Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dragon's Crown review

I think that video games are looking in the wrong places to be visually impressive. If you look at games like Crysis 3, Uncharted, and Call of Duty, and even at the marketing behind the PS4 and Xbox One, you would believe that having better processing power makes for better graphics. While this isn't inherently wrong, there needs to be a stronger focus on a game's aesthetics than graphics. Most shooter games do have great graphics, but because the aesthetic is terrible and just full of cement and dirt, we make fun of the genre for all looking the same. Now Dragon's Crown doesn't have the graphical power to compete with those aforementioned games, but it looks far better than any of them ever did. 

Dragon's Crown, visually speaking, is breathtaking. The stunning animation of each character is a work of art, and the game even rewards you for completing tasks with pieces of art. There are several points in the game where I just stopped playing to stand around and look at the scenery. The brilliant, hand drawn animation is some of the greatest 2D art I've seen, and it's a beauty to behold. Out of all of the games this year, Dragon's Crown is the best looking by far. I just wish the gameplay was as up to snuff as the graphics. 
Look at this. LOOK AT THIS. SO... PRETTY!!!
The game is a fantasy beat 'em up in the same style as Golden Axe and Dungeons & Dragons. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between 6 different character classes; the warrior, the amazon, the elf, the mage, the sorceress, and the elf. Each class should indicate exactly what their specialty is (with the exception of the elf, whose's actually an archer). The warrior has strong but slow attacks, the sorceress casts magic, you get the idea. After choosing a character class (I chose the amazon and named her Natalie), I was ready to begin my adventure of merriment and wonder!

...At least I would have if the game didn't hand hold me for half the game. There are 8 levels in the world that you can go to, and each one has two paths to explore. Each path will lead you to different areas and fight different bosses. However, the game has you go through all the levels in a select order with no option of going a different path. You follow exactly where the game wants you to go, then after 5 hours in, the game will allow you to choose which world you want to go to and which routes to take in said levels. So pretty much you beat half the game, then the game allows you to do what you want. 

By the time the game opened up halfway, Natalie was already level 20, and I was level 34 by the time I beat the main boss. Literally half of the game was just going along a set path. A very pretty set path, but a set path none the less. I was able to outfit Natalie with a bunch of armor and weapons that I found in treasure chests in the world, but there wasn't really any freedom to do what I wanted to do. Plus there's really nothing to do besides go into the world and do quests, advance the plot, or grind for EXP. The main town only has a a church to revive skeletons that can become party members, a pub to select which party members to join you, an item shop, a magic shop, a guild to select quests, and a castle that's only for plot related events. There's nothing to do in town, and going out into the world for the most part is just very basic and set. 

This is actual character art. Make of that what you will. 
However, when the game did open up, I had a blast. Combat is very easy and fluid, and after a level or two I was using Natalie to destroy orcs and harpies like it was nothing. You can level up by either gaining EXP by just fighting normally, or you can do quests to boost your EXP significantly. While quests really don't open up until the mid point like everything else, there are 60 different quests that range from discovering a secret room, destroying X amount of enemies, or beating a boss under special circumstances. Each quest was always fun and a good way to liven up exploring the same forest for the 30th time. 

Each time you level up, you also gain skill points which you can allocate to either general power ups like extra health, more money, or using an items more than once. Character specific ones usually related to more offensive boosts or maneuverability. Natalie's power ups were almost always offensive and gave her new items that she could use to go into a blind rage or to summon clones to deal extra damage. Each power up actually feels like you're getting stronger, which is much more than I can say over previous Vanillaware games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Even though I harped on repeating the same levels over and over, the bosses in each level are truly a sight to behold. You can easily breeze through a boss like a Minotaur or a wyvern, but there are several boss battles that are legitimately difficult, but in a fair way. You'll have to tangle with an arch-demon, a Wraith, and even a killer rabbit. You heard me right, a killer rabbit. Plus, once you beat the game for the first time, you unlock harder difficultly modes, a new level, and Colosseum mode, so there's plenty of post game content that'll have you wanting to get your character all the way up to level 99. Plus once you do get a character up there, then there's 5 more classes that you can master and play as. Post game content is not a problem at all for this game. 

You decide! Sex appeal, or badass appeal?
Now there's one last thing that needs to be said about Dragon's Crown, and it doesn't really have anything to do with the game in a sense. If you may have noticed in most of the pictures here, there have been a lot of women with giant breasts and hyper sexualization of women here (or at least in two pictures). While I personally don't find much of an issue with it, it should go without saying that the designs for the game tends to put a huge focus on... the female anatomy. Most of the concept art features women that are half naked, with giant breasts, giant thighs, or just designed to be sexy. Hell, a female warrior monk is drawn lying down, writing in pain, yet she still has the time to spread her legs open for the gamer. The designs are a bit excessive, and while it's not a huge detractor to the score I'm giving this game, it does get a bit ridiculous when every female character is either half naked, has giant breasts, or is in bondage. Be warned is what I'm trying to get at. It's nothing terrible, like there are no nipples or naughty bits, but feminists definitely will find issue with the designs. 

Despite that, I found Dragon's Crown to be highly enjoyable when it finally let me actually play the game. The gameplay was fun, the world looked beautiful, and I found myself sinking a lot of time into it when I was given free will. But those first few hours are so restrictive, and if you're just looking to play this game once without wanting to beat it again on a higher difficulty or with a new character, then you're going to feel pretty let down. For everyone else, this game is a damn good time and needs a lot more recognition for being a good game and not for it's giant knockers. I give Dragon's Crown 3 female adventurers out of 5. 

I am woman, hear me roar. With giant breasts... and giant legs... and elf ears...

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