Review by yoshifuzz
"The best XBLA game you'll find!"
If you've ever played Gauntlet or Diablo, you already know the general style of Crimson Alliance. This top-down dungeon crawler feels and plays like Gauntlet, with a few similarities to diablo. I have to admit, when I saw that the price of the game was "free," I expected the actual game would be free. As it turns out, to play more than just one level, you have to either buy the game ($15) or a single character class ($10.) The game itself really is free, it downloads everything except a code that lets you play the whole game, effectively letting anyone rate the game. (it's far better than the xbox rating says)
Once you manage to get past the fact that you just paid for a 300 kb code when the game was already on your console, let's look at the gameplay. You get to choose from either a wizard, assassin, or mercenary. They each have 3 main skills, a block, a lunge/teleport for fast travel and dodging, and an ultimate skill which you can unlock. While that makes the gameplay sound quite stale, there are actually a variety of items and strategies you can use. If you get a poisonous dagger for the assassin, for example, you'll deal more damage over time than raw burst damage. This changes the gameplay from running in and blindly slashing to sniping every single enemy with a dagger toss before even thinking about charging in. There are so many possibilities that those three skills suddenly seem like a whole lot more.
Something a bit different about this game is that you don't actually level up, although you can find heart pieces for health increases and soul anchors for ultimate attacks. Stats are entirely dependant on your items, which can either be purchased or found in hidden treasure chests (enemies don't drop items, only gold.) This seems just fine, but when your old items become useless, there is no sell button. Thankfully, gold is quite easy to obtain if you aim for full completion of each level, but a sell feature still would have been nice. There is also an option to purchase 40,000 gold for 80 microsoft points, but I would not recommend that unless you would rather charge through each stage than explore for hidden gold, as you'll almost always have a huge amount of excess gold otherwise.
As far as the stages go, each takes about 5 or 10 minutes to run through, or 15 to 30 minutes to actually search around for all of the secret areas which contain extra gold, heart pieces, and soul anchors. Most stages have a cutscene before them, a path with enemies and secrets branching off of it, a miniboss area or arena with waves of enemies in them, another path with enemies and secrets, and a boss area at the end. You can also find maps to unlock challenge stages which reward your team with bonus equipment for fighting through a few waves of enemies.
The game is far better over xbox live (you can also play with friends on the same screen either locally or online), where you can pull off some insane tricks with a bit of teamwork, as you'll have 9 skills on your side and can constantly juggle enemies. There are also puzzles requiring multiple players, but many can be solved alone with a bit of creativity. I don't think the enemies get harder with more players, but maybe my friends and I have just been having too much fun to notice.
If you're looking for a great dungeon crawler to play with friends, (or even just random people) look no further than Crimson Alliance. You won't be disappointed.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/13/11
Game Release: Crimson Alliance (US, 09/07/11)
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