From its initial announcement Crimson Dragon looked to be a winner. Coming from Yukio Futatsugi, whose roots stretch back to the Sega Saturn's Panzer Dragoon, everything was set for a welcome comeback for this franchise. When the game was first announced as an Xbox 360 Kinect-powered title as "Project Draco" it was stated to take the RPG elements from Panzer Dragoon Saga and mix it with the motion controls found in games such as Child of Eden. Sadly, the Xbox One-powered end result doesn't match up to those lofty goals and we're left with a game that many Panzer Dragoon fans will want to forget.
Starting things out, Crimson Dragon isn't anywhere near the quality one would expect out of a next-gen title on the Xbox One, especially when compared to other games like Ryse and Forza 5. Similar to other Japanese-developed titles using Unreal Engine, it has that trademark dark hue color scheme that smears the textures and it's accompanied by numerous frame-rate issues. And considering this is an on-rails shooter, that isn't a good mix at all, as you need to be able to react quite quickly to what's going on.
Control-wise it doesn't do itself any favors either. The right stick moves the weapon aiming reticule, while the left stick moves the dragon. The aiming reticule feels a bit too slippery as if it was still expecting Kinect-based controls and was never altered for an actual controller. And the dragon itself is oddly shaped, so you'll often aim yourself into environment objects and enemies. It's somewhat similar to playing the original Saturn title, but without any of the advancements you might expect from more powerful hardware.
The on-rails controls also run into an issue where you can speed up or slow down, but you can't stop and hover in an area. So often times you'll fly past a boss's weak points and waste more precious clock time flying back around again until you get defeated by the clock instead of the boss. It makes it all rather frustrating, because in this instance it's poor game design that's defeating you.
Crimson Dragon does have some interesting twists on the RPG mechanics, though. You can recruit wingmen and command them to protect your rear or fight alongside you. The former option also allows you to fire off a limited-use smart bomb attack, which is useful for clearing the screen when things get a bit too hectic.
One thing that the game does do right is that it breaks down the stages into bite-size chunks instead of a series of long segments that tire out the player. But even then it runs into issues. The game itself is setup in a pay-to-win fashion where you can slowly gain more firepower and XP by repeatedly completing the stages with the option of micro-transactions to hasten up the process. While the developers did issue a day-one patch that balanced this out somewhat, it's still a core piece of the gameplay design nonetheless.
There are also other systems, such as being able to grow and advance your dragon, but the game doesn't really take advantage of this and makes it feel like a tacked on add-on more than anything else. The story is pretty forgettable too, dealing with humans who come across an alien world filled with dragons and then chose to capture and control them.
Crimson Dragon feels rushed, to say the least, which is ironic considering its development time. There are a few good parts thanks to the people behind the title, but the engine issues and the pay-to-win push from Microsoft sully the whole affair. While it is a budget-priced game, that doesn't excuse its flaws. Considering the people who worked on this game, the end result should have culminated in something much, much greater. In the end, it ends up as a black mark on the Panzer Dragoon franchise.
|The wingman concept is an interesting twist.|
|The day-one patch did remove some of the necessary grinding.|
|Some big name people behind the game.|
|Awful controls and graphics.|
|The RPG mechanics are underutilized.|