October 13, 2011
At first, the game shows some promise. It focuses on two characters, Denz de Bayle and Esteban Noviembre, who both share a curse. It causes them to become fiery horned demons who are constantly chased by death, but they aren't the only ones afflicted. The promise stops there though, as it then turns into a complete blur. You'll often encounter characters who are as unmemorable as their names. There's also an issue with the cutscenes. With some games, it's obvious that less is more, but The Cursed Crusade apparently didn't get that memo and instead decided to shove in a ton of random scenes that could quite easily be skipped. Some of them really drag on and you'd like to think they actually explain stuff, but they really don't.
With the story being so odd, you'd hope that perhaps the gameplay would be The Cursed Crusade's saving grace. That hope is unfortunately misplaced, despite there being an upgrade system with a decent amount of depth.
At the end of each mission, you're given a grade based on various factors. You'll earn yourself some 'Victory Points', which you can use to upgrade your combos and you can also upgrade stats such as 'Weapons Mastery'. It might look as though it's a decent system, but these upgrades don't really work in practice because quite a lot of it is superficial.
When fighting, all your really need to do is block, parry, and then button mash. Your opponent gives you all you need to no by flashing either blue (he's going to attack you), yellow (he's going to guard break you), or red (he's ready for some slicing and dicing). Attempting to even try and use the combos requires too much effort as your opponent will always guard after getting hit in the face a couple of times. When they start guarding, your only option is to break them out of their guard, but even that isn't always successful. For example, when fighting enemies wielding two swords, you'll find that each of your moves will lead to an awkward standstill with the both of you guarding, but unable to attack.
There's also a tendency for lag as the animations take so long to get moving. This is especially apparent in the finishing moves as your character tends to take his time when shoving his blade into someone's head. The finishers themselves are nice, but the frequency of them is far too much. It also suffers from the typical problem whereby, when you're performing a finisher, nobody else is allowed to attack you - they just stand around and watch until you're finished.
Aside from this, there's the 'Cursed Mode' which is where all the 'magic' happens. Players can use this mode if they're in a pinch and need to raise their health a bit or perhaps if they just want to hit people over the head a bit harder than usual. Secret side quests can also be found in this mode. For example, using 'Cursed Mode' is the only way to see and kill the 'nightmares' who are scattered around the map. It's also the only way to see crucifixes which need to be purified and walls that need to be burnt down. All of these 'collectibles' are tallied up at the end of each mission and only add to your grade. In-game help also informs you that if you stay in 'Cursed Mode' too long, you'll begin to lose health, unless of course you're in a boss battle where obviously the losing health rules don't matter.
Where the gameplay falters, the presentation crashes and burns - quite literally. There are notable glitches, even in the cutscenes, where characters' weapons hang through their shield. Then there are moments where the NPCs get stuck on in-game scenery causing you to run around the area aimlessly until something triggers a cutscene. There were even moments when the in game items didn't even work, forcing you to restart the mission in order to even be able to complete it.
The music is also rather repetitive sounding an awful lot like a cheap knock off of something from something else, as opposed to its own unique entity. Finally the scripting tries way too hard to be witty, but it just comes off entirely cliche and corny especially when it comes to your trusty Spaniard sidekick who simply is a conglomerate of every stereotype.
Although a game about the Crusades may sound good right about now, The Cursed Crusades in all its unpolished glory is simply not the one that we hoped for. Thought the weapons upgrade system was really well fleshed out, the fact that it's so disconnected to what you're actually doing makes it feel pointless. The Cursed Crusades was a fun idea, it's just not well executed.
The Cursed Crusade was reviewed on the Xbox 360. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.