Have you ever wondered what you would get if you took Dark Souls and Castle Crashers and mixed them together? Well, the answer is a colourfully frustrating 2D tale named the Watcher Chronicles.
After Purgatory has been invaded by hordes of monsters, it becomes your main mission as a nameless knight to traverse this colourful and rich Purgatory, defeating monsters and bosses along your way, in order to reclaim Purgatory
The world of Watcher Chronicles is non-linear and interconnected through secret passages and routes as you travel. Each area you pass through has a plethora of skeletal enemies ranging from axe-wielders, bow users and even larger mutated beast-like skeletons. Eventually, at the end of each level—if you manage to reach it with enough health intact—you’ll face a boss you need to defeat before you can continue to the next region.
If you delve into this game thinking that your knowledge and basic skills at souls-like games is decent, be prepared to rework your skills a fair bit. Methodical combat and managing your strategy will be your best friend in Watcher Chronicles. I found out the hard way that spamming your blocks and attacks will only get you killed—several times in fact before I decided to change strategy. Being methodical about your attacks to save energy and stamina to block incoming attacks from large groups is absolutely essential if you don’t want to die right before a boss fight and get sent right back to the start of the region again. With more than 20 bosses in Purgatory too, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you if you fail to skill manage early on.
As for the art style itself, if you’ve ever played or seen Castle Crashers, it is very similar. The cartoony appearance and bright colours work fantastically together in order to create a contrast between the background environments and foreground play area. As for your protagonist, you can either choose from a male or female model, but that’s really as far as character customisations go aside from armour upgrades. NPCs and non-hostile characters that appear and live at your home base of Haven also have their own unique appearances and styles which is a nice addition to be able to distinguish them from one another—these characters are able to assist you in upgrading your weapons, armour as well as skill levels if you have enough currency to do so. Their abilities often update after each completion of an area too, so it’s worth checking back home often to ensure you’re maxing out your character.
Another nice detail is the sound design and music. As you travel through each area, both the music and ambience of the crumbling castles, fires and rattling of bones is amplified and it gives a wonderfully realistic experience. It also doesn’t become repetitive, which was a factor that I found to be crucial—usually in games where you tend to die a lot, the music and ambience only tend to make your frustration worse—but thankfully, this wasn’t the case with Watcher Chronicles.
The addition of a two-player co-op multiplayer was a feature that I didn’t expect but was highly impressed by. Whilst I didn’t play much in multiplayer, the addition of the mode brings a new change of pace as well as a skill set that you need to adopt. The addition of a friend would definitely prove helpful in some of the tougher areas, especially at lower levels near the beginning of the game when it can become difficult to kill a lot of enemies quickly.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the souls-like and Metroidvania genre, Watcher Chronicles may be worth checking out if you’re looking for a frustratingly fun title to sink your teeth into. With tonnes of content, bosses to kill and hordes of enemies to rid Purgatory of, you’ll have a lot of hours of content to explore with Watcher Chronicles. Despite the steep learning curve for those newer to the genre, the presentation and style of play would absolutely be a good first stepping-stone into the world of souls-like games.