Review: Crowntakers (PC)

crowntakerscoverCrowntakers
Publisher: Kasedo Games
Developer: Bulwark Studios
Genre: Rogue-Like Strategy RPG
Release Date: 11/07/2014

Crowntakers is a nifty blending of two genres you wouldn’t expect to go together. It combines the brutal difficulty, simplicity, and replay value of rogue-likes with tactical RPG combat to create a game that will likely get you hooked. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re into either genre.

crowntakers1The story in this game is pretty irrelevant. You play as a young man who gets telepathically contacted by the king. It turns out the king has been usurped by the duke and needs your help to take back his crown. Why you? It turns out you are one of his many bastard sons, and he’s willing to name you heir to the throne if you succeed. With that, you’re off. The story disappears completely until the ending. That’s fine though. Too much story would get in the way of the all the killing and whatnot.

Two different difficulty levels are offered. You can choose to play on easy or normal. However, normal is locked until you managed to beat easy. If that sounds like a turn off, fear not. Easy mode is kind of like a training mode for the real game. You keep your levels, you can skip bosses you’ve already beaten, and it’s the best way to unlock all of the mercenaries you can hire. It’s also brutally hard in its own right and will likely take you many tries before you can conquer it. Normal mode is classic rogue-like stuff. Once you die, that’s it; you have to start the game anew, back at square one. It’s a nifty setup that organically introduces you to the game before asking you to really get to the heart of things.

From the presentational standpoint, the game is acceptable. The colorful cartoon graphics shouldn’t fool you into thinking this game is going to be a breeze, but they are pleasant to look at. The designs are nice and the art style is certainly charming. However, there are few animations and things are kept pretty simple.

crowntakers2If you’ve played many fantasy games, you’ll know what to expect from the music. It’s typical stuff that fits the theme well. However, I found the music would disappear at random times are continue in spots where it probably shouldn’t be. The sound effects were a little underwhelming as well. It’s not bad really, but it could have been so much more. Chalk this up to a low budget.

Things start to pick up in the gameplay department though. You play on an hexagonal overworld where you can move around and investigate various buildings and places of interest. The maps are procedurally generated, meaning you won’t play the same map twice. The only things are that are constant are the bosses and the fact that you’ll find a blacksmith/inn on each stage.

You’ll start off by yourself, but you can add members to your party along the way. The first mercenary is free, but you’ll have to pay for the rest. Additionally, you may get a quest to help out another mercenary who will join your party and become unlocked for purchase if you manage to complete it. If a merc dies, then they’re gone unless you buy a resurrection spell. If you die, it’s game over and back to start for you.

crowntakers3Managing your inventory is simple. You don’t need to bother with equipment, so it’s mostly about various items you carry. There are a variety of potions and plant life you can use to give your characters boosts and restore HP. There are also items that sell for high prices, items that increase your odds of finding good stuff, and so on. You can also upgrade your weapons and armor by giving special items to the blacksmith. Upgrading your gear lets you attach runes to it that give you various passive or stat bonuses. An armor rune might decrease your incoming damage, increase your movement range, or give you an armor point that can absorb any hit. Weapon runes can up your strength, increase your critical hit chance, and more. The trick is that you can only upgrade your gear at the blacksmith, so you might end up traveling in circles as you find gear.

Combat is classic turn based stuff. Each battle starts with all of the characters randomly placed on the field, and you get to get go first. Each of your units has two action points that can be spent on movement and attacking. You can use these in either order or even do two of the same action. You can also quaff a potion, but this does not consume an AP. Each character has a basic attack option as well as two class abilities. It’s simple, but there’s more depth than you might think. For starters, units get attacks of opportunity against foes that attack others or move in their threat range. Also, units on guard get counterattacks. You can even get bonus damage for backstabs. Characters with armor points protect their HP until they’ve received hits equal to that armor. Then you add in invisible foes, ranged units that can use overwatch, knock back attacks, piercing attacks, and other tricks. The battles are usually short, but can get pretty intense.

crowntakers4When it comes to character advancement, the game doesn’t offer much. You can level up, but you can only add to one of four different stats. Even then, you only get to choose from two of those stats chosen at random. However, you can unlock different versions of each character that have a different special ability. For example, the archer either gets an ability that shoots over obstacles, the ability to shoot three times in one turn, or the ability to shoot all targets in an area. There are many different mercenaries in the game and you can hire up to four. Thus, the customization comes in creating a unique team and strategy. It reminds me of Antisquad. The team management aspect makes up for not being able to tool your characters, provided you take the time to unlock the different variations.

Once you know what you’re doing, you can plow through easy mode in about an hour. However, if you add all of your failed attempts to that, you’re looking at a decent total play time. If you get into making attempts on normal difficulty, you’ll likely more than get your monies worth trying to best it.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150Crowntakers is like a hardcore casual title. It embraces brutal difficulty and meta strategy, but also simplicity and ease of use. The depth comes from trying out different teams and strategies, and the fun comes from finding ones that work. It’s an addicting game that will appeal to those looking for a challenge. If you’re looking for a rogue-like that goes off the beaten path, this is it.

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