Role-playing games are in short demand on the Xbox Live Arcade, mainly down to the file size restrictions in place. Even when this obstacle has been overcome, it’s difficult to scale big concepts into a downloadable game. Crimson Alliance, developed by Certain Affinity, is the latest attempt at bringing a successful RPG to the Xbox Live Arcade.
Before playing Crimson Alliance, gamers have to make a decision whether to purchase one of the game’s three classes for 800 Microsoft Points or all three for an extra 400 Microsoft Points. It’s clear cut which option gamers should go for: if you’re determined you want to be just one of the classes then the cheaper option is for you, but if you want the full experience, it’s worth spending the extra Microsoft Points to do so.
The game’s plot is quite generic for a title within the RPG genre. Set in Byzan, a fallen empire, the place is ruled by the cruel goddess, Soul Siren. It’s up to Direwolf (a wizard), Moonshade (an assassin) and Gnox (a mercenary) to prevent Soul Siren from unleashing her ultimate weapon.
At the start of the campaign (the title’s only game mode), players can choose between one of three classes: Assassin, Mercenary and Wizard, all of which have their own unique moves and powers. While there are notable differences between each of the character type’s gameplay, the core gameplay is simply a case of button-bashing.
The vast majority of enemies in Crimson Alliance can be defeated by simply hammering the X or B button, even on the game’s harder difficulties. While there are other means of killing enemies, such as igniting explosive barrels and deploying turrets, repeatedly pressing the attack buttons is an easier option.
Each of the classes’ armour and weaponry is upgradable by spending gold collected throughout the game. Other upgrades include the player’s health and the ultimate tier – a special ability that slows down time and increases the player’s attack, built-up by eliminating enemies. These are upgraded by players finding collectibles scattered throughout the game.
Multiplayer in Crimson Alliance comes in the form of co-operative play for up to four players on both split-screen and over Xbox Live. This is arguably the game’s strong point, especially over the online service.
Integrated throughout the game’s campaign are multiplayer puzzles, which involve players standing on pressure pads and activating switches to allow for the other player(s) to progress to the puzzle’s reward. The reward for completing such puzzles isn’t massively beneficial, though there is a satisfying feeling at the end of it.
However, Crimson Alliance suffers from one major flaw: repetitiveness. The level designs are all very similar in structure with players having to eliminate all the enemies in a zone before progressing.
Further repetitiveness in the game comes in the form of the jazz soundtrack - the background music for the title, which feels very out of place in the context. On top of that, the sound effects are very limited with a very small number being evident.
The game also lacks the replayability factor. Once players have completed the campaign, all that’s left is the same campaign but with another class or to improve on the scores set on each level. Another game mode may have come in useful here, but it’s hard to see what could have been implemented.
Other limitations within Crimson Alliance include the character customisation, which simply consists of changing the colour of the character’s clothing. Needless to say, the characters are nicely detailed, along with the rest of the game’s environments.
Overall, if Certain Affinity had pushed their ideas further, Crimson Alliance could have been a truly fantastic title. Nevertheless, despite its repetitiveness and generic story, the game is great fun, especially in multiplayer.
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