You've not heard much about it before, and the screenshots don't look very impressive. Don't disappear just yet though, because I'm here to fight: Crimson Alliance is pure bread-and-butter brilliant.
Leading the charge is four player co-op: available both locally and online. Bash buttons with three mates and you'll have a good time, but dig deeper and you'll realise that there's nothing mindless about it. There's gear to equip and gold to find, but that's as far as the grinding goes. There's no ammo, mana, or stat-buffing to be found here. This is a deliciously well-oiled combat system, and your skills with a pad will always comes first.
There are three different characters to choose: The Wizard, the Mercenary, and the Assassin. Each handles differently and has just three unique skills to play with, and the decision to keep it so focused works well. Each power has specific tactical advantages during a fight: the Wizard, for example, can't freeze enemies if they're shielded, but a charged fireball attack will knock this protection clean out of their hands. Your character doesn't level up, but better equipment improves these skills substantially. By the end of the game, you'll be beastly.
If you're planning to master the online leaderboards you'll need fast reactions. Score multipliers are tough to build up, and knocked down a notch every time you get hit. Crazy dodging skills are rewarded with extra gold at the end of the level - but nothing beats the thrill of the chase.
If you can't be bothered saving up for better gear in Crimson Alliance, you've got the option to shell out 80MSP for 40,000 gold. If it wasn't so heavily based on skill this would ruin the game, but really it's just a handy shortcut. There's no way you'll be able to buy your way to the top of the scoreboard.
Pricing is an odd one throughout the game, as it seems the publishers have decided to offer two options: 1200 MSP gets you the full game with all three characters, whereas an 800 MSP purchase gets you the game with just one of the three. It's confusing, but if you're not planning on local co-op it might be worth a look. Try all three in the game's trial demo, and see if you can live without two. (Our personal favourite is the Wizard - check out the video below to get an idea of what he's like to play once you've got your hands on decent gear.)
If you find XBLA's other number-crunchy-crawlers (hello, Torchlight) a bit too soulless for your liking, then this is unmissable stuff. Don't be fooled by the identikit visuals: Crimson Alliance is frantic, fresh, and utterly brilliant.
Bone-crunching beats number-crunching, every time
- Intense combat
- Simplified Loot
- Skills over stats
- 4 player co-op
- Confused pricing