Certain Affinity officially close the Summer of Arcade with their new hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Crimson Alliance. Action is key here as you and, up to, three other friends take up swords in the name of finding piles of gold. Crimson Alliance is a fun way to end the summer and, with two pricing options, you shouldn’t have much trouble convincing a couple of your friends to get it too.
Crimson Alliance has you start by choosing one of three characters. The Wizard, who is self-explanatory, the Mercenary, your typical sword-and-shield fighter or the Assassin, a dextrous lady who dual-wields short swords. Here is where the above mentioned pricing options come into play. For 800 Points ($9.99) you get the full game but must choose one character to play as, and one only. For 1200 Points ($14.99), you will get the full game and access to choose any of the three characters at any time. This is definitely an intriguing option as I know a few people who are only interested in one class when they play these sort of games.
Once you’ve decided on your character you’re treated to a few cut-scenes that feature still drawings and some pretty lame voice acting. A cursory story is presented, but that’s not what you’re here for is it? Crimson Alliance is split into distinct stages, each with a set amount of secret areas and collectible items. Your characters abilities are mapped to the face buttons with X being attack, A being some sort of dash and Y or B for character specific special attacks. Each character is distinct in their abilities, starting health and weapon types.
This isn’t a loot fest like most games of its kind but weapons, armor and upgrades are found in chests and secret areas around each stage. I do enjoy a game with good loot drops but I found that trying to find secret areas was its own kind of fun and totally made up for the lack of loot.
The stages are fairly short, even shorter with four people, but plentiful so it adds a “let’s play just one more level” element to the game. The levels look great and were designed in a way that keeps them fresh and makes finding the secret areas quite a challenge. Puzzles were the issue in single player; some puzzles are only solvable by having at least two people there. If you’re the solitary type, be prepared to be forced online with some randoms if you’re interested in solving every puzzle. I disagree with this decision, the puzzles should have been designed differently if you are playing solo, there are other games that do this.
Each level is also scored based on combat, secrets found and time completed so you’ll have the option to repeat levels over again to try for a gold medal.
Crimson Alliance offers 4-Player co-op throughout the whole game. You can choose to play with friends or bet matched up with randoms. This game is super fun with some friends as you have multiple sets of eyes to spot secrets and the classes compliment each other well. Playing via matchmaking is where the online becomes frustrating. To start, the matchmaking doesn’t take each player’s progress into account. You could be starting a fresh character and end up matched with someone who is halfway through the game. The host picks the level too, so you’re at his or her mercy when in the world map selecting stages. During gameplay, Crimson Alliance is designed to bump your character ahead if you’re lagging behind. The problem with this is the game can’t decide who is going the right way so it frequently bumps people around all over the place. Also, if one of your comrades decides to drop the controller and walk away there is no way to kick them and continue on, you’re forced to fight the game to see who’s lagging behind and it frequently picks the guy who’s not moving. If you’re going to play this game online, I suggest you do it with some semi-competent friends. It’s a lot of fun that way.
If you and your friends are looking for a fun co-op game to hold you over until some of the big fall releases this is your game. Beware of unsolvable puzzles if you plan to play this game solo or a bit of frustration if you plan to play with the general public.
See the expanded review at The Controller Online.