Crimson Alliance from developers Certain Affinity looks to add to the burgeoning list of Action Role Playing Games that are currently populating the download services, but does it deliver the ultimate loot drop?
The Action RPG casts the player in the role of one of three characters; the mercenary Gnox, wizard Direwolf or ninja Moonshade; all heroic figures charged with overthrowing the evil Cult of the Soul Siren that has enslaved the Crimson Empire. Cookie cutter doesn’t even begin to describe the backstory, but it provides just enough exposition to frame the subsequent action awaiting those venturing into the fantasy world.
Played from an isometric point of view, Crimson Alliance conforms to every preconceived notion of how a classic Action RPG should be, right down to characterisation, hit points and, the most important aspect for some, loot. There is the ability to customise the colour and name of your chosen hero at the outset, but that’s as far this customisation element goes. As always with such titles, the real meat on the bones is the tons of secrets and goodies sequestered in hidden treasure chests, providing enough incentive between all the blood-letting of the enemy hoards that block the heroes path to the final encounter.
Attacks are broken up into regular and heavy but there is also an ultimate attack which is charged up by dispatching enemies and, once ready, unleashes screen clearing devastation on unsuspecting foes. The solo player will find that enemies in general can provide a stiff challenge, which makes the ability to play with up to four players (either over Xbox Live or via local co-op) a real boon.
As always, the experience becomes a lot more fun in a shared environment and, of course, also becomes easier so it’s worth tweaking the difficulty beforehand lest it become far too mundane on Normal. Teaming up is also an advantage because some puzzles require more than one person to solve, meaning the numerical advantage isn’t merely a cosmetic sop to the action. The only slight downside to all this raucousness is the frame rate takes a real hit at times, and you’re literally able to count the frames of animation as everything grinds to a halt.
Graphically Crimson Alliance has some nice flourishes but really shines when it changes up its action from gloomy dungeon interiors to outside locales. The sunlight literally stings the eyes, with bleached out areas that make for a nice change of pace in this genre of games when darkness is usually everything, and the player is always left suspecting that it’s being used to mask deficiencies with the game engine.
While all the above might be piquing the interest of any would-be player, it comes with an added caveat – one which anyone coming to the game without prior knowledge will have to face before they even part with their Microsoft Points. The base game can be purchased with one of the three classes for 800 Microsoft Points and if players wants any of the additional characters, they can be purchased together for 400 Microsoft points, bringing the final price for the “full fat” version to 1200 Microsoft points.
And the Micro-transactions don’t end there. In the different shops that open up after an area is cleared there’s the ability to purchase in-game gold with actual Points. This feels a tad disingenuous because the purpose of playing games such as Crimson Alliance is the grind to acquire both wealth and loot. To set an easy back door to such rewards almost defeats the purpose of the exploration, or attempting to run through the game with a different character class because it’s hidden behind another paywall. While the moral argument for artificially inflating the price of a title in this manner is one for another time and place, when you see that the additional character unlocks are only 108k in size, it will stick in the craw.
It’s a shame it has to be mentioned but it’s important that people know how the game is set out, especially since it detracts from the fact that, when you boil it down, Certain Affinity has created a fun little game in Crimson Alliance. Sure, it won’t have the Diablo crowd furrowing their brows any time soon, but with the right group to play with it becomes a fun, shared experience.
While those approaching this from a solo play point of view might find their attention more suited to the rather sublime Torchlight to scratch their dungeon crawling itch, Crimson Alliance is a undoubtedly a fun diversion while it lasts.