Chronos: Before the Ashes is a combat heavy exploration game with light puzzle elements. The combat has weight and depth to it as each encounter requires deliberate thought and action, as a hasty mistake will most likely lead to a very quick death.
The game gives you enough freedom in choosing your own style in approaching combat with different weapons and shields. You can choose a balance between damage and evasion with the sword and light shield, focus more on heavy damage and blocking with the axe and heavy shields, or fast movement and attacks with the spear. You also have access to arcane abilities, which is the game’s version of magic.
Each playstyle has an affinity that aligns with four different attributes (strength, agility, arcane, and vitality) that can be increased via points gained when leveling up your character. In addition to this, the game has an interesting mechanic where dying increases your age by one year and every decade you can pick one of three unique traits. Each decade offers different types of bonuses, giving the player more freedom in building their character. For example, the first decade gave me the option of choosing more damage, health, or experience gain while the second decade gave me a choice between a larger dodge window, a larger parry window, and etc.
The map design is pretty intelligent, giving subtle hints about upcoming puzzles and possible dangers. And since dying is going to be normal and happening frequently in your first playthrough, there are many short cuts built into the levels to help you spend less time back tracking to where you died. There are some unique environments and areas that were a pleasant surprise as well. The puzzles are straight forward and simple enough to not take away from the combat and give a little bit of a breather in between sections of constant action.
Overall, Chronos: Before the Ashes is a solid combat exploration game. The combat works well and is responsive, the level design is fantastic, and the game play loop is challenging but not frustrating. You replenish health every time you level up so there is some wiggle space to get through entire areas without dying if you play very carefully. There is also enough lore, as well as references to Remnant: From the Ashes for die hard fans of the game.