The Cursed Crusade Review - October 13th 2011

Not every developer has the budget of Bethesda, not every publisher the pulling power of PopCap. That probably explains both why you aren't interested in The Cursed Crusade and why you haven't heard of it. It would be unwise, however, to write it off completely. Rein back your expectations just a little - this aint no Skyrim - and you'll find a satisfying medieval fantasy adventure and lots of juicy knight vs. knight combat.


The influences in little-known developers Kylotonn Games' latest are clear. It borrows marauding Templars from Assassin's Creed, chunky swordplay complete with quick-time events and bloody executions from The Witcher (though nothing more outlandish than a good impaling), and the type of streamlined RPG tree inhabiting similar third person action games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Dante's Inferno. As such, The Cursed Crusade is less a melting pot of styles and more a bubbling cauldron. Think of a feature from a third person action adventure and it's most likely been chucked in here to stew, and while each one may not seem immediately polished (those other games, after all, are triple A), it makes for a surprisingly full mix. There's simply a lot to get your teeth into.

You will never be short of people to impale.

And what better way to start than with a nibble of the story. It's the final days of the 12th century, and the order of Templars have chosen to ring in the new year with a dark magic ritual. What's wrong with singing Auld Lang Syne? Attempts to bury the dangerous new power is made slightly hairier when the Pope decides to launch a fourth crusade through medieval Europe and the Orient and into Constantinople. The young Templar Denz de Bayle (that's you) joins the fight in order to find his father who never returned from the last one. It's a fairly grounded historical yarn, more Kingdom of Heaven than Dragon Age, strongest when it doesn't stray too far into the ridiculous (demon-headed enemies and blue magic compromises the realism a tad).

It's all an excuse to let you roam 12th century Europe in chainmail, and that it does well. A siege on a burning castle is an early highlight, with you timing mad dashes between cover as clouds of arrows rain down a la 300, picking off hapless archers with your crossbow and bashing down the door with a massive battering ram. The set piece is like the game itself - a lot of satisfying, if shallow little mechanics that form a pleasing whole.

Later highlights include a festival battle against bucket-headed knights in front of a roaring crowd (well, perhaps a dozen-strong gaggle with looping animations), and an assault into a castle courtyard with your wise-cracking Templar brethren, climaxing with the firing of a devastating trebuchet. Outside these isolated moments the game is sometimes bogged down by linear levels, a curiously empty atmosphere and the constant dull fighting thuds of steel on steel, but luckily there are enough set pieces to break up the monotony.

Harsh.

The Cursed Crusade does exactly what you'd expect from a third person fantasy game, and some things you wouldn't. Set pieces are remarkably fun and varied, even if they could've been more frequent, and fighting with two-handed claymores, axes and daggers is a more tactical and patient alternative to the outlandish combos of Assassin's Creed. There's an oppressive air to later levels, and it does get combat-heavy at times, but otherwise this is surprisingly accomplished stuff. Just don't expect Adoring Fans and dragon-slaying.


Ben Griffin

 

Gameplay:

Lots of combat...but lots of combat.

Audio:

Bad acting and lots of repetitive effects.

Graphics:

Sharp character models and environments, but Witcher 2 sets the benchmark.

Longevity:

a 10-hour game, which is possibly not a good thing.

     

Final Score:



The score may seem a tad low, but compared to other games in its field it simply cannot compare. With more managed expectations, though, there is a lot to like about The Cursed Crusade.

 

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dtp Entertainment
Kylotonn Games
Out Now
PC PS3 360