Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder is not a journey for the faint of heart. This interactive fiction/visual novel is a harrowingly dark tale putting players through the wringer before they uncover the whole truth behind the fantasy’s mystery. The magus Vyn wakes up to a nightmare they may or may not have brought about of their own volition: they’ve lost their memories. They face imminent destruction in a solitary tower thanks to a supernatural void resulting from some failed ritual. The only one who is keeping Abyss’dvara at bay is Ilar, a magus claiming to be Vyn’s partner. As they race to figure out another ritual in the hope of banishing the void for good, Vyn comes face-to-face with clues that could piece together the truth and show them just how close they were to Ilar—if they can somehow survive the ordeal, that is.
Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder’s setup inevitably means that you face many bad endings before the critical pieces of the mystery surrounding Vyn and Ilar reveal themselves. Each new scene or clue adds another layer to the plot, with the game encouraging you to experiment with choices and their repercussions. Even if you should “fail,” it gives you further insight into how you might succeed later. You have to reach several notable deaths to even start on the route that might result in discovering the true ending. These endings can be brutal to witness, and it is worth noting that the world itself that Vyn lives in is cruel and despair-filled. Reading the text can be emotionally draining and upsetting. I’d advise anyone curious about the title to heed the disclaimer warning the developers posted before even considering picking it up. Should you still decide to play Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder, you’ll find a haunting and immersive tale that strikes many emotional chords before culminating in a reveal and epilogue that is bittersweet, hopeful, and utterly poignant in its scope.
The UI for Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder is like an actual novel, with beautiful fantasy illustrations to one side and the text box to the other. Background illustrations are equally gorgeous and fitting for the darker tone, with shading to help further illustrate the stark bleakness of Vyn and Ilar’s world. The text moves along at a decent, nicely descriptive pace until you have to choose to say or do something that moves the plot in a different direction. Sometimes you’re given a choice to enter text at crucial points for naming purposes or even potential spell casting.
Entering specific text at given points, which you might not suspect to be able to do at first, can lead to astonishing results, which is as much as I’ll say on that point because experimenting with clues is the name of the game! There are instances where Vyn has a time limit on potential actions, and inaction in and of itself can change the story route in unexpected ways. The sheer number of steps available to players and how the story branches out in subsequent playthroughs mean you are likely to see something new every time you start a game: unless you choose to repeat the same decisions actively. Repetition can sometimes lead to something new once you’ve uncovered further clues.
Because the subject matter is very dark and heavy, and you must play through it numerous times to finally reach the ending, I wouldn’t advise playing it for long periods since it can start weighing on you. Instead, this title is best picked up and experienced in short bursts when you feel up for it. However, I can say that finally reaching the penultimate ending left me feeling quite accomplished. I was so engrossed during my time with the game that every time I booted my computer up, I thought I always had to reach a new ending before I could step away, which is a testament to the title’s stellar and powerful writing.
The narrative’s two central characters, Vyn and Ilar, are amazingly complex. Vyn’s reactions to their life and death situations all make complete sense, especially given further information about their past. Ilar is a walking mystery: helpful and supportive in many respects, but with something hidden and potentially dangerous floating below the surface. Their relationship, both how it was in the past and ultimately how it might yet develop over the plot, is utterly compelling and brilliantly written. Other characters, such as the feline Fuzzpants and a mysterious entity that Vyn encounters in a different plane, are pretty exciting and help flesh out the world’s mythos. I also greatly appreciate the diversity and inclusivity of the title. For example, you can choose which pronouns you want to have used for Vyn (whose premade design brilliantly fits any pronoun of the player’s choice), Ilar uses “they/them” pronouns, and Fuzzpants goes by “xe/xer” ones.
There is no story map to speak of, but you can cycle quickly through previously read text on subsequent playthroughs quite easily. A gallery mode helps you keep track of the various illustrations and event CGs you uncover, along with journal entries and letters that you’ll collect along the multiple routes you go on, so you can always look back on them for clues. For example, suppose you are truly stuck on what to do next to advance the narrative. In that case, the game helpfully gives you a hint to set you on the right track to reach another unique ending without ever outright telling you what you must do, so it still leaves the outcome in the player’s hands.
There isn’t really much that I can fault Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder for. It is an excellent VN for its intended audience. The writing and dialogue are phenomenal. The messages, at their core, are surprisingly sincere. The music and sound effects capture the feeling in a given scene wonderfully (ranging from truly unsettling and harrowing moments to the oddly light-hearted and tender ones that stand out all the more for their rareness in such a cruel and cold place). The illustrations are beautiful and very detailed. Each piece of the narrative puzzle fits together phenomenally. It is a dark and highly mature tale, but an utterly thought-provoking and insightful one. Since reviewing this title, the developer has announced a sequel entitled Chronicles of Tal’Dun 2: The Hunger and, based on my experience with this first visual novel, I am looking forward to exploring more of this game’s story-verse. Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder is a compelling and stellar VN experience at its core.