Crimson Alliance [Review] [XBLA] [3/5]

Certain Affinity brings us Crimson Alliance, a fun, colorful and simplistic action RPG that would be great for beginners of this genre, but may not quite meet the expectations of the hardcore RPG community. The story takes place in the bowels of the dungeons of fallen empire Byzan, taken over by the Gulybani, a cruel and primitive race ruled over by an evil Ninja Queen. Players may choose from 3 protagonists, A magical old Wizard with his fire balls and thunder stun, a meaty sword wielding Mercenary or the sneaky female Assassin with her Ninja-to and endless sheath of sharp daggers. Players must dash, stun & slash their way through an easy to navigate labyrinth full of dark characters such as Wargs , Shamans, Butchers, Grunts and Archers, waiting to take you out at every turn and the usual bosses at the end of each level. No map is required, the dungeon is easy to navigate, but keep your eyes peeled for secret rooms as they contain plenty of delicious loot and give you a bonus at the end of the level which allows you to buy upgraded weapons and armour for your character. Another way to up your loot is to complete various puzzles but be aware, most puzzles require 2 people to complete them, which is why the game is best played with 2 or more players in local or online co-op mode.

The game is definitely geared toward co-op and the characters work well together. Loot is shared between players but other items are not which could cause a little unrest between friends if there is a strong player who doesn’t like to share. Do not expect to find a Character Tree, Crimson Alliance doesn’t have one, the game builds it for you. Collect all the gold you can lay your greedy hands on, your character depends on it to upgrade weapons and armour at caravan traders you meet on your journey. If building your character yourself doesn’t float your boat, this game is perfect for you. Combat scores depend on a multiplier system and there is an incentive to use what limited combos are available to your character. On the right of the screen looms a multiplier, the better the combos the higher the score, combos include the double kill, killing spree and the most fun time to be had, the kill orgy! Multiplier bonuses mean the difference between a gold, silver or bronze medal after you complete the level. Players can also choose a higher level of difficulty to score more points. The arcade scoring system is an interesting addition and I found myself quite obsessed with it. The multiplyer is an integral part of the game which is surprising given the genre. My lust for gold gave me incentive to restart the level and try harder next time alas, I found myself more focussed on that multiplier than the story at hand! It's there and you simply cannot ignore it's temptation.

There are some handy little finds within the game to help you battle the hordes called ‘consumables’ these include a throwing axe of fire, monster bait and a handy turret that rains down bullets on your enemies whilst you’re attacking the fearless bosses, and a handy health totem that does just that, heals you when the monster ambush becomes more than you can handle alone. Another addition to the game are the ‘heart pots’ located within the halls, smash them open and heal yourself completely ready to fight another day. Better still stay alive! Power up by collecting Soul anchors, which charge your main ability to tear up enemies or pick up random explosive barrels and poison pots around the place and toss them at your enemies to get that multiplier flying.

Where Crimson Alliance lacks the substance and depth of it’s more advanced big brothers and sisters it is a great stepping stone for those new to the genre because of it’s simplicity. There is definitely a ‘fun factor’ attached to the game when in co-op with friends and the multiplier and medal system lends it loads of re-playability. Some cons of the game are Characters are barely customisable and the lack of treasures to be found was a little unsatisfying. I did come across some graphic lag but nothing too annoying. The soundtrack and story itself are somewhat lacklustre and there is minimal dialogue.That being said, Certain Affinity has priced the game accordingly. The download is free on Xbox Live and you may purchase the characters alone for 800 MS points each, or the full character pack for 1200 MS points. I recommend the latter, it’s the cheapest option, and if you don’t like a character you have the option to change. Do it the other way and fork out an extra 800 MS points per character! All in all,  if you're looking for a bunch of mindless fun and a great way to waste away some gaming hours with friends in a well built, graphically pretty environment then Crimson Alliance is the game for you.
Available now in the Xbox Live market place. Enjoy!

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