Cryptract might be one of the biggest games you’ve never heard of. Released in Japan all the way back in 2015, it managed to gain a huge following in its native country, but never found its way to the international app stores on mobile. Till now.
Well over four years after its initial release, Cryptract is available to Western Android and iOS gamers. And it was worth the wait for the most part, bringing a level of gameplay refinement and localization polish that you don’t often see in Western RPG ports.
In terms of its basic plot, Cryptract sticks firmly to genre convention. You play as the ruler of a kingdom that’s come under attack from a mystical beast, and your goal is to defeat this beast and his minions.
You do this entirely through turn-based battles against a weird and wonderful array of fantasy monsters. Many of these battles are part of the main campaign, while others belong to the game’s countless side quests.
Still others can be found in the beast battles menu, or the tower, or some other place entirely. Cryptract is not short on content.
These battles see you taking a party of up to four units into the battlefield along with a friend for support. Each hero has a basic attack and a rechargeable skill, which can be attacking, defensive, or discovery-based.
You can play battles manually, choosing when to deploy your skills and which monsters to attack, but you’ll soon opt to let them play out automatically. Your AI does a decent job.
Being a ruler, battlefield tactics aren’t really your department. You’re all about the strategy, which means choosing which units to place in which parties and ensuring that you have a steady flow of optimally powered-up soldiers to send into battle.
Building an effective party isn’t just about filling it with the most powerful, levelled-up units. Each unit has not only a level, a star rating, and a general type, but also an elemental attribute, such as fire, water, or wood.
These attributes all play off each other, rock-paper-scissors-style, and so you need to equip yourself with units and parties that can take on all types of enemies. If you’re up against firey monsters, you’d better send in your water units.
Adding units to your army is where the game’s gacha element comes in. To summon a new unit, you need to spend an Kizuna points, an orb, or a crystal, with the unit you receive being largely random. There are various types of gacha summon, one of which guarantees you a unit between 3 and 5 stars, but for the most part you just take your chances.
The other way to acquire new units is through conquest. Completing certain missions gives you the monsters you defeated, though these tend to be low level units – perfect for fusion, a process that sacrifices weaker units to increase a base unit’s skill level.
Most of this will be very familiar to fans of the gacha RPG genre, and Cryptract doesn’t mess with the formula too much. Where it stands out, however, is in its attention to detail on the story front.
Rather than aiming for technical virtuosity, Cryptract’s developers have gone for a storybook style, with text to match. While there is plenty of animation, it’s largely limited to the sprites themselves, and the whole game is resolutely 2D, with old fashioned tricks like parallax depth scrolling to bring cutscenes to life.
The text is superbly localized, with none of the language errors that blight many of the RPGs that are brought to the West, and the narrative is genuinely engaging. Written in second person, it fleshes out the characters around you, and provides motivation going into battles.
The side missions, which could so easily have been reduced to more cut and paste scraps, are brought to life by the stories that underpin them.
Check out Cryptract for yourself on iOS or Android by clicking here.
Cryptract is not spectacular on the technical front, and its gameplay doesn’t really stray from the formula of the genre it belongs to. But it’s a solid, well-made gacha game, elevated by surprisingly solid writing.