Dragon's Crown Review

By Stew Chyou on August 10, 2013

Hydeland. This is not just a land of sword and sorcery, this is a land where the drinking water ensures men hitting their 70s maintain barrel-chested linebacker physiques, women with thanksgiving proportioned body parts are never in short supply, oh and they got Owlbears, they're frickin' awesome. This is the world of Dragon's Crown (or that of Ali "Joone" Davoudian who's about to go all out), where the forces of light and darkness race to obtain the coveted artifact itself to stem the proverbial tide in their favor.

Amongst your choice of Good's representatives are The Fighter, your standard issue balanced brawler; The Dwarf, a slow, dual wielding grappler who tosses objects and enemies alike; and The Amazon, low in defense but issues wide range strikes and a Berserk trait that transforms her into a speeding cyclone of pain. There's also The Elf, a long range combatant with particular skills; and the Wizard and Sorceress, the game's offensive and supportive spellcasters respectively. Aside from the Sorceress's ability to conjure healing items there is an absence of an actual healer-type character, something that can be considered interesting or inconvenient depending on your point of view.

Following up on my Chronicles of Mystara review, Dragon's Crown feels like a spiritual successor but made more modern by taking on distinctive Western RPG elements, like having The Town made as your base of operations. Here, you can equip obtained weapons and accessories, visit Morgan's magic shop to appraise unknown paraphernalia or purchase and sell goods, organize your team at the Dragon's Haven Inn (you get AI controlled teammates in single player mode), learn skills and take on sidequests through the Adventurers' Guild, and resurrect the bones of the fallen at Canaan Temple (also known for being the place to go for purchasing an extra life). More locations are unlocked as you progress.

Battles waged outside stay true to traditional beat 'em up mechanics but with added flair. Combining the unique abilities of multiple characters makes for some amusing combo opportunities such as throwing an enemy with a Dwarf, then catching them with the Fighter and Amazon's multi-hitting aerial attacks while raining devastation with the spellcasters' magic. On occasion, side weapons are found that can be used for limited duration and great beasts can be ridden as assault vehicles which graciously supplements to the experience. Although the feature of racking up scores via collecting loot may seem dated, this is something you want to do as often as possible as hitting certain scores grants extra lives.

The combination of beat 'em up and RPG isn't exactly anything new but Dragon's Crown blends in another genre: point-and-click. You can direct a cursor to click on glimmering spots to conjure loot, interact with certain background objects for completing sidequests and invoking runes for various magical effects. This is the also the method of unlocking doors and opening treasure chests which summons Rannie, a rogue whose only value is to lockpick. Why the devs chose this over the usual method of just smashing things open is beyond me, and even after adapting to these motions the out-of-place awkwardness is a feeling that I still can't shake. If Rannie was able to provide support in fights, maybe it wouldn't be as weird.

Inconceivable, Dragon's Crown comes with a number of nuisances that are a result of poor design choices. Sometimes enemies can knock your default weapon out of your hands and you're forced to fight barehanded. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that you have to wait out a slowly depleting meter which has to be empty before you can retrieve said weapon. Also wearing on patience is the fact that you actually have to wait for your character to come back to life. We've all been there with beat 'em ups, we want to be the guy who lands the last hit on a boss or wreak vengeance on the bastard who fell us. But having to wait while you watch your active teammates go to town on them? It's just criminal.Tearing through Hydeland's locales starts out quite easy and that's fine as it grants undisturbed absorption of the terrific scenery and delightfully animated bestiary. It's not until you hit the middle of the game that the difficulty spikes: Path B routes become accessible in each stage opening the way towards new high level bosses and true victory over them are conditional, such as surviving with your whole team while vanquishing the beast within an invisible time limit.

Adding on to the annoyance is The Town's Gate. At this point it now randomly selects stages, thus The Stables are relied on to allow you to pick and choose, but at a price which increases the more you visit and you'll be watching the prices climb as dying or redoing a Path B boss battle due to failing conditions will have you making return trips. Money definitely becomes a big issue as you need to buy continues. You can buy an infinite amount, but it does make managing your finances quite tough. For example, in single player mode failure to use a continue on an ally after a countdown results in permanently losing that character. In the meantime, the the unseen force of vexation called The Narrator begins to constantly repeat the next objective of your adventure while in town and there's no way to shut him up.

It seems that the world is against you at this point, but you've more than likely have not tried to go through your list of sidequests. These are invaluable as they reward you in gobs of money, experience, and skill points - the latter two you don't want to pass up on. You're also awarded with art pieces, can't forget about that. Sidequests can have you revisiting stages and these are great opportunities to defeat past bosses for additional experience points. Thankfully, leveling up is not a grind as with traditional RPGs, usually beating a stage again almost guarantees that you gain another level. Once you've committed to expanding your experience you'll change your tune if you've originally expected a chore and you can begin to appreciate the sudden challenges as you overcome them one by one.

The midsection is also when you're given the choice to continue your journey without stopping back at town. This opens up a cooking simulation where whipping up the best dishes possible grants bonuses such as extra lives. Unfortunately, the mini-game runs on a short timer and because cooking lacks variety, and is not a must-have sequence, the entertainment value tends to be malnourished.

Upon beating the game, a New Game+ is unlocked in the form of Hard Mode with a rise in level cap and another awaits you after that. New sidequests are also made available along with new areas and unique multiplayer modes. Indeed, Dragon's Crown is a game made to last for both multiplayer and single player alike and no matter which approach suits your fancy, you'll be greatly satisfied either way.

Final Thoughts

Although its gameplay provides memorable multiplayer experiences, Dragon's Crown is forged of a different beat 'em up alloy that doesn't alienate lone adventurers with struggles only surmountable with the help of other gamers. A seemingly promising medley of genres, at times the RPG and brawler components feel to be at odds with each other due in part the game's various flaws. Regardless, this is a title worth anyone's time, even if you are in it just for the more visual side.

A damn good time for the army of one or more.
Solid replay value.
Dat artwork!
Combination of genres doesn't feel natural at times.
Horrible resurrection wait times.
A narrator that won't shut up.
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