Crimson Shroud (3DS) - Review/ 2,935 Views
In the dark ages before video games came into their own, sometime around the mid-1970s, a little game called Dungeons & Dragons conquered tabletops worldwide and invented the modern role playing game, or RPG for all you cool kids. It wasn’t long after that, once home video game consoles were firmly rooted in our living rooms that the tabletop RPGs hallmarks of dice throws and third person narrations were moved to the background in favour of more direct storytelling and the computer handling all that statistical nonsense. Crimson Shroud looks to marry these two by merging a pretty typical video game RPG with the tropes of a tabletop one. Is it a match made in heaven or did its roll end up just a tad short?
Our story concerns a group of ‘chasers’, people who are experts at finding lost things, who are joined by a magician deemed heretical by the local government. Together this band of explorers are searching an ancient fortress for an ancient artefact rumoured to be related to how magic came into being in this world. It’s a pretty generic tale as far as fantasy RPGs are concerned but it sets the tone well and the medieval setting works perfectly with the game’s biggest hook - the tabletop gameplay, or to be more precise throwing dice.
Dice rolls are used to determine numerous things in Crimson Shroud. From attack modifiers, spells, and stat boosts to certain story points, and it’s a really nice addition to be able to see why you landed a hit instead of just getting a generic ‘hit or miss’ from the game. That being said, it does feel like a lot of ideas were left on the cutting room floor (obviously for space concerns), as there are some things you will do only once throughout your quest.
Apart from all the virtual d20’s flying around what makes the gameplay so addictive is the clever use of strategy implemented throughout. During each of your character's turns you can either choose to attack, use magic, items or a specific skill, so it’s up to you to decide if you'll focus on defence, offence or tweaking your stats for a given turn. There is also no levelling in Crimson Shroud. Instead, you can only upgrade your characters by changing or upgrading their equipment, which I found was a great way to eliminate the need to grind and keep the game time short.
At its core, though, Crimson Shroud is a traditional turn based RPG. In fact, if anything, it's maybe a bit too traditional. Often the game simply doesn't give any hint of how to proceed to the next checkpoint, instead hoping you stumble upon the answer by yourself (I challenge most people to figure out the ‘key’ solution to chapter 2 without help). And it's not a very fast paced game. Most battles will last around 15-20 minutes, with boss battles lasting even longer, and since you can only save in between battles you may be forced to snap your 3DS into sleep mode once every so often.
Unlike a traditional video game RPG, Crimson Shroud wears its tabletop RPG inspirations firmly on its sleeve. The game’s aesthetics are made to seem more like Dungeons & Dragons than Final Fantasy, from the motionless characters who are actually little statues placed in different positions, to the third person dialogue and the diorama-like settings. The whole game fully embraces this feel and it really can feel at times like you're playing a virtual version of Dungeons & Dragons and not a Japanese RPG.
Visually, however, Crimson Shroud is rather generic. Since the characters don’t move very much (other than a few shakes and twirls to denote attacks), battles and dialogue sequences feel static. The game’s locales also begin to feel repetitive as you move through the game (you are only exploring one dungeon after all). One high point comes into play with the 3D effect, which really pops during the text sequences and adds some decent depth during battles. Meanwhile the soundtrack and sound design are both pretty much as generic as can be for a Japanese fantasy RPG with a medieval setting.
Hopefully you brought your reading glasses with you because Crimson Shroud features a mountain of text to read through. Most of this is due to the third person descriptions and narrations that describe each area as well as long winded exposition sequences between characters. For the most part I enjoyed the text dialogue, but by the end of my quest it had begun to feel like I was reading through a novel rather than playing a video game.
Your entry fee of $7.99 will land you about seven hours of gameplay which, while generally short for an RPG, is actually a pretty decent length for a downloadable title in this price range. It’s also nice that no concessions were made to the gameplay to fit within these limitations, though it is clear that concessions were made with respect to the story and its notably rushed ending.
This isn't the type of game that will appeal to a wide audience. Even seasoned RPG veterans might be put off by its slow, methodical nature when compared to most JRPGs. But gamers who decide to invest in Crimson Shroud will find a surprisingly deep, ambitious title that when compared to its Guild 01 cousins - Liberation Maiden and Aero Porter - offers the most bang for your money and is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of tabletop and old-school Japanese RPGs.
This review is based on a digital version of Crimson Shroud, downloaded from the Nintendo e-Shop for the 3DS.
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