If I made a game, and I say this with zero game dev experience, it'd probably be something like this. Not necessarily my "dream game", but this has so, SO much stuff I'd put into a game.
A class system with that allows for a lot of creative synergy? Check. A huge world that has tons of hidden bosses and secrets? Yep. Challenging turn based gameplay where even the non-boss encounter requires you to give it your all? Got that. A story that... actually the story really isn't there. If a normal RPG is about 45% story and 55% gameplay, Crystal Project is closer to... 2% story, 98% gameplay. For context, my final game time on Steam was just under 40 hours, and there were several optional areas and superbosses that I haven't seen yet, plus a chocobo-like breeding game.
If you want to know if you'll like this game, then you'll have to love turned-based battles and exploration.
Let me stress this point, exploration is a huge component. Nearly as important as the the battle system. It starts fairly simple, but then you start to get mounts that allow you to reach areas previously unreachable. Still sounds standard... until you realize the game's world is all interconnected. It's an entire open world game made by one dev. Its kinda crazy. Not one area takes place in some separate dimension, such as entering a world map in other RPGs. You can fall off a giant cliff and plummet all the way into the ocean. And if you can swim by that point in the game, you can seamlessly go underwater and find treasure and dangerous foes in the ocean's depths.
Speaking of foes, this game is fairly tough all things consider. While it is possible in some parts of the game, most of the time grinding levels isn't an immediate "I win" tactic for the more difficult encounters. It certainly helps, but if you do a lot of side content then you'll reach max level quickly, and will still be struggling if you made your party poorly. The game does have your back in many ways. Your stat-increases are dependent on the class your character was when they level up, but you can rollback and redistribute them if you aren't satisfy with your build. The game is very transparent about its mechanics, like the exact calculations it uses when calculating damage, what party member an enemy will attack next turn; even the exact damage values, crit chance & crit damage, and accuracy percentage for every attack you do is clear as day.
I played on my new Steam Deck and it was the one game that didn't drain my Deck in 30 minutes, which was nice to say the least. Have had some notable graphical hiccups, namely with the world taking a bit too long to load after fast traveling or moving at high speeds. I had no issues with this personally, but a lot of music and game assets are used from many royalty-free dev sites. I felt it was done well enough that I didn't notice during my playtime, plus it does rightfully credit where they came from so it by no means tries to hide it. Only big issue I had was that I would've like a little nudge towards some of the more interesting discoveries in this game. This game world is massive and it can be exciting but also very overwhelming. I had to look at a guide (which there are so few of) more then once to get at least a vague direction for points of interest, some of which are very easy to miss.
If world building and story is what you love about RPGs, then this is ain't for you sadly. Me though, this was just sweet dopamine in my brain the whole way through.
Did I mention this game also has an in-depth randomizer? Like random bosses, enemies, class locations, items, and more? This'll keep me busy that's for sure.

Reviewed on Feb 17, 2023