Set thousands of years after humanity has gone extinct, Crymachina places you in the role of a human consciousness restored as data. Machines have been tasked with caring for the memory of humanity, but have fallen into conflict, and it is up to you to restore peace. 

You have to travel the dark sci-fi realm battling minions to gain EXP. Once you have enough, you will be recognised as a Real Person and will be able to control the machines, which are programmed to obey and never harm humans. 

The gameplay in Crymachina largely takes the form of rapid speed fighting. You are quickly taught the key moves that will keep you alive and then thrust into the action. The battles are fast-paced and exciting. 

You do need to master the moves you are taught if you’re going to survive. The enemies you face have their set moves and patterns, but they aren’t as repetitive or formulaic as many games offer. It’s not impossible to button mash your way through the game, but you’ll certainly benefit from quick reflexes and a sense of strategy.

The sheer speed of the movement can make the fights more challenging, especially when the shooting bursts of bright neon attacks don’t differ between you and your enemies. It can be unclear whether you’re landing hits or they are until you die. 

The pace also means you might miss some information that is revealed during fights. Characters speak during the fights, but only in Japanese, so it’s difficult to read the translated text. Crymachine, however, offers difficulty options that allow you to choose a less brutal battle level so you can focus on the story.

In between fights, you return to Eden, where the characters guiding you through your journey gather and recover. Here, you can power up your character by assigning skill points earned during battle, as well as record information you’ve gathered about the world and save your game.

There is a lot of dialogue in these sections made up of interesting discussions about life and purpose and what it means to be human. The different characters have contrasting perspectives on the point of being alive, raising questions about what to do with the precious few years we each get to experience consciousness.

The darkness and solemnity in the conversations are balanced out by a darkly charming sense of humor. Wry gallows humor and the occasional meta joke lighten the mood. These jokes are delivered by well-written characters that create a great sense of community. 

Their understanding of human concepts like “family” is sometimes flawed in a way that makes for wholesome characters who are working as best they can with the limited information (and zero personal experience) they have of such things. Without being too forceful of its message, the game makes you think about the things we in today’s world – perhaps one teetering on the brink of a similar violent extinction – may take for granted.

These sections take the form of a visual novel more than they do cutscene. They can take some time, although there are a number of optional scenes you can choose not to play. You are also not offered any dialogue options with which to reply. The protagonist goes on her emotional and spiritual journey, but it is one you have to watch. At no point are any of the philosophical questions posed by the game directed to you.

If this sounds familiar, you might have played Crystar from the same creators, which has a very similar premise but with a fantasy journey through Purgatory rather than the dystopian futuristic setting of Crymachina. The fragments of Personality Data you collect from the digital world in Crymachina echo the wisps of human souls you encounter in the afterlife in Crystar. Even the relationship between the protagonists and the characters that guide them through the mysterious new world has the same emotional beats.

Crymachina seems to reimagine the plot of Crystar in a different setting. While the new game is certainly well-built in terms of its action and design, the studio certainly could have done more to make this game feel unique compared to its predecessor. As it is, some of the dialogue creates an awkward sense of deja vu if you’re at all familiar with Crystar.

If you enjoyed Crystar and would like more of the same, you’ll likely enjoy Crymachina. Despite how beautifully crafted many of its elements are, it is somewhat overpriced compared to other games in the same bracket that offer more depth, complexity, and originality.