Friday, 6 December 2013

Dragon's Crown

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 7.8

(+) Pros: - Each different character has distinct playstyles and skills, - Lots of different areas along with their respective routes, - Simple side scrolling action with a lot of depth later in the game, - Drop in, drop out multiplayer, - Rune implication during battles is unique and interesting, - Looks MORE beautiful than some of vanillaware's already most beautiful games, - Badass boss fights, especially the last one, - A blast to play with friends, - Vita-PS3 cross play.

(-) Cons: - AI isn't the most competent at times, so you'll want to stick to human helpers, - Story is SO disappointing, especially in comparison to other vanillaware titles, - Try playing 2 wizards and a sorceress and I guarantee you cannot see ANYTHING on screen other than tornadoes and fire pillars.

Gameplay time: 10-20 hours, more if you're into the replayability

So I've been waiting FOREVER for this game to come out. We were nearing the end of the PS3 life cycle when "Dragon's Crown" finally dropped for us to play, and I dived straight in. Having played "Odin Sphere" on the PS2, which was one of my favorite games of all time, I expected to be hit right out of the park with "Dragon's Crown". Also, with all the great reviews from trusted game sites out there giving this game scores ranging from the low 8s to the low 9s, I really expected this one to be awesome! I came into "Dragon's Crown", expecting an in depth RPG side scrolling action hybrid with a magnificent story (like "Odin Sphere", once again). For the most part, I was rather satisfied, but I really expected more! The direction that "Dragon's Crown" took was different than what I expected, its still a great game, but...not the Vanillaware game that I expected.

"Dragon's Crown" has you reprising the role of 6 different adventurers, serving the kingdom. As these adventurers, you start off small, then by accomplishing requests by the guildmaster, you are suddenly acknowledged by the members of royalty. The story talks of you helping these individuals by preserving their right to rule, with the help of ancient artifacts of old, specifically, the dragon's crown, a crown made for humans, said to have the ability to control over dragons, ancient creatures of old that mankind feared to no end. It is with your hands as these adventurers that you will attempt to seek this crown, and make sure that it falls into proper hands....

Fight! Fight the goblins!

So you should know by now that in premise, "Dragon's Crown" is a side scrolling beat-em-up action game before it is anything else. And in its wake, there are 6 playable characters that you can choose from. The fighter, the dwarf, the wizard, the sorceress, the elf and the amazon. All 6 characters have different playstyles that differ from one another, making playing each one of them a completely different experience, should you decide to take on the mantle of a different adventurer. The Fighter focuses on blocks, stuns and drawing aggro. The Dwarf focuses on grabbing enemies and wreaking havoc with crowd control. The Wizard sends tons of elemental magic towards the enemy, with a little bit of support elements here and there, like summoning a treant out of a wooden crate to assist him in battle.

The Sorceress is a little bit like the Wizard, just more offensive based and with different types of elemental attacks. The Elf is an agile fighter and an archer, she utilizes quick melee attacks and powerful ranged arrow attacks to burst down enemies. The Amazon is an RNG based fighter, with each strike she gets stronger, and can end up doing a load of damage by herself. Up to 4 adventurers can take part in an adventure, be it AI team mates or your friends, taking your team composition to play can really affect the kind of stuff you can pull off. Team synergy with these characters isn't too hard.

Team up with others to form a team of 4.
"Dragon's Crown" has a huge variety of areas to visit. On paper, its nice different stages, but each stage has their own B route and their own beautiful variety of places WITHIN the stage itself. Everything looks beautiful, be it a mushroom forest, a crystal grove or even ancient ruins. Speaking of stages, there are 18 of them, that means there are 18 different boss types for you to indulge your monster slaying teeth in (if you can't tell already, its 1 boss per area). And of course, each area has their own shares of monsters, which you fight along the way using simple side scrolling action.

Beat up the monsters with button presses as they come your way, simple as least that's how the game starts off anyway. Later on, as your characters level up, you get to invest skill points into different abilities that are available to your characters. Be it passive abilities like health boosts, increased item slots and increased move speed; item skills that provide you with a weapon, some sort of enchantment, or an entire ability overall; and active abilities, which are just abilities that are normally flashier or stronger than your normal auto attacks. These are executed with coordinated button combos, like a fighting game move. Of course, as you unlock more of these abilities, comes your opportunity to abuse them and chain them into combos...though only some classes can do this. Battle soon becomes a lot more interesting than just regular button mashing fests.

F** all you imps.

As you know, "Dragon's Crown" has multiplayer. As mentioned earlier, up to 4 adventurers can go on a mission together. Other than you, the other 3 slots of the team can be filled either by AI companions, your friends who can wish to drop in or out at any time, strangers, or someone you can play with locally. The options for co-op are pretty commendable, and the fact that people can join in on your game at anytime to take the place of the rather incompetent AI is pretty sweet. Stages are most likely different kinds of brawl fests, with your party fighting different kinds of monsters in different stages, this much I can tell you.

Fighting different kinds of enemies require different strategies, and in the heat of battle, sometimes you can discover runes throughout the area. Runes are special carvings of the alphabet, and tinkering with runes using your right analog stick may trigger special effects in battle. You probably won't notice this if you're a beginner, but play enough and you start incorporating runes in your battle strategies (if you're quick enough). Different letter combinations give out different effects, like healing your party's health or banishing the undead. These come in handy during tough fights. Some rune combinations are used to advance in the level however, like summoning a magic carpet to fly off.

Hello Mr. Kraken

If you can't tell already, this game looks mighty beautiful, even for a game by Vanillaware (which has done stuff like Odin Sphere, Muramasa and Grand Knights History). The art style is simply amazing, and the visual style during the game is so fluid and sexy. Character designs are questionable at times but otherwise quite solid (see Amazon and Dwarf), and bosses along with the monsters look pretty fantastic. Speaking of bosses, these are probably the best bosses you can look for in a side scrolling beat-em up game. Not only do these bosses vary in design, but also in move set, some can be ridiculously difficult, much more so than the rest. And if you feel that the bosses are "NO BIG DEAL" like I see a lot in forums and comments....just do it the way old Vanillaware games do. Fight these bosses alone without companions, and see how screwed you become quickly (there are quests that require you to tackle bosses alone).

Playing locally with friends you know is a blast. Having a 4 man party sitting in your living room, playing through levels, sharing laughs and beating big bosses is quite a blast (though you'll take quite awhile processing through levels as EVERYONE has to add skills, take quests and repair equipment). Also, its worth noting that a patch released quite some time ago has allowed the game to do cross platform play. Vita players and PS3 players can now embark on a journey together if they so wish to do so.


There are 3 issues with the game, though there's only one that truly bogs me down about the game. AI companions are obviously worst off than human players. They seem to trouble themselves mostly over airborne bosses...or basically just bosses that require airborne attacks to hit or need you to jump to hit them. You will see them doing jack shit against bosses like The Wraith, Chimera and the last boss. Its fine though if you take wizards and sorceresses. Speaking of those 2 classes, the screen gets too cluttered with attack animations, be it yours or your enemy's or combined. Its hard to see what's going on at times, making dodging a little bit of a pain. Finally, my biggest gripe with the game, the story. There's really not much to say here, I really expected a lot more (I was engrossed by Odin Sphere's story), and what we got was a relatively simple story that lacked any depth or character development at all. Sigh.

If you're looking for a great game where you can play with friends, take down big bosses, travel through malicious lands and cook great food together, "Dragon's Crown" is the perfect game for you. Its kind of like a 2D side scrolling monster hunter, where you share loot and whatnot, just that you can level up and add skills. If you want an in depth, emotional story with character development and whatnot, "Dragon's Crown" isn't that game. Its gameplay mechanics are solid, and there's a lot to like, but it focuses less on plot and more on the gameplay. Depending on your outlook, this might or might not be the game to get. Or if you really want, you can just for price drops, this game has been seen on quite a few sales already.

Ta-da, some sexy sorceress art for you.

Happy gaming.