenes to turn it into a full feature, ruining it because its really just stretching out an idea that worked well as something brief.
Not that I particularly buy into the idea of a so called "unbiased" review but if you are looking for the perspective of someone who simply stumbled across the game and purchased it on a whim, this account most definitely will not be it. Back in 2021 I played a short game called Start Again, Start Again, Start Again : A prologue and fell in love with it. It was short and sweet, set up a very neat idea of an adventurer stuck in a groundhog day esque timeloop in the final dungeon of an RPG. Its concept was novel, its implementation for the most part smart, the characters were compelling, the LGBT rep was cool and obvious sequel hook aside, I think it worked well as a self contained story.
I liked it so much in fact, that I wrote a walkthrough for it, because none existed at the time I wrote it. It was an interesting experience, and made me respect every guide writer whos services I had benefitted from all these years. I did get a bit sick of the game by the end of it, having had to play essentially the same sequence about 6 times or so to write the guide. How naïve I was, If I thought that that was an overlong amount of runs for the game, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I loved the game so much in fact it was one of my first reviews on this very site and I even evangelized for it, getting my friend @MagneticBurn to play it and if my delusional ego can take the wheel for a second, I think I might have gotten the ball rolling on the site and now the page for the game is a lot more full of activity, and maybe even some of my mutuals' wishlisting/backlogging of ISAT? or Maybe not, but either way I was anticipating ISAT for a while now. I have definitely learned why I prefer to not do such a thing usually, and just let games drop on me without fanfare or hype of any kind. I think that was part of why I soured on ISAT.
If you have not played Start Again : A Prologue and are wondering if you need to play it to understand In Stars and Time, not only do you not, I would recommend that you do not play it if you are planning to play ISAT. A more appropriate name in hindsight would be Start Again : A Prototype because in the 17 hours I have played of ISAT the first 10 or so played out like a streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetched out version of STAT:AP.
Sweet fucking merciful mother of mary, this game is way way way way way way way way way way too long for what it is. STAT:P was not a perfect game by any means but none of its flaws had a chance to become glaring in its short snappy package. The not particularly engaging combat? Whatever, the game was 4 hours long. The repetition of dialogue? 4 Hours Long. The writing not always landing the way it probably was intended to? 4Hours.
Its not as if ISAT is JUST STAT:P but stretched, there are some new bits of course, character moments, concepts, a whole ass hub town kinda. In short, it's a game which has expanded upon its original prototype to give a more complete experience, and oh how I wish I could appreciate it but I simply cannot. Clearly the developer has accrued a bunch of experience and the general production value has increased at least twofold, but its all in service of an idea which simply cannot support such an expansion. Its like building an airliner using toothpicks, impressive certainly but you'll have to forgive me for not wanting to get on it.
As much as the new interactions and character quests and all that are nice and well done, most of the game is in service to an appropriately named gameplay loop which is simply beyond tedious after a while. I don't even really want to discuss the mechanics at length but in short, like most timeloop games you will be going through the same areas over and over and over again. Somewhat ameliorated through the use of mechanics to skip forward and not have to redo the whole dungeon all over again, but still the game is not deep or interesting enough to make the repetition not grating. Especially when it seems to begrudge you at times for taking the skip dialogue options it keeps giving you. And that, in short is the issue I have. After 16 hours of the same thing over and over and not ending and not concluding and 3 million ways of saying the same thing I just want the goddamned game to end. And here's the thing, I'm sure at some point I am going to get the "that was the point!" from someone and admittedly I have not finished the game, but I reject this notion.
Spoiler Warning I suppose.
The whole thing in STAT:P which extends to ISAT is the absolute misery that Sif feels at having to relive the same day over and over again and their friends not even being aware of it, having to pretend to feel fine about it and not let them catch on to his existential nightmare. One could argue then, that the overlong nature of ISAT is meant to serve this, through putting the player through a similar experience. I reject this for 2 reasons: 1 in STAT:P a similar thing is achieved much more succintly, just because I agree to something being necessary does not mean you should not show restraint in how its implemented; and the other being that even if it was this point would not be worth making the game an unmerciful slog. Even the points which clearly are meant to at least be compelling on a first time around like the character quests and whatnot were so dampened by having to trudge through a million loops to get there that I didn't even really connect to their emotional cores much.
Anyways, the breaking point for me was getting to Act 4 after what feels like an eternity, trying to look up in the dev's own discord server the next steps in lieu of a walkthrough which does not currently exist (and Im definitely NOT going to be the one writing it this time) and seeing "act 6 spoilers" and my heart sank. NO, I'm sorry but get fucked. I will look up the ending on youtube whenever someone uploads a walkthrough, I am done. And I feel sad about it, I had looked forward to this game, I thought I would at the very least sort of like it. Clearly it has had a positive reception and I wish I could join the positive consensus but this game makes me miserable.
In Stars and Time’s seemingly about a group of adventurers on their final quest to defeat an evil king on top of his tower. But really it’s about the protagonist Siffrin, who after quickly dying on their way to the top realizes they can somehow loop back to the previous day with their memories and experience intact
Initially this works to their benefit, being able to keep the party from failing by returning each loop with the knowledge needed to advance. And eventually they actually succeed and defeat the king, seemingly saving everyone in the process and completing their goal. But when it seems like the game’s about to end here, the loop still happens inexplicably and brings Siffrin back to the start anyway. With no knowledge on how to break it or any idea why it’s even happening, they’re now forced to repeat the same thing over and over again
What stood out most about this game to me was how committed it was to being… repetitive. Siffrin (and by extension the player) will redo this loop, fight the same enemies, run through the same floors, mostly read the same dialogue, backtracking to the same rooms, searching for anything different to try and stop it, for hours on end. There are some things that make the loops less annoying, like being able to jump to different floors after dying or retaining memories for your party, but that’s basically the gist of it. Though as tedious as that obviously sounds, something about that structure still kept me glued to it all the way to the end
I guess it was the way it’s used narratively and how it affects the characters. Siffrin was compelling to play as and you’ll watch as their sanity gradually unravels with each loop from the constant monotony of it all. I liked that you’re basically sharing their struggle the longer you keep playing in a meta sort of way, they’ll get frustrated with it and so will you. The others, Mirabelle, Isabeau, Odile, and Bonnie, are all good as well. While you do spend much time reading their same dialogue over and over (mercifully can zone out and skip it at least), was sweet to see how much they bond with each other throughout and make up the game’s more emotional core
The turn based combat was… fine. Bit too simple, but I liked that it was based on Rock Paper Scissors with the enemy designs actually having one of the signs to show which they were weak to. But really I’d definitely say the appeal for this is in the story than the gameplay, past a certain point you’ll wish you can just ignore or skip past most fights
I do think this is a well made game, but also one that’s (albeit intentionally) frustrating to play. It is pretty long for what it is at about 20 hours for me, and you have to meet it halfway to click with the story it’s trying to tell. But I think it worked for me by the end and appreciate what it went for, even if I doubt it’ll be for everyone