Crimson Alliance

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on September 7, 2011 in

The folks at Certain Affinity hope to lure in fans by billing their new Xbox Arcade exclusive game as an adventure role playing game.  Die-hard fans of games like Gauntlet, Torchlight, and the Diablo like me know this genre better as a good old fashioned hack and slash dungeon crawler.   Whichever way you look at it, the name of the game is Crimson Alliance.   You may have read a little of my love for Gauntlet in the recent post Game Franchises: Revive One, Reject One.  This is what drew me to this game at PAX a little over a week ago.  I hoped this game would satisfy my desire for more of this style of game.  Did it live up to my gaming dreams?  Let’s take a closer look shall we?

The pricing model for this game has already caused some concern for gamers.  Certain Affinity explains their pricing here but I will paraphrase.  Players can choose to download the free demo and play the first level and a half on any character.  If they like what they see they can then choose to buy the unlock code for one character for 800 Microsoft Points ($10 USD) or unlock all three characters for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15 USD).  I highly recommend buying all three up front if you can.  Some people may love the ability to cut costs at first but if a player wants to unlock more characters after only unlocking one they will need to pay another 800 Microsoft Points for each additional character they want to unlock. So the first reason to buy all the characters up front is that you end up saving 1200 Microsoft Points by buying them all together.  After making a purchase decision the game can begin.

The story is fairly straight forward. Princess Asturi becomes insanely corrupt after inheriting the crown from her father who has been slain in battle.  She becomes so crazy that she kidnaps and tortures a mage to learn his dark magic secrets.  Her madness is complete when she transforms into the twisted and evil Soul Siren that kills all who displease her and feeds off their souls.  The mage is then tossed away to resurface as the playable Mage character in the game.  The other playable characters are a hulking Mercenary and a lady Assassin.  As the game progresses he slowly remembers the past and the true evil they must destroy.  The Fall of Byzan is the first episode of what Certain Affinity promises to be a “living game” that will add new content in the future.  The game’s characters and environments have an Asian influence.  Many enemies wear the conical shaped coolie hats and other stylish ninja gear.  Many enemies also show off super ninja moves in their fighting style.  Now that you have an idea of the game’s setup I will move on to gameplay.

Crimson Alliance is heavy on the action and light on the role playing.  This makes it perfect for those who find the endless decision-making of true RPG’s a little daunting.  Character customization is limited to selecting your class and the primary and secondary colors for their wardrobe.  Each character has three gear slots.  There is a primary weapon, a ranged or secondary weapon slot, and the character’s armor.  There is no formal level system in the game.  A player’s power is based on the cumulative stats gained by what is equipped in each item slot.   Buy better gear to become a tougher character.  This means each player wants to earn as much gold as possible to spend at one of the nine merchant areas that open up as the player progresses through the game.  There a two main ways to earn gold.  A player can replay any of the twelve levels they have unlocked as often as they like or they can go to any of the unlocked merchant areas and but 40,000 in-game gold for 80 Microsoft Points ($1 USD).  Either way is reasonable.  The gold purchase option allows those with less time to grind a quicker way to beef up their character.

While running through each level you can gather extra tricks to use on the big bad beasties.  There are yellow treasure chests sprinkled throughout the world that hold throwing axes for heaving hitting ranged damage, deployable turrets to provide cover fire, monster bait to distract the beasties, and my favorite the health totem that spews out hearts to heal me up.  All of these items come in handy but I used the totems and the turrets the most.  Each character can only hold three of each type of these power items at a time so longer boss battles become very tricky.  In some of the later boss battles the power items become almost critical to a player’s success.  There are also the classic secret areas filled with treasure and collectibles.  Some walls show glowing symbols that are class specific.  Only characters of that class can open the wall to get the treasure and a class specific treasure chest with a piece of gear.  Players can also collect “soul anchors” that unlock three levels of the player’s “ultimate power”.  There are also heart pieces the player can collect.  Get enough pieces and the player gains more hearts in their life meter.  The main thing to know is that there is a lot to discover throughout each level and players would be wise to be very observant.

Crimson Alliance has some definite button mashing moments but there is also a certain amount of strategy involved in who to hit first, which items to use and when.  Each of the characters also has a superhuman ability to block almost everything in their defensive stance.  I used block in this game more than any other game I have ever played.  It is a great way to wade through crazy crossfire to gain a good angle on beasties.   Solo play is very dependent on the use of power items.  A well placed health totem as the player is dying will even revive them from death.  Well placed turrets give the player a better chance to wear down a big baddy or cover your back.

I started out playing the solo campaign as the Assassin.  She is the sarcastic knife-throwing stunner.  I mean, she literally stuns beasties to better smack them dead.  She is the only female playable character and her attitude fits me the best.  I started the game at normal difficulty to get a feel for the game.  This difficulty gave a bit of a challenge without being too tough.  This allowed me to move through the levels with relative ease until the final level.  The final boss fight is reunion of every previous boss battles on top of trying to defeat the Soul Siren herself.  The fight is long and treacherous and, as a solo player, I found myself unable to complete it.  I now come to where this game absolutely shines.

This game is meant for multiplayer co-op.  You and up to three of your friends can play together side by side, online, or any combination of the two.  I had the good fortune to find LadyLuck34 of Gamertag Radio and DarkWonders from Sarcastic Gamer.  Yes I name drop a little but I really loved playing with them.  It really reminded me of the reason I fell in love with Gauntlet.  Alone I could get pretty far but together with friends it got ridonkulous!  Crimson Alliance has that same magic.  Here is where I learned of the many difficulty levels for the game.  I knew there was easy, normal and hard.  Playing multiplayer we quickly found ourselves going from immortal all the way up to RIDONKULOUS!  First off, the game scored major points with all of us for even having a level with that awesome of a name.  Next we found out that the difficulty absolutely lived up to that name.  Enemies would go down only to pop back up again… and again… and again… and again.  I would feed endless numbers of daggers into a single beastie while trying to stun the rest of the horde.  The larger enemies would do what call the “trout flop”.  They would twitch and flop around every which way while I try to kill them dead.  Players have the ability to pick up and throw vases and crates to throw them at enemies.  Some of the crates and vases hold explosives and poisonous gas.  I tell you this because some of the most hilarious times in our game were because of a certain nameless soul’s obsession with all things explosive.  I found myself laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.  The beauty of “minor errors in judgment” while in multiplayer is that friends can run over and revive a team mate.  The biggest trouble with multiplayer is spreading out too far away from each other.  If one player is too far away from the others they will pop on top of a teammate.  This can be helpful at times but this can be very confusing in the bigger battles.  Trying to keep track of my character got extremely difficult in close quarters when battling huge numbers of beasties.  The thing I find amazing was that “RIDONKULOUS!” was absolutely challenging but multiplayer makes it possible to play at this level and still have an amazing amount of fun.

I will admit that we did find a few glitches in the game that forced us to restart.  One glitch occurred when two of us got wedged in some crates and were unable to move.  The other time we had killed all the enemies but the door to the next area did not open.  The good news is that most times you have a choice to restart from the latest checkpoint which means the players don’t have to start all over.  The only feature I would have truly appreciated in the multiplayer game is true drop-in/drop-out gameplay.  I want to be able to add a player while I am playing a level or allow a player to leave if they need to.  Otherwise this game achieves near perfection as a fun time with friends.  This game has a lot of content and the ability to repeat levels allows the player the opportunity to complete collections and get better scores.  The solo campaign and multiplayer characters are the same which means you don’t have to start over completely to start playing multiplayer.  Everything on your character carries over between modes.  Switching gear setups can decrease or increase a character’s stats if necessary to balance their character with others in a multiplayer match.

So what is the final verdict?  For me it is a no brainer.  For those who love this genre I would say it is a tremendous deal.  Here again I would recommend getting all the characters up front because it is a very nice game to play solo but it is absolutely fantastic with friends.  If you plan on having any side-by-side multiplayer fun then unlocking all the characters is a great plan.  The fact is every player can play the same class but it is even better to have the benefit of each class’ special skill set to get through the levels as efficiently as possible.  This game has brought back very happy arcade gaming memories and I highly recommend this to others.


A download code for Crimson Alliance was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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