Crimson Alliance is the grand finale of this year’s XBLA Summer of Arcade promo. It’s a dungeon crawler; the latest of a long string of games in this genre of the past year or so. You may be asking yourself: gee, do I really need another one of these? Is it worth my while?
As a long time fan of the dungeon crawler genre, I will honestly say there’s a lot to like in Crimson Alliance. Before I get down to the specifics, let’s talk about the game’s basics. The story is pretty standard, involving an evil sorceress, a monster-infested city, and, of course, the standard three heroes: rogue, warrior, and wizard. Players can pick any of these three hero types (so if someone picks the rogue, others are not locked out of that choice) in local, online, or mixed 4-player co-op. As a side note, the full game complete with all of the classes is the standard $15. As an alternative pricing plan, character-specific versions are available for $10. Everything is exactly the same, except you're limited to playing one of the archetypes. Though I caution people to only go for this cheaper version if you're almost certain you'll never want to touch the other characters, or if saving $5 is worth being locked to one class - because if you regret your choice, you'll have to buy another character version for $10 or the full game for $15 again to play the other classes.
The game is set up mission/level style via a map route (similar to games like Castle Crashers). In addition to the standard story missions, you can unlock challenge missions which reward gold and loot. There are also new stores located on the map that unlock after every few chapter missions. Within the missions, the environments pop pleasingly to the eye, and the level layouts are designed quite well. In a dungeon crawler, players often begin to feel that all the levels look the same after awhile, but I never really felt that way in Crimson Alliance. There’s no minimap for the areas, but they’re fairly intuitive to navigate, so this doesn’t end up being a problem.
Crimson Alliance follows a more casual approach than many of the other games of its genre type, by which I mean that there’s no real leveling or distributing skill points - that sort of thing. Surprisingly, however, this isn’t really a bad thing. You get character progression through upgrading your gear (every character gets a main-hand, offhand, and armor slot). Each piece of gear provides bonuses to up to 5 of your character’s statistics. The first four correspond to each character’s skills (assigned to the A, X, Y, and B buttons). The fifth is straight-up health. This allows players to customize their characters pretty well just through their equip choices (i.e. pick the gear that boosts the skills they like the most).
As long as we’re on the subject of gear, let’s talk about how players acquire it. You can either buy gear at any of the shops you’ve unlocked via the world map with the gold you’ve collected on your journey, or receive it in missions. Challenge missions, for example, often have class-specific chests upon completion. Upon opening them, all players of that class in the game unlock the item to equip. These chests can also be found in secret areas behind hidden class-specific doors in the chapter missions as well.