SwitchRPG Spotlight (and Interviews) – Chained Echoes
Disclaimer: All media shown in the video and below is not representative of the final game and its quality.
Video transcript by Gio Pimentel.
Chained echoes is a successfully crowdfunded project that I personally pledged to without hesitation. If you’re a fan of the Xenogears and Chrono Trigger franchises, Chained echoes may be a game you’ll want to keep a close eye on. Matthias Linda has been working on Chained Echoes since 2016 and it still always surprises me how much a single person can do in regards to game development. However, it is difficult for one person to do it all, so Eddie Marianukroh was brought in to help orchestrate the music, and he seems to nail down the tone for the environments created. Chained Echoes is a turn-based RPG with stunning pixel art design and it’s paired seamlessly with a fantastic soundtrack. My name is Gio and this is my spotlight on Chained Echoes.
On the surface Chained Echoes seems like your straightforward fantasy turn-based RPG, but once you start looking at all the additional features you end up with a very robust RPG. While there’s no fishing mini-game, Chained Echoes has Airships and Mechs you can battle with, and customize. The demo that I played didn’t show off any of these features but if you follow the Kickstarter page, you can see the complete vision that Mathias has laid out for the game.
Who is Mathias Linda?
Before I really get into the specifics, let’s talk about the mastermind behind it all. With a background in illustration, motion design, and a passion for great storytelling, Matthias Linda hopes to put together a memorable narrative with engaging gameplay mechanics. While having somewhat limited game development experience before Chained Echoes, Mathias headed over to Kickstarter to better push his passion project into something more tangible. When asked what the inspiration was for creating a game, Mathias states that he alone is his own target group, having grown up playing titles from the SNES and PSX era. Long story short, Chained Echoes was successfully funded, reaching many stretch goals and – most important (to me) – getting Chained Echoes on the Nintendo Switch.
What is Chained Echoes?
I’ve always been interested in the evolution of how a game starts in development and what we end up with as the final, completed project. For example, Chained Echoes initially started as an action RPG but with a hot bar mechanic similar to Xenoblade Chronicles. Worried that progress would be slowed down, Matthias changed to the menu-driven turn-based combat – the one we know now.
One thing I want to point out is the stunning pixel art. I love the attention to detail in some of the scenes. An area that pixel art games can suffer, especially RPGs, is making the towns or other game areas feel lived in. Adding that little extra something to help with immersion is what can separate good pixel art RPGs from bad ones. For instance, there is a short video clip with animals in a forest area behaving like animals – seems simple, but that’s all it takes. Another area that the pixel-art excels in is the different biomes. Areas in Chained Echoes range from a small town to hidden caves, to even cliffs high in the sky. They are beautiful and all feel very different from one another.
Let’s start with turn-based combat. It’s a little more strategic than I initially thought. There are no random battles and no battle arenas, similar to what Chrono Trigger does. The focal point to combat is the Overdrive Bar. When combat begins and you start to use your offensive attacks, you build up the Overdrive Meter. When you arrive at a certain zone that is colored green, it’s best to try and keep in that area. By doing so, you will gain additional damage against the enemy, take less damage, and spend fewer points on actions that require TP. If you stretch your party beyond the Overdrive Zone you’ll be vulnerable to attacks and take more damage. Most actions will bring the cursor on the meter up but only a select few will bring the cursor back, particularly the actions in yellow.
I do have one concern with the Overdrive system. I worry that it could potentially extend the time required to complete more trivial battles. It didn’t feel that way when I played the demo, however, but we will see how the final version feels. Here is a detailed explanation of the battle system.
And now for “Sky Combat”. There is a lot to breakdown here so I’ll try to summarize to hit all major areas of concern. At some points during the playthrough, we may run into battles in the clouds. Sky Combat is still turn-based but offers some variation in the airships and mechs. First, your position will matter. Enemies can attack from above, below, in front, and behind your airship. Any unmanned area on your airship can leave you exposed in that area of the ship. In airships, party members need to be assigned to certain stations on the ship and depending on the tech level of the party member this will have an impact on the energy relocation action. If the airship’s energy bar or its condition are depleted the battle is lost.
Airships don’t have to go it alone, Mechs are also welcome to the party. Mechs will battle alongside your airship. Depending on how the player has augmented their mechs you can initiate close combat against the enemy and this allows the use of a melee weapon which is more powerful. There is a bit of risk versus reward here the mech cannot exit close combat mode until you or the enemy is defeated so plan accordingly.
Who is Eddie?
To round out any RPG, music is a much-needed aspect in my book. Eddie Marianukroh proves that hard work and dedication pays off. Eddie is a self-taught composer but you’d never know by listening to some of the tracks. With only a small handful of titles under his belt, he and Mathias work really well together. Just by listening to what Mathias wants to convey in a battle theme or even a certain environment, Eddie fully understands how to implement it into a masterful creation. In one Kickstarter post, he gives us a detailed glimpse of how he approaches a track for Chained Echoes. He goes over the main theme and describes what each segment is trying to convey. Here is a very detailed explanation of the Main Theme.
Chained Echoes is easily one of my most anticipated games of 2021. In an interview I had with Mathias, he hopes to release Chained Echoes for September 2021. I think that the attention to detail by Matthias in the overall design and the exceptional work of composer Eddie, Chained Echoes should be on everyone’s list. I encourage all interested in Chained Echoes to follow Matthias and Eddie on all of their social platforms which can be found in the video description.
Matthias Linda Interview
What is your experience in video game development?
As a hobby I’ve been actually developing games for quite some time now. I’ve never finished anything since I just used it as a playground to try out things. Chained Echoes is basically my first attempt on releasing a full game professionally. I bring experience from other fields though, since I’ve been working full-time as an illustrator and motion-designer.
When did you start working on chained echoes?
Some time around 2016.
Is Chained Echoes the first video game you’ve worked on?
Professionally, yes. It is the very first game I’m working on. But…
Who else is part of your team?
Eddie Marianukroh is doing the sound effects and the game’s music. He is very talented and a great help. Deck13 is doing the publishing and handles my social media. Other than that, I’m working alone on the game.
Do you prefer to work alone? Are there certain challenges you need to overcome when working alone?
I actually do prefer to work alone. At least for this current project. It has some pros as cons as everything has. One big challenge is to not get overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be tackled. For years I’ve been working through a never-ending list of to-dos all alone. There is a certain risk that at some point one cannot see certain flaws in some ideas anymore, so it’s important to get feedback from the outside early and often.
What is Deck13’s involvement in this project?
They are publishing the game digitally. Doing advertising, handling my social media, talking with localization partners, helping with the distribution and so on.
What is your inspiration with Chained Echoes?
My goal for Chained Echoes is to create my personal perfect JRPG-style game. I’m basically my target group. Inspirations for this come from all the JRPGs I’ve grown up with during the SNES and PSX era, as well as a lot of newer titles.
When you have some downtime what games are you playing?
When I’m not currently playing an RPG I’m probably playing something story-heavy. My game of the year is probably 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim. I also finished Outer Wilds (not Outer Worlds) this year which was awesome and very inspiring.
How was your experience with Kickstarter?
It was one of the most exciting phases in my life. I couldn’t sleep for weeks! Every moment awake I was watching the funds counter. It felt so good when the numbers went up and so bad when they didn’t move at all. I started to hate the counter at one point, haha. But it made me feel so happy to see so many people trusting in my dream and even supporting it. It was an incredible experience.
Was Kickstarter always in your plans?
Yep, from the very beginning. I’ve been working on the project for some years now. Before Kickstarter, my time was limited to the evenings and weekends which was very exhausting next to my full-time job. Since Chained Echoes is a huge game it would’ve taken me at least 10 years to complete it. So I decided to get funding in order to work full-time on it. Kickstarter looked like the most attractive option to me.
What is Chained Echoes?
Chained Echoes is a fantasy RPG with turn-based combat and pixel art style. It also has mechs and customizable airships!
How would you explain the battle system?
The battle system is turn-based but offers some features that makes it feel different from other games in the genre, such as the Overdrive system or not having random encounters and battle arenas.
Which game engine are you using?
The game is developed in Unity3D.
Has chained Echoes seen any major changes throughout its development?
No one knows it, but in the first version it had an MMO-Style action/skill based battle system like in World of Warcraft or Xenoblade. I didn’t keep it in for too long though. It would’ve taken even longer to finish an RPG with this kind of battle system, so I decided to go with a turn-based approach.
Have there been any major challenges while the game has been in development?
The biggest challenge was probably the Kickstarter campaign itself. I’ve been working on the trailer alone for like more than half a year. Other than that, the development has been pretty smooth so far. I think the biggest challenge is still ahead: releasing the game.
Which consoles do you plan on bringing Chained Echoes to?
Currently, I have plans to release the game on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4.
When do you plan on release?
The current release date is around September 2021.
Where can people follow the progress of Chained Echoes?
I’m posting most stuff on Twitter. My personal handle is @arkheiral and the official one is @chainedechoes. Every 1 ½ to 2 months I also post updates on Kickstarter.
Eddie Marianukroh (Composer) Interview
“How do you approach a track for a game?”
In my humble opinion, I think one of the strongest tools for a composer is to know the meaning of what the track is for, as well as any other work that depicts that concept. And so when I approach a track for Chained Echoes, I reach out to Matthias and talk to him about what the track needs to convey, how it pertains to the story and whether there is any artwork or other details he can show me. With all this in mind, I try to find ways of portraying this in the music. Beyond the concept and how it ties in to the music, I also listen to other tracks from the OST and see if I can pull in any particular melodies or aspects that allows the track to further relate to the world of Chained Echoes. That said, though this is my mindset when I approach a track, writing a track is also a matter of experimentation, exploration and persistence.
“What are your influences?”
Hmm. I tend to draw from a large pool of musical influences but I guess the most consistent that I listen to would be Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez/The Mars Volta, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Ravel. Beyond music, I’m often inspired by stories, interviews, anime and spending time with family and friends.
“Were there any challenges in creating music for Chained Echoes?”
There are plenty but I think the biggest challenge for me is to try and create music that could match the high quality of the artwork and storytelling. When I first saw the artwork for Chained Echoes, I was simply blown away. Matthias is not only incredibly skilled in his craft but he is also very creative in what he is depicting in his artwork. There are plenty of pieces of his that I really like but a particular favorite of mine is this one. Furthermore, upon learning more about the story of Chained Echoes, it’s quite intricate and well-thought out, and so trying to have the music match this level of creativity along with the art is the biggest challenge I particularly face.
“Have you done work for other games?”
Yes! Besides Chained Echoes, I’ve also worked on Robot Farm (life-sim RPG that is still in development) by Nokoriware, Final Approach (an aviation VR game for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift) by Phaser Lock Interactive, various game jams, as well small projects that unfortunately never made it out of development.
“What is your favorite track or entire soundtrack for a game?”
Hmm that’s difficult haha. Of the many that I adore, I think my favorite will have to be Final Fantasy VII. When I had first experienced this game, I was very young and impressionable and would watch my cousin play. I’m not sure what it was but there was something about FFVII that just took me elsewhere. Once I started playing the game on my own, it only further solidified how memorable and important the game was to me.
“When you have some downtime what games are you playing?”
I’m currently playing Genshin Impact, a fourth playthrough of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Smash Bros, Fall Guys, and Among Us.
“Do you have any social media accounts where people can follow you?”
I’m the most active on Twitter. Otherwise, Bandcamp is a good spot to find my work.