Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Level 5
Platform: 3DS eShop
Release Date: December 13, 2012
ESRB: T for Teen
One of the most disturbing trends in video games recently is the increasing homogenization among titles. Looking to get a larger audience, better sales, and a higher Metacritic ranking, games are becoming increasingly similar, with developers shoehorning in features to appeal to some mythical audience that may not even exist. Despite this trend, there are still games that go their own way to court niche audiences and there is no shortage of such games in the RPG genre. Crimson Shroud is such a game, adding an old-school spin to the genre by bringing the mechanics and aesthetic of tabletop RPGs to the 3DS.
The biggest selling point for Crimson Shroud is the tabletop influence. Most prominently, many skills depend on dice rolls to determine potency and success chance, with the ability to add your own dice to the standard rolls should you need to make sure a skill succeeds. It“s a fun gimmick, especially since you use the touchscreen or circle pad to roll the dice around. Even if the mechanics behind them are a simple random number generator, it adds a nice level of interaction that makes you feel more involved in the combat. Unlike most RPGs, there are no levels or stat progression in the game, with battles only granting items and, from certain story battles, new skills. Instead, your party“s“ strength and main skills come from equipment, which can be raised in level if you have multiples of the same item.
Mechanics aren“t the only thing influenced by the tabletop, though. The entirety of Crimson Shroud“s art style is based on those games. The room setups, while nice, are simple and reminiscent of what you might see from a particularly ambitious dungeon master. Instead of active portraits and models, all the characters and monsters in the game are stationary statues. You won“t see mouths moving to simulate chatter, but the figures are so detailed that they even include bases. It“s a love-it-or-leave-it aesthetic, but it“s definitely unique and something I particularly enjoyed.
Unfortunately, there“s some quirky design at work. There“s a specific part of the game that is not well thought out to the point where it can be frustrating. You“ll eventually be required to find an item to progress, though the nature of the item can only be inferred. Sadly, how you get the item isn“t hinted at. Basically, you need to get an item from a specific encounter. Sounds simple, but it only gets dropped from a certain reinforcement unit which can randomly spawn if you kill a certain enemy type in the initial encounter. The item itself is a random drop, so there are multiple layers of chance standing in the way of progression. It may sound like whining, but given that battles can take several minutes and Crimson Shroud is only a few hours long, it can easily take up a good chunk of your playtime. Personally, about half of my playtime was spent trying to get this item. If you manage to get it your first time, you might not even know it“s an issue. Not everyone will be that fortunate, though.
Although the main game isn“t very long, those enamoured with the game can find a bulk of content through the new game+ mode. As you“d expect from the feature, you can load up a cleared game save to play through again with all of your items from the first playthrough and a higher difficulty. In addition to this, there are more areas open to explore, new enemies, and a different, though not necessarily better, ending. You can also skip previously viewed scenes, allowing you to get to the meat of new game+ without getting bogged down by what you“ve already seen.
Crimson Shroud is definitely not a game without flaws. The decision to channel the tabletop RPG genre isn“t something that will appeal to everyone and going so far as to extend that approach to the character design may leave some feeling that the game is lacking in presentation. Making story progression based on a random drop from a random enemy is a poor puzzle in a game that has such long battles and such a short story. Still, for those that can get behind the tabletop aesthetic, Crimson Shroud is definitely a fun diversion. Those that get particularly captivated by it can find plenty of content in the new game+ mode and get their money“s worth out of the title. Love it or hate it, Crimson Shroud is definitely a unique experience.
+ Deep new game+ mode
+ Detailed, tabletop aesthetic
+ Dice rolls add a layer of interactivity to combat
- Aesthetic not for everyone
- Poor puzzle design
Overall Score: 6.5 (Out of 10)
It isn“t long or without frustration, but Crimson Shroud“s unique approach is worth checking out for those looking for something new.