Crimson Dragon Review
Immediately after laying waste to a huge boss early on in Crimson Dragon, your commanding officer yells a few insightful words in your ear. “I’ve never seen this species acting so aggressively,” she says. “Maybe it’s down to the recent disturbances in their habitat…”
Disturbances in their habitat? If you’re talking about the army of charmless human soldiers who’ve come to commit mass genocide because of some “virus” that isn’t visibly contagious and leaves all sufferers looking quite alarmingly fit and healthy, then yes: that makes perfect sense. That giant elephant thing was annoyed because we were attempting to destroy it and everything it loves. What a hater.
Crimson Dragon: A Disappointment?
Games like this never, ever need to have storylines attached to them, but that hasn’t stopped this development squad from choosing to waste everyone’s time with a stream of utterly tedious and incomprehensible narrative claptrap.
So far, so video games, but cursory storytelling is very easy to forgive when the game’s entertaining enough, and Crimson Dragon doesn’t even come close to cutting the mustard.
A spiritual Panzer Dragoon sequel with series originator Yukio Futatsugi back at the helm, it’s going to come as a massive disappointment to the fans who’ve been waiting for it since 2011, when it was first announced as an Xbox 360 exclusive.
Those origins will not need explaining to anyone who actually plays Crimson Dragon however, because an Xbox 360 game is basically what it still is.
Running on the Unreal Engine with nary a suggestion that you’re playing it on next-gen hardware (bar some impressive draw distance and the slick voice-controlled menus) it’s even prone to some drastic frame-rate drops when it gets too busy.
For the most part it plays exactly as you’d expect it to: the left stick moves your dragon, the right stick moves your targeting reticule and pressing one of the bumpers triggers a lethargic evasive manoeuvre to the left or right.
Crimson Dragon’s Gameplay
This is still a rail-shooter, but it’s a rail-shooter that flits between restricting movement completely and giving you the chance to move around very, very slowly.
Your dragon’s motions are so sluggish and unsatisfying that it’s hard not to wonder why players were given full control in the first place, and there’s nothing worse than repeatedly smashing into rocks before you realise that you’ve been silently given full control without noticing.
In addition to that, it has one of the single most obnoxious cameras in the history of videogames.
Like its prequels this is a mildly interactive roller-coaster ride; a trip that constantly whips around obstacles, through caverns and under bridges at a furious clip.
But Crimson Dragon’s camera appears at times to be performing bizarre feints and bluffs: forcing you to line-up for a shot on an incoming enemy, before violently spinning you 90 degrees to reveal the grotto entrance that you’re about to fly into, by which point it’s too late to move into a position that won’t rob you of a decent chunk of health.
In another instance the camera pulled in front of us so that we could shoot at some enemies to the rear, which left us to repeatedly fly straight into obstacles that we couldn’t see.
Crimson Dragon Review
A second dragon – your AI-controlled “Wing Man” – helps to balance things out a little during those situations, but keeping them statted-up and constantly present alongside you involves a decent pool of in-game currency.
Here’s the other big issue: there’s micro-transactions.
Regardless of whether or not you think it’s acceptable to have so much paid content in a game you’ve already paid for, the act of altering the entire structure of a game simply to coerce players into shelling out more money is bordering on the criminal.
With or without those infuriating monetary systems though, Crimson Dragon simply isn’t worth it. Even the implementation of 3 player co-op – currently due to arrive via a patch in December – probably can’t salvage it.