Chasing Diablo through a Gauntlet of Torchlight
Ever since Atari’s Gauntlet first arrived in the arcades in 1985, developers have been trying to fulfil the need gamers have to delve into dark dungeons with pointy objects in search of shiny loot. Their latest attempt is the Xbox LIVE Arcade exclusive Crimson Alliance, a hack-n-slash role-playing game from Austin, Texas-based independent studio Certain Affinity.
The story of Crimson Alliance is filled with the usual RPG tropes. Three heroes with troubled pasts – a Mercenary, an Assassin, and a Wizard – explore a ruined city in a realm that has fallen on hard times. Objects called Soul Anchors scattered throughout the ruins provide background information on past heroes who came to the city, helped shaped its history, then fell to the mysterious evil that now dwells in its depths. Besides providing some exposition, the Soul Anchors can also grant players the powers of the fallen heroes to aid them in combat.
Stick it with the pointy end or kill it with fire?
And, really, combat is the main draw of a game like Crimson Alliance. Up to four players can play together locally on a single screen (no split screen) or online through Xbox LIVE. However, since there are only three classes available, at least two out of the four players will have to double up. The classes are RPG standards and should be instantly familiar to veterans of the genre. The Mercenary fights up close and personal with a sword and shield, the Wizard blows things up from a distance with fire, ice, or electricity, and the Assassin mixes things up with a combination of ranged and melee attacks and the ability to slow down time.
There are no skill trees in the game. Instead, players can improve their characters through loot drops. Donning a new set of armour will not only change a character’s look, it will also increase health and provide ability bonuses as well. Crimson Alliance does away with mana bars and stats like strength and dexterity, and leaves behind simple button-mashing fun. Leaderboards, a scoring system, and combo multipliers encourage a bit of healthy competition amongst players, as does a ranking system at the end of each level that tallies up points, secrets found, and clear time.
A dungeon worth delving?
While Crimson Alliance doesn’t offer the randomly-generated dungeons action-RPG fans have come to expect from the genre, there is still some re-playability in the form of hidden spaces and secret maps scattered about the game world. Finding them will unlock new challenges and adventures, and Certain Affinity is promising to expanding the game’s content post launch by releasing new episodes and challenges.
There is no word yet on how much Crimson Alliance will cost when it is released on September 7 (1,200 Microsoft Points seems likely), but the game is being offered for free to people who buy all of this year’s ‘Summer of Arcade’ titles. Although it introduces nothing new to the genre, if the price is right, it may be worth checking out.