Crimson Alliance is an action game in which squads of four players hack and slash their way through countless dungeons. You split enemies in half with a single slice, use magic to push them away and stun them with your lightning speed. Your adventure will take you around a fantasy world as you take down an evil sorceress and her dark minions. On paper this sounds like the most exciting game of the summer. So why is this Xbox Live Arcade title so boring?
Trust me; you've heard it all before. There's an evil sorceress that magically comes back to life and, what else, threatens the world. Thankfully a band of adventurers (each with conveniently different abilities) set forth to make sure this doesn't happen. Along the way they have to fight through underground caves, destroyed villages and castles. Sound familiar? That's because you've seen this formula countless times in one Diablo-wannabe after another. The result is an action game that is boring, generic and outdated.
The gimmick here is that you can have up to four players working together to wipe out this enemy threat. The game has full Xbox Live support, which may make this mediocre effort tempting to oblivious gamers. But don't be fooled, there are far better dungeon crawlers on the Xbox 360 for the exact same price.
Like most Diablo-clones, Crimson Alliance lets you choose from three different characters. There's a warrior (who is good at short range attacks), a magician (who is good at long range attacks) and an assassin (who has both long and short range attacks). Each character has two different attacks (weak and strong) and the ability to stun nearby opponents. Outside of the various items you can pick up along the way (including a gun turret and a health generator), there isn't much more to this shallow adventure game.
The game sets up a series of linear levels to fight through, each a little harder than the last. Sadly, there's very little variety to be found in the game. Either you're walking through tight corridors killing enemies or you're in a large room dealing with wave after wave of enemies. Occasionally there are small puzzles you can solve (including multi-person puzzles), but none of them require much thinking. There are also hidden areas full of gold scattered around each stage, though it won't take much to find their locations.
Even the biggest fan of dungeon crawlers will admit that the genre is a little repetitive. While modern entries have done a good job of adding variety, there is still a certain level of repetition involved with this style of game. The reason people keep coming back to games like Diablo and Torchlight is because of the character leveling system and, most importantly, the chance of finding rare loot.
Apparently the developers of Crimson Alliance didn't get the memo, because neither of these hooks is in the game. In this game enemies don't drop weapons or rare items. In fact, everything important is found in treasure chests. But don't expect randomized weapons, each item is specifically designed to sit in that stationary treasure chest. The game's only incentive for replaying the stages is to earn a higher score and compete against your friend on the online leaderboard. While I like the idea of scoring the progress, it's a lame substitute for leveling up your character or finding rare loot.
Players will earn gold along the way, which they can spend in at one of the many merchants along the path. Unfortunately, each merchant has different items for sale. That makes comparing items excruciatingly frustrating. There's no good reason not to put all of the items in one store and let the player pick and choose at will.
Beyond the terrible interface, I was disappointed at how bland the level designs are throughout the game. The stages aren't long, but they also aren't very interesting. Many are too dark and dreary for their own good, while others tend to repeat the same textures over and over again. There's nothing about the visuals that stand out, it just looks like every other generic dungeon crawler I've seen in the last dozen years.
It's worth noting the game's unorthodox price tag. While it looks like the game is free to download, don't be fooled. In order to actually start the journey players will have to buy both the levels and the characters. Some of this stuff you can buy individually or you can pick up the whole shebang for $15. This is certainly more complicated than it needs to be and also gives players the opportunity to spend more than the $15 asking price. Oh, and just in case you have a few points left over, you can buy in-game gold with your real world money.
Crimson Alliance's biggest sin is that it doesn't strive to be anything more than a paint-by-numbers Diablo-clone. This is the type of game you've seen and played before. The design is sound and you can have a lot of fun playing with friends. Still, there's very little reason to buy this game over Torchlight or Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. Crimson Alliance strives to be generic, and in that sense it nails the landing.