After what seems like an eternity of waiting and waiting. Action-Brawler RPG Dragon’s Crown has finally made its way over to Europe. It’s certainly eye catching, but is it style over substance?
Not a chance! Whilst the game’s visual style will be the biggest talking point for many seeing it for the first time, it is in the mechanics that Dragon’s Crown really shines. It brings together side-scrolling beat-em-up joy, with the looting goodness from the likes of Diablo. It is surprisingly deep and involved, which becomes apparent very quickly.
When you first start the game you are given a choice of adventurer to play as, each of the characters acts as a different class, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sat around a table in the local tavern, you highlight each character before choosing which you want to take on your maiden adventure.
Note we say maiden adventure! This is because Dragon’s Crown is a game that invites you to play over and over, repeating it with the different classes, trying to better the scores on each level. The score you get is based off various things, such as loot collected, enemies killed, damage taken, time you are killed and more. You won’t go through the game perfectly in the first run with each character either, so expect multiple plays.
The story is quite deep, but it is very throw away and should it not interest you much, then you can easily skip the cinematic sections. As each level essentially consists of moving through, killing everything in sight, getting to a boss and killing them. It’s not a bad story, but it clearly there to be a means to an end and act as a basic plot point for the game to move forward.
The story does give you the main route through the game and your main objectives, however there are plenty of side-quests that can be undertaken from the Adventurer’s Guild, which are again designed to tempt you back into levels already cleared. The rewards are handsome though, so it doesn’t take much encouragement. Even a few hours in to the game, you don’t feel like you have really scratched the surface, as there seems to be a hell of a lot to do.
Looting does play a large part of the game, as you unlock treasure chests throughout levels, with treasure found being given a grade of A-E. A being rarer and more valuable items, E less so and everything in-between. At the end of the level you are given the chance to appraise your loot and decide whether you wish to keep your spoils, or sell them. Appraising costs gold though, so you need to decide if you really need to consider keeping that E ranked treasure, or just sell it blindly for less money.
Appraising is important though, as not doing so, means you cannot use the treasure found. Many of the treasure take the form of new weapons, or items that can be equipped to improve your character’s, defence, HP, etc. It isn’t really a choice of trying to get through without either, as each boss battle works out to be pretty difficult anyway, let alone without any upgrades.
You don’t only find treasure throughout the levels, there are also bones to be collected, which can either be taken to the chapel and resurrected, giving you a character to add to your party, or buried for the chance to get another item as a bonus. Extra tasks can also give extra rewards, such as finding trapped women and freeing them, they aren’t easy to save though.
There are some minor issues, the biggest being that when the action becomes frantic you can be playing almost blind, simply winging it. This is because there is to much going on, that you cannot see what is going on at all times, losing sight of your character. It can be frustrating and can descend into pure button mashing as you try to survive. That is the only real fault we could find with the game though, it is a major one, but you are able to see past it and enjoy the experience still.
What impresses about Dragon’s Crown is that despite looking from the outside as a niche title, that would be favoured by a certain crowd, you find it is actually a game that has broad appeal, that can be played by total newcomers, or experts alike. It is easy to jump in and play through the campaign, button mashing your way through, or playing with more skill and finesse. The class you pick essentially helps to decide the way in which the game is played.
The RPG elements are as good as you’d expect in any other game with a levelling system. As you score points, you gain XP and the more XP gained, the higher the level your character will become. Along with this, is the ability to gain skill points and unlock new skills to make your character better and better. These can be direct improvements to attributes, boosts to score and wealth, or new moves and boosts to damage done.
It is a game that can be as complex of simple as you want. Yet there is only the one difficulty setting, it is only after you beat the game, that you have the option to unlock different difficulties. This is a nice touch and shows just how well balanced the game is from the very start.
You cannot talk about Dragon’s Crown without mentioning the visuals. They do stand out, thanks to an illustrative style that appears to have been born from a teenager’s fantasy, but looking past that and you have a game that is dripping in beautiful artwork. The characters has a ton of details, as do the backgrounds and level design. It is yet another example of how 2D can really show off the capabilities of a machine.
Dragon’s Crown is far from being a single player experience, it actively encourages co-operative play, whether that be local (if you play the PS3 version) or Ad-Hoc on the Vita. Even if you can’t get people to join your adventure, the AI will play the other three members of your party and work surprisingly well as they help you take down the waves of enemies that litter each level.
Dragon’s Crown is an amazing experience and whilst it may be easy to turn your nose up at it, due to the visual style of the characters, to do so you would be denying yourself the chance of playing one the the best side-scrolling beat-em-ups of all time. A game with simplicity, that is also as deep as you want it to be. Open to newcomers and experienced players alike, you need this in your life.