[Review] Crimson Alliance
Available on: Xbox 360; Publisher: Microsoft Studios; Developer: Certain Affinity; Players: 1 – 4; Released: September 7, 2011 (Steam); ESRB: Teen; Official Site
When looking back on the games that we remember, it’s always the most groundbreaking or well thought-out games that stand out the most. Games on the other end of the spectrum stand out as well, if only for the laughs that people get reminiscing about how low their standards were as children. Fortunately for Crimson Alliance, it does not fall into the latter category; unfortunately, it does not fall into the first either and merely rests in the realm of mediocrity.
Dungeon crawlers are a tricky bunch. Unlike most games where a story is just icing on the cake, a good background narrative and lore is essential in keeping gamers engaged and distracted from the fact that the gameplay structure is somewhat archaic. Crimson Alliance lacks any real exploration aspect or world map and has a narrative that takes a backseat to the gameplay, only showing up once every couple of levels through voiced stills. In fact, it wasn’t until after I went through a couple of levels that I finally got the semblance of a story again after the initial cutscene. Not only that, but getting sent to a menu every time after a dungeon is completed made it quite easy and tempting to reach for the “Exit Game” option, leading to an experienced that is somewhat detached.
The combat itself in Crimson Alliance does little to make the game stand out from others. It’s not executed particularly terribly or anything, but just average. The dungeons themselves don’t seem too well thought out either. When “secret areas” are visible in plain sight and require a quick right turn rather than heading straight, one has to wonder if there’s a problem with the terminology or the designs themselves. Levels are also riddled with doors that can only be opened by one of the game’s three available classes, regardless of whether one of those are in the session or not.
If you’ve got some friends with you at the same time, it can be a fun experience exploring these levels, opening every single door, and solving some of the game’s puzzles together. Sadly though, the single player experience feels like the aspect that designers have cared for the least. A quick walkthrough of any level reveals how many sections of levels are left simply inaccessible because they require either multiple players or a class you didn’t choose. The three classes, a wizard, mercenary, and assassin, play differently enough from each other, but offer nothing in the way of customization aside from color template. The heart of RPGs is in customization, yet it is painfully absent in this dungeon crawler.
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.