Reviewed by Shaun (@reviewsbyhughes)
Developer: Team Crimson
Publisher: Merge Games
Category: Role-Playing, Adventure, Action
Release Date: 29.11.2018
Prediction: I will have spent longer writing this review than I did playing Crimson Keep.
It is rare that I start a review in this manner however needs must. It gives me no great pleasure to say that Crimson Keep is not a good game. In fact, in a rather rare occurrence, I would go as far as to say it is an inherently bad one. It is unforgiving, uninspiring and uninteresting. I had hoped for so much more, and the Nintendo eStore listing is the reason for this. Advertised as an ‘action RPG adventure in which your only hope is to explore, scavenge and hunt for survival,’ with an ‘ever-changing labyrinth full of monsters, traps, and treasure,’ I can be forgiven for getting excited.
With rogue-like elements all the rage at present, the two-man team responsible for Crimson Keep’s development: Ian Atherton and Ben Rog-Wilhelm, were seemingly on to a winner. Coupling these design choices with survival and combat-based gameplay has the potential to achieve great things. The feature list on the official game website is rather extensive and represents great promise:
- Dungeon Layouts
- Weapons, armor, potions, and scrolls
- Traps and shrines
- Weapons with different speeds, damage arcs, and ranges
- Many abilities to choose from, useful for different combat situations
- Locational damage (aim and hit enemies in weak points)
- Condense the enjoyment of an MMO’s 1-60 grind into 90 minutes
- Frequently earn new abilities and equipment to make your character stronger
- Very different level layouts, monsters, and loot each run
- Unlock more content the more you play (progression)
- Over 45 achievements at launch with in-game rewards
Hardcore Roguelike Elements
- Cursed items
It is most unfortunate, then, that in translation from blueprint to production, it has not been successful.
The reasons for my obvious distaste towards ‘Crimson Keep’ are apparent within the opening three or four minutes. The combat, which forms a large part of the game, is lacking in substance. Having made a selection from the three ‘classes,’ I commenced my first play through as a ‘Berserker’ – a rage filled warrior who excels at melee combat, with a natural affinity for slashing weapons. I started the game, and through a series of sign posts was given the necessary brief. In this time, I also got to grips with the combat elements and used the skills of my warrior to dispose of a few enemies. It is here that the words unforgiving, uninspiring and uninteresting make an appearance. The words unbalanced, underdeveloped and unhappy could have been used too. Short of slashing the enemy, there was little else at my disposal and within three foul swoops, I was dead – the vicious cycle starting again.
On my second playthrough, I chose to change tact, this time playing as a ‘Witch.’ Offering up some alternatives to hacking and slashing, this class allowed for use of magic to attack and defend. In doing so, I was now able to attack from distance which was much more preferred than wildly hacking away. Unfortunately, however, the mechanics were just as cumbersome and, unless the crosshair was pointing directly at the constantly moving targets, the attack wasn’t registered. As well as this, the challenges that each of the randomly spawning enemies pose make it too difficult to ever be successful. In fact, the only time I was successful was when I ran through the procedurally generated caves avoiding enemies altogether. This was short-lived however as I encountered an enemy in an enclosed space and was duly destroyed.
With the issues previously discussed being the main subject of my disappointment, I believe there are a few changes which could have been made to improve the experience and to make it more accessible. The most pertinent of which would have been the inclusion of a checkpoint or save game. Acknowledging that the game is quite difficult and providing ways to make it more manageable would have gone some way to developing a game which capitalizes on all that early promise.
Crimson Keep is a game I wanted to like. With procedurally generated dungeons, survival RPG elements and a perk-based reward system, it had the makings of a game that I could really see myself enjoying. Unfortunately, the ever-changing dungeons are a hindrance, the necessary resources needed for survival are missing and the perks were next to none-existent as I was unable to proceed far enough in to reap the rewards. I do not believe the game is beyond repair, however in its’ current state, I cannot recommend this game – especially with how many other top quality indie titles are on the market right now!