Thursday, January 10, 2013

Crimson Shroud Review

Crimson Shroud is one of the games that released in Japan as part of Guild01, a compilation of 3 3DS games (along with Aero Porter and Liberation Maiden.) The Guild01 titles are games that are bringing together incredibly talented people from all areas and backgrounds, and Crimson Shroud is no exception. Yasumi Matsuno is the designer, and he states that this game is best enjoyed sitting relaxed, as if enjoying a short story. Joining him are Joseph Reeder, Alexander Smith (FFXII, Vagrant Story, Tactics Ogre PSP), Hitoshi Sakimoto(FFXII, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Valkyria Chronicles) and Hideo Minaba(FFT, FFXII, Lost Odyssey.)
I was really happy to see Crimson Shroud recently localised on the 3DS eShop in America and Europe. For me, it released at the right time with near perfect timing. I had my last exam of the semester on the 17th of December and this game came out on the 13th-a couple days I had to wait-but I'd filled my mind with optical facts and tables for my last exam, so it wasn't a bad wait. But more than that, I've been in the mood to play some of those Fighting Fantasy "choose your own adventure" books and something short, sharp and well written. Crimson Shroud ticks all the boxes for me. Allow me to explain just why it does so.

Crimson Shroud is a turn based RPG that at first glance might look quite simple and luck based. The 'quirk' of the game could be described as the dice rolls which decide a lot of the outcomes in the battles and encounters. The game strives to emulate tabletop RPGs by bringing the dice rolls that are engrained in many RPGs to the surface and physically making the player roll the dice for many 'checks' that might normally be done in certain Dungeons and Dragons rulesets. Some examples of these dice rolls are trying to sneak unnoticed past enemy groups. If you roll a certain amount, you will successfully avoid encounter. In battle, you might have to roll to determine whether or not you can inflict a status effect or 'debuff' on an enemy. The battles are surprisingly well balanced affairs where it will never be more than 3 enemies against your group of 3. No encounters with 9 Black Dragons to be seen here. There is a good amount of depth to the combat, with different stat boosts, buffs and debuffs you can apply. Sometimes they will be absolutely necessary, as the enemies do hit hard and shouldn't be underestimated. There is no leveling up per se, the only way you get stronger is through equipment. The game brings to mind fairly linear RPGs aimed at mobiles such as Infinity Blade (debateable whether or not it is an RPG) where you have the odd choice to take one of two paths. There is a lot of backtracking and aimlessly trying to trigger events as you walk around the dungeon, which can get aggravating, especially a certain part early on in the game where you have to get a certain item that only one enemy will drop (and its pretty rare.)

Graphically the game has its faults. It can look jaggy in quite a lot of scenes, and the interface which shows the HP and MP of each unit clutters the screen, drawing lines from each unit to their respective bars. Add to this the 3D elements, which further confuse things, and you've got what can be a quite annoying look to the battles, in particular. However, I should say, the graphics aren't at all bad, and the style in which they are done is really nice, with some really well drawn characters. Its just a case of the screens being too small for what they wanted to fit on, and sometimes the screen won't show everything you need, or what you are looking for, you'll have to scroll over. The style of the game is modelled (pun intended =p) around the tabletop RPG and the miniatures that represent each character. As a result, the camera focuses on and pans over the static minis for each character. This serves an interesting purpose. With the abscence of obscene hand and facial gestures truncating the character's dialogues, you fill in the blanks with your mind, fleshing out characters in places, and forming ideas around them. All you will see is the occasional 'jiggle' of a character's base, as the player fiddles around. Its really quite cool.

The music is fairly grand in scale, with perhaps one or two themes that stand out as...just a little too unusual and experimental. Its a trend that I've noticed in a couple of games recently, FFXIII-2 being one example. For the most part, they are pretty atmospheric and serve to invoke the appropriate emotions. There was a fairly upbeat moment in Chapter 2 (?) where the characters were having a fairly amusing chat, and the song in the background was a little distracting... But there are some very interesting songs on there, reminiscent of some other games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyria Chronicles (which makes sense given the staff involved.)

For such a short game, the creators (who you may know from some great RPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story) have really infused a lot of depth into it, and each locale is described in prosaic language, really adding to what each aspect of this game strives to do-put the player into the game. You can really imagine these dank, echoing caves or the crumbled, sun bleached structures from lost civilisations. The characters benefit a lot from the odd musing from the main character, and the occasional back story flash back, but by the end of the game, there were a lot of aspects of the story and of each of the characters that confused me. I think the game could have used an extra 10 or 15 hours, and at times I was wanting more of it, its a really interesting world. Clocking in at 8-10 hours roughly, the game is a refreshing, unique RPG that is perfect for filling gaps in between epic 50+ hour games, or just if you're looking for something different. This one is definitely highly recommended from my end, a gamer who has only dabbled in the tabletop realm and appreciates well written worlds.

Gameplay: 7/10
Characters & Story: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 7/10

OVERALL: 7.5/10 
A solid early addition to the e-shop's RPG library, with some really interesting ideas.


Trigger7 said...

Being a big Matsuno fan, Crimson Shroud intrigues me. It has a great Vagrant Story vibe and the gameplay mechanics look interesting. I also hope we can get a full scale RPG from Matsuno again soon!

Berserk_Alucard said...

Yeah I hope so. I've had the urge to play Final Fantasy Tactics recently. He has made some brilliant games, FFT is one of the best. I'd definitely recommend Crimson Shroud if you're a Matsuno fan and have a 3DS. Its fairly well priced for the quality of game. (Some 3DS games have some...unusual pricing on the e-shop) I wasn't disappointed with it =)