Timemelters Review – A Time Unseen

8.0/10

Timemelters is a fun game that offers unique mechanics and design which are cleverly implemented, resulting in a satisfying overall experience. The game is smooth running with no glitches or performance issues, but the story and characters struggle to leave any impression, and a few more cutscenes could've gone a long way. Still, even the most story-driven gamers shouldn't shy away from this fresh and exciting product. Give it a chance and you won't be disappointed.

Timemelters is fresh, but not without a few shortcomings. Unless you really did your homework, you probably have no idea what to expect in playing it. When I agreed to this review, I saw the trailer and thought, “Okay, an action RPG / horde fighter where I use sorcery and there’s some time mechanic.” It’s a pleasure to report that this description falls entirely short. In fact, in drawing on my decades of gaming experience, I couldn’t think of a single other game that shared Timemelters’ model. It should come as a surprise to no one that this distinctive design wasn’t a mistake.

On the Dev’s website, they describe the design goal for their games:

We don’t settle with cloning games by simply changing the context or the visuals, we want to create something entirely new, with never before seen mechanics and game rules.

https://www.autoexec-games.com/

Created by Autoexec Games out of Montreal, Timemelters was made by a very small team — only three are mentioned in the game’s opening. I dare say that they accomplished their laudable goal with Timemelters. Are you curious yet? Good. Let’s talk about it.

Timemelters is described by the devs as a “strategy hero defense”, but what does that mean? You won’t really get a clear picture until you’ve played for an hour. The first hour is more of an amuse-bouche that introduces the world, characters, and story. Sure, you’ll sling some magic around, but it’s really just a tutorial.

timemelters review starting out
It takes a little time to get going

Your first real mission will have you up against several dozen enemies, and you’ll have a number of powers available. These powers are varied and have practical purposes; let’s list the starting ones:

  • Spirit Strike – Basic ranged magic attack.
  • Spirit Blast – Blast back a group of enemies running at you.
  • Infuse Spirit – Animate certain objects to fight with or support you the battlefield.
  • Earth Spirit – An area of effect spell to stop enemies for a short time.
  • Fire Spirit – Summon a fire guardian that hurls fireballs at enemies.
  • Teleport – You can teleport, which is a real life saver.

The catch is that to use the more robust powers (the bottom four on the list), you have to have spirits, which are acquired by defeating certain enemies. The issue is that once you start fighting a group, you get mauled. So in the first actual mission, I had to single out some enemies that would give me spirits and defeat them, but then one enemy (or a dozen) would get too close and… I would die.

timemelters review dying in game
Death is just another path, one that we all must take.”

This is where the time aspect plays into the game. Upon dying, I restarted the missio — but with the newly acquired spirit power I collected from my previous life — and my past self will play out my exact movements from before as an “echo”. The strategy now is to use the enemy movements that the echo causes against the hordes. The giant group of enemies might run past a tree that I cast Infuse Spirit on, resulting in the plant flinging them in the air and thinning out their numbers. Maybe you want to buy some time for your future echo, so you cast Earth Spirit to slow a group down.

There are many ways to play a level, and a plenitude of tools to use, but the best part is that it stays challenging. You will definitely fail, but it never feels unfair. There will be moments when you’re feverishly running from a group of enemies, only to realize that you’re on your last echo, and death means game over. Then you realize that you could’ve cast a teleport two echoes ago to reshape the whole battlefield.

After that second mission, my thought was, “Interesting, but it’s kinda lame that I already have all the powers.” I was very wrong. This is the point where the game changes dramatically: If you’re solo, the hoards of enemies become so big that your first set of powers can’t keep up. You need more devastating ones, which you acquire at a steady pace throughout the dozen or so missions. In coop, you do obtain some more powers, but they’re limited (so you don’t sweep away the pawns too easily).

timemelters review powers
Lots of different powers at your disposal, and you’ll probably use every one.

It’s a testament to the uniqueness of Timemelters that I had to spend the first half of this review just describing the game’s mechanics. In reviews for other games, you can usually call out a genre, and 90% of people will understand what type of game you mean and what to expect. Yet, I haven’t even gotten to the fact that you can switch to a bird’s eye view of the battlefield and use your powers on enemies that are miles away to hinder them from killing a future echo. There’s honestly so much to this game’s systems and mechanics that it’s a difficult job outlining them all in a concise review.

What about the story? After all, the setting in which we’re using these powers and its characters is important. Unfortunately, this is the part of the game that I found lacking, but there is a caveat to my opinion. When you’re choosing to start a new game in the menu, the default option is the “Full Version”. I wrongly assumed that this was the entire game. The other option, called the “Extended Version”, is described as having more dialog and backstories, no doubt rounding out the story a fair bit.

Going back and playing the start of the extended version, I didn’t notice any new cutscenes or dialogue, so perhaps they come in later. That being said, the full version’s characters still didn’t have strong personalities or significant arcs. Their motivations and interactions felt generic, and the dialogue was flat. The main character acts bewildered in most of her dialogue and never seems to grasp what’s happening, even towards the end. The main story itself had some twists and turns, and some genuine highlights of moral ambiguity, but as a whole I never felt captured by it. This could’ve been because it’s a fairly short game (I finished it in just under ten hours), or from the story biting off more than it can chew in terms of scope.

timemelters review dialogue
“I’m melting! I’m melting!” (How it feels reading the dialogue)

The delivery of most of the exposition was also poor. In between the missions or chapters, while the game was loading, it would give you a sheet of info about a character or topic. In this reviewer’s opinion, information of this kind is almost always better relayed through story beats, cutscenes, or dialogue. The limited voice acting was okay, even if it did jump around with accents, and the stylized map was a nice touch that breathed some life into the journey.

On the technical side of things, I didn’t have a single issue with performance. This is pretty astounding for a game that tinkers with such distinctive tools and mechanics. I played on Steam with a controller, and the interface felt intuitive. This is good news for console players as this game will be releasing for PS5 and Xbox Series S /X in summer, 2024. Another boon is that this game is a bargain ($20) for two people wanting to play together. At release, purchasing one copy will come with a friend pass, so you can play with a friend for free.

timemelters review multiple echoes
With our powers combined…

With the bases covered, I want to end this review by describing the feels of finishing a particularly hard mission. Gamers that have finished a Dark Souls game will know what I’m talking about. There were actually quite a few missions where it felt like everything had to line up perfectly to pull it off. You would be down to your last echo, and have your route planned. As you teleport across the map, you’d see past echoes darting back and forth, using different powers to affect the battlefield. Then it all culminates in your last echo perfectly timing that last big spell you saved to finish off the horde. There aren’t many games that can give you that rush of excitement and glee when you win. This game does that. I actually fist pumped after finishing the final boss.

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Kelson H.
Kelson H.

Kelson is a spud head from out west. He is most happy when holding a milky tea with too much honey and playing a sprawling role playing game or reading a fantasy novel. His video game tastes vary but his main genres are looter shooters, RPGs, and real time strategy games.

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