reviews\ Sep 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Crimson Alliance Review


Anyone remember the old days of Gauntlet? You may call it monotonous these days, but back when going to arcades was the ideal way to socialize with others, there was nothing like it. Four folks getting together and running through dungeon after dungeon, picking up rewards and killing hundreds of enemies while working together. While Gauntlet’s not getting too much play time these days (Pssst! WB Games, a re-release of the arcade game is in order for XBLA and PSN), there’s a solid substitute with Certain Affinity’s take on the hack-n-slash role-playing genre, Crimson Alliance. There’s definitely some Gauntlet-esque spirit here.

The story isn’t too big on details, but it basically has your band of destined characters fighting against an evil sorceress who’s looking for rebirth. Her re-entry into the world would cause it to fall back into chaos, so a wizard, a mercenary and an assassin form an unlikely alliance (one with Crimson, we guess) in order to stop the plan from coming into fruition. As you go deeper into the caverns, more complex enemies arise, including big ones with self-generating shields and mighty warriors who throw spears and other weapons at you.

Crimson Alliance has a peculiar purchase cycle. You can either purchase the game with just one class for $9.99, or buy the whole thing, with the three separate classes, for five bucks more. We recommend going the second route, because being able to level up and perfect each of these characters (you can create multiple ones at once and play any level you’ve completed over again with them) will definitely keep you busy.

Over the course of your journey, you’ll earn points for enemies you kill and loot you collect, and once you finish each stage, a total will add up, rewarding you extra loot for completing them speedily or spilling a whole lot of demon blood. You can turn this around in stores by buying new items or earning special abilities to power up your character. You’ll actually see them get stronger as you fight the good fight, unleashing the kind of abilities that you thought only Gandalf was capable of. You can also change the cosmetic appearance on your character, should you feel like going for something of a different color. Purple, perhaps.

Each of the characters bring something to the table, which is why we recommend the full purchase. The wizard can let loose with some bad-ass spells; the assassin is good both at close range and at a distance; and the mercenary is excellent when it comes to slamming enemies in front of you. What’s more, each one unlocks certain rooms on a map that can only be accessed by them, including extra items and loot that otherwise can’t be touched.

The item switch-out system that Certain Affinity has put together here is marvelous. You can switch between weapons and other abilities on the fly, without the need to pause the game, so your friends can keep playing while you power up accordingly. It’s also quite user friendly, thanks to the menus that switch with simple bumper button presses and the easy to access inventory system.

For a downloadable title, Crimson Alliance has a sharp appearance. These dungeons look great as you run through them, with intricate lighting details, beautiful animation and other little things that fit right in to this fantasy world. It also uses a cool isometric perspective, similar to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and it works in the game’s favor. The music is a little softer than we would’ve preferred, and the voicework mostly on the average side, but it’s certainly not on the level of, say, the Dungeons and Dragons films. Or the XBLA game, for that matter. (Yuck.)

The game rewards those who go at each journey alone, but Crimson Alliance definitely cheers on cooperative play. You can join others either locally or through Xbox Live, and the more members you have in your party, the more rewards you can unlock. It’s great tagging along with others on a goblin-killing spree, though you might want to be careful for those that wander off on you to find secrets. Maybe it’s best if you’re all on the same page before you begin your journey.

Until Gauntlet re-emerges and retakes the action/RPG crown, Crimson Alliance definitely fits the bill. Certain Affinity has done wondrous work here making the formula their own, with characters that hold their ground, solid gameplay that anyone can pick up, and excellent co-op options that make it a pleasure to go on a looting spree with your friends. Sure, getting all three classes is a little more expensive, but the worth is definitely there. You’ll thank us when you’ve got three uber-powered characters in your collection. You really will.


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