Crimson Shroud also features an impeccable pedigree. It was written and directed by Yasumi Matusno, who is best known for his work on Tactics Ogre, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy XII. Crimson Shroud's dark fantasy setting is one of his hallmarks, as is the complicated battle system. Being a downloadable title though, it's necessarily shorter than a lot of Matsuno's more epic titles. In fact, it's a lot shorter.
I compare Crimson Shroud to a one-shot adventure because, in video game terms, that's pretty much what it is. The story lasts around seven hours, with at least three of those hours spent stumbling around trying to figure out what to do. In that, it's less like a D&D module and more like, say, a 1980's dungeon crawler. That's not always for the best.
I know I'm not alone in getting completely and utterly stuck around Chapter 2. Suffice to say, a lot of people will either be compelled to look up the answer to the dilemma on Google. Either that, or they'll give up entirely. It's the sort of quest that is unapologetic in reaching out to old-school RPG fans, and I suppose there's a kind of stubborn nobility to that. But in some ways, its overall lack of transparency makes it hard to recommend.
Whatever shortcomings it might have, however, are greatly mitigated by what turns out to be a very good battle system. Drawing upon its Japanese roots, Crimson Shroud is a turn-based affair featuring a mix of skills and magic. The strategy is primarily wrapped up in deciding whether to buff a character and then launch an attack, or use both an offensive skill and an attack. The main wrinkle can be found in the ability to add dice to any attack, which will increase its power or accuracy. More often than not, I found myself putting them into accuracy. As the mid-game rolled into the late game, hits became critical. Crimson Shroud isn't the easiest of RPGs.
I think it's fair to say that it's an acquired taste. Most people will know whether or not like they like it from the first moment that they get a good look at the art, which is extremely rough. Crimson Shroud
really isn't interested in fancy pyrotechnics or other frills. Its storytelling, combat, and exploration are about as raw as it gets.
With that caveat, Crimson Shroud
did actually manage to get its hooks into me in relatively short order. I was charmed by the dice and the battle system. It was enough that I was almost willing to put up with the grind of killing skeletons until they dropped a certain piece of loot that would allow me to continue. I say 'almost' because, if I'm being honest with myself, I probably would have quit after being stuck for two solid hours. This is why I both love and hate reviews – they force me to persevere.
If that little anecdote has you thinking, "Oh come on, Kat obviously can't handle a proper old-school RPG," then you will probably enjoy Crimson Shroud
. If you're thinking, "Oh god, that sounds terrible," then you probably won't. It really is that simple.
Personally, I think it's a worthwhile RPG, and a fun little experiment by one of the genre's best designers. It's definitely worth experiencing, if only for the joy of tossing a handful of digital 20-sided dice.
This review is based on a download of Crimson Shroud, provided by Nintendo.
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