Crimson Alliance isn’t exactly what you think it is. If you thought it was another Diablo clone, such as Torchlight, you would be completely wrong. Instead, it derives a lot more from a game like Gauntlet. Crimson Alliance focuses almost completely on its simplistic combat, to the point where I questioned at the end why the game was even considered an Action RPG by the developers.
The combat system is pretty simple. There are three different classes to choose from: Assassin, Mercenary, and Wizard. Regardless of whom you choose, the story will be the same and be told via voiced over still images. The game isn’t necessarily story heavy. Basically, some princess’s father died, making her queen. She becomes corrupt and evil (and a few other things happen), and you have to stop her.
One of the cool things about combat is the multiplier and score system. To increase your multiplier, you must kill enemies without being hit. If you get hit, your multiplier will go down one. This is very similar to the game Geometry Wars. The game encourages you to obtain a high score on each level. You can get a high score by killing enemies while a high multiplier is active, find hidden areas, and finishing the level quickly.
Each character has three different set abilities. For my main play through, I played as a wizard. The wizard has the following skills: fire bolt, freeze, and storm stun. Every character has the ability to block, use a special attack, and dash (or teleport). You cannot unlock new abilities; you can only upgrade the ones given to you by equipping better gear.
There are items that can be found at chests that will help you in combat. They include: monster bait, deployable turret, throwing axe, and a healing totem. The monster bait will attract enemies, so you can throw monster bait on a barrel that is about to explode and rack of a lot of kills. The deployable turret will shoot enemies. The throwing axe can be thrown and will do splash damage on enemies and the healing totem will heal you, and resurrect you if you die near it.
There are a few ways to obtain better gear to improve your character in Crimson Alliance. Some gear can be found in chests within a level. The gear found in chests generally isn’t that great. If you want good gear, you’re either going to have to grind for gold for probably 10+ hours, or give in to the micro-transactions and spend real life money for in game gold, to buy stuff at merchants in the game.
You can spend $1 (80 Microsoft points) and get 40,000 gold. At first, this seems like a great deal, because everything the merchant’s sell is well below 40,000 gold. Near the end of the game, some of the items will end up costing 80,000 gold. I ended up spending $5 on in game gold to obtain my high-end gear, for one character. This gold is not transferrable to other characters. If you start a new character, that character will have zero gold. If you want to upgrade all of your characters with high-end items, be prepared to dump about $15 into this game, on top of the $15 the game costs.
The game also encourages multiplayer co-op. You can play with up to three others, locally or on Xbox Live. This seemed to work pretty well; I had no problems with lag when playing with others over Live.
The graphics in the game are somewhat cartoonish. I personally enjoyed the art style. There are varied environments that include unique colors and designs. The effects on your armor and gear look really neat, although it’s unfortunate that you will probably have to pay real money to see these and get this gear. I also enjoyed the cut scene art. As stated, cut scenes are voiced over images and are not animated. I can understand that some people may not like this, but personally I enjoyed the art style.
The game started out extremely boring during the first few levels. After improving my character and grasping the idea of trying to get a high score, I found the game to be a lot more fun. It was pretty fun and challenging trying to go through a level attacking enemies without getting hit to improve your combat multiplier. There’s definitely some replay value if you want to go through each level and improve your score.
There is even more replay value if you want to play through again with a different character. It took me 6 hours to play through with one character, so you could easily get over 15 hours of entertainment by playing through the game with different characters.
Crimson Alliance is a fun, and well-built game. I have to question if it would have been nearly as fun if I didn’t invest extra money on gold to upgrade my character. Due to this, Crimson Alliance is a major set back due to ridiculous micro transactions. If someone pays $15 for a game, they shouldn’t have to invest $5 more into each character in order to fully upgrade their gear.