Review: Chronicles from 4.012

You’re an average citizen living in a future world on the edge of an environmental disaster. But there’s more going on under the neon glow. A supernatural battle between good and evil wages in the background, and you’ve been thrust into the middle of it.

In Chronicles from 4.012 by Toxic Squad, you’re an average citizen living in a future world on the edge of an environmental disaster. But there’s more going on under the neon glow. A supernatural battle between good and evil wages in the background, and you’ve been thrust into the middle of it. Your choices will change the balance of power forever.

Chronicles from 4.012 is an episodic visual novel released up to chapter 7.3. A review was requested by the developer.

Striking Art

From the start, this game is visually and aesthetically lovely. The backgrounds are complex and detailed, with a lot of animation and movement through time and space. They’ve done a great job of creating lively cityscapes and slums that grab your attention and bring presence to the setting. The sprite work has a bit more of a unique style, but the character designs are fun and intriguing. Some of the costuming works better with the background setting than others, but they all speak very strongly to the nature and personality of the characters wearing them. There’s a large cast with some characters having multiple forms and a wide array of places our main character visits, all speaking to a dedication to creating an interesting visual space. There’s a lot of movement and flashy things to draw your attention through the story as it progresses.

A Complex World with a Rough Presentation

The story and writing as a whole make some interesting choices. The combination of the wholly supernatural (the angels and demons) with a sci-fi urban dystopia is very intriguing.The juxtaposition promises a lot of speculative intrigue on the surface, but it struggles a little to figure out how those two things can fit together organically. So far, in the early chapters at least, the pretty standard neon sci-fi dystopia feels more like a backsplash to a fairly standard angels-versus-demons conflict than an active element in the overall narrative.

A lot of this feeling may be an artifact of the way the world is both built and presented. There’s evidence that the lore of the game has had a lot of forethought and goes fairly deep. The presentation of this lore, however, tends more toward big exposition dumps over something more organic. For example, you’re given a lot of information right at the beginning about the different levels of this underground habitat system that you promptly don’t need anymore because you don’t ever get off at those levels and the information it provides hasn’t become relevant yet. New information gets introduced that the main character has such a mixed reaction to that I had a hard time understanding whether this was novel information to them or common knowledge. And if said information was common knowledge, why was it only just now coming up? It’s possible that some of the nuance was lost in translation from Spanish to English, but this frequently left me wondering whether I had missed something earlier in the story.

Runs Into Some Interfacing Issues

From a more meta, player-centric perspective, the game is structurally questionable with some not-great UI decisions. There were game-breaking bugs in the English version that I had to switch over to the Spanish version (that I could luckily read) to get past, then switch back (which is nice that you can switch between languages mid-game). They stripped out the auto-forward and history features that come with the engine, which is very annoying for a player (like myself) who uses those options frequently and expects visual novels to have them. There are no labels on the “load” and “save” screens and a handful of other UI annoyances that were just irritating enough that they made human interaction with the game annoying.

It also introduces this weird little can character at the beginning to get your name and gender (of which only two are provided, which prompted an involuntary non-binary eyeroll). They then show up again later to explain how the remaining chapters are going to roll out and how the rest of the game works beyond the “split.” The whole exchange rips you right from the story just when it’s getting interesting, and it bothered me immensely, waiting for the can to show up again, as promised, to explain things to me.

Keeps You Coming Back for More

There’s a lot of story in this game. At first it feels all over the place, but only a few chapters in, the loose threads start converging together. While I’m skeptical of how effective the roll out of the chapters will go from here on out—only one set of routes is updated at a time, so you may have to wait for your favorite set—narratively, it does the episodic format extremely well. At the end of the current chapters, I’m intrigued about where the story might go. There’s a very strong thread of “what’s going on?” that I want to see resolve. I enjoy the characters, and I’m interested in how things play out.

While it’s a mixed bag, Chronicles from 4.012 has a lot of interesting things to offer and little bit of something for fans of different genres. It blurs the genre lines a little bit, and has a team behind it that seems passionate about doing something interesting with the two. For all its small faults, it’s an interesting story that feels it’s going somewhere at least a little new.

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Ashe Thurman