by August 6, 2013 @ 6:50 pm
First, I’d like to start off my review of Dragon’s Crown by stating that I am not, in fact, a fan of beat ‘em ups or button mashing fighting games in general. I am and will always be an RPG guy. Thankfully, Dragon’s Crown is first and foremost an RPG. While on the surface it may present itself as a typical beat ‘em up, the sheer amount of depth makes it much more. Read on to find out why.
Dragon’s Crown has that old-school charm right off the bat, it begins at the character select screen inviting players to pick their adventurer. You can customize their appearance and pick a unique name, like Rich. Later, you are greeted by a small intro where you meet your NPC companion Rannie. This character will always be at your side ready to use his skills to pick locks, open doors or pick up coins and loot for you. He is a Rogue after all! A short tutorial follows that explains combat based on the character you chose, along with a primer on item use. You’ll find that the first order of business is to join up at the local Adventurer’s Guild. The Guild is mainly a hub for accepting sidequests, viewing unlocked artwork and learning skills to improve your character. The story itself focuses on retrieving the game’s namesake, the Dragon’s Crown. Before moving on, I’d like to state that for the purposes of this review there no spoilers for the story.
The game features six playable classes: Fighter, Sorceress, Wizard, Tiny Dwarf, Elf and Amazon. Each has their own style of offense, special attacks and equips. The game boasts an upwards of 120 hours of gameplay with plenty of unlocks after the credits scroll for the first time. Completing the normal mode unlocks a harder difficulty tier and raises the level 35 cap to 65. For those dedicated enough, finishing hard mode unlocks Inferno mode and the cap is raised to the final level of 99. Finishing Inferno mode unlocks mad respect. Because if you can do that, you have mine. Sidequests are aplenty in the game, yet I never felt overwhelmed with too much to do. Each unlocks a piece of art viewable in the Gallery section of the main menu. Also, the Adventurer’s Guild features artwork themed towards the particular quest you completed. Notably, some of the sidequests will not be unlocked until you finish the game giving even more incentive for the difficulty climb.
Eventually you will reach a point where multiplayer unlocks and features an online matchmaking system, couch or chair maybe even floor sitting 4 player co-op. While the game is available on both PS Vita and PS3, it should be noted that there is no Cross Play for Dragon’s Crown, each version is a separate entity. That said, online multiplayer is truly where this game shines. The experience and rewards you can gain by playing multiplayer really take away the usual grindy aspects – leveling up, acquiring better loot, and so on. Successful completion of a level gives you the option of taking on another level with greater risks and rewards. I hit the level cap at 35 for Normal mode playing multiplayer much faster than I was leveling solo. This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy the game solo, you can and I did. But playing with a group of friends or even randoms was very fun and rewarding.
Gameplay in Dragon’s Crown is all about the combat. It works really well and was quite enjoyable. As I said before, I’m not a fan of beat ‘em up-type brawlers but the combat felt good. The controls are tight, any fan of old-school arcade fighters will feel right at home. Add in RPG elements, from the sheer amount of quests and equipment system, and you have my attention. Each level is presented in classic sidescrolling fashion and is chock full of enemies, traps and a few puzzles to challenge you at every step. Every level has a massive boss fight at the end, and be prepared to not always beat them on the first try. At a certain point, you unlock B Routes which are simply harder and with a much higher level end boss. Finish the game, and well, I’m not spoiling that.
My only complaint was that with the amount of action going on-screen, it was far easier to keep track of my character in the PS3 version, due to the smaller amount of screen space on the Vita. While constantly spamming explosions as the Sorceress, there were times I found myself unable to pinpoint my character’s location on the Vita. Minor grip to be sure, as aside from that the game is a joy to play on Vita.
Ah challenge, how I love thee and hate thee. Is Dragon’s Crown a challenge? Does it test your patience because you just got smacked around by a certain unnamed boss for the eleventh time? Yes on all counts. That said, the constant challenges are what made me love the game so much. Against boss types you’ll often find yourself short on items, a completely wiped out crew, and almost at the brink of death before delivering that final blow. While I had several of those moments, I eventually got better, and I loved the thrill of accomplishing something I almost gave up on.
By the time I had unlocked multiplayer and was joining parties of others I felt more confident in boss encounters and was having a blast. Then came that fight. Eleven tries and I almost gave up. Admittedly, I wanted to just give up on the game and write this review without finishing the game. Then I decided to try again, redid some equips and hand-picked the AI party I was taking with me. The results of this were I finally won the fight and felt that much better about not giving up! In my opinion Dragon’s Crown offers players a perfect mix of challenging combat and rewards them well for succeeding.
As far as replay value goes, there is plenty of reasons come back to Dragon’s Crown and even finish the game multiple times. Each character has a unique skillset that keep things fresh. And while I’ll avoid spoilers, completing the game multiple times can be very rewarding. Besides, the game has a Platinum Trophy well worth its weight in pixels.
To sum up, Dragon’s Crown is the game your PS3 needed and what your Vita deserved. I recommend both versions if you can spare the gold. I had and am still having a great time playing this game. A great big thank you to Mr. John Hardin of Atlus for providing a ‘magical’ voucher of Dragon’s Crown and putting up with my emails. You sir, I thank you humbly. Dragon’s Crown is a hit, a wonderful game and has a permanent place in my gaming collection. Simply loved it. Oh and Vanillaware, thanks for the slight hint at more to come.