Dragon’s Crown Review
Boobs. That’s all anyone thinks when they see the name Dragon’s Crown. If not for the ridiculous faux-anger that spread across various games media outlets then for the fact that Dragon’s Crown does have an uncomfortable amount of boobs.
We felt it important to point out because it may be a detriment to some of you. You may not like boobs, the concept of boobs may offend you or the mere sight of boobs may have you tittering like a 13-year-old boy.
If so, then probably best that you overlook Dragon’s Crown. If you love boobs, however, then that’s just one more reason to get a hold of Dragon’s Crown.
But boobs are, sadly, not enough to sell a game.
Thankfully a lot of what Dragon’s Crown does do well – and yes, even its art style is part of that – is more than reason enough to get embroiled into its world.
Early Impressions Of Dragon’s Crown
There’s no denying that Dragon’s Crown is a gorgeous game. From the softly-lit world map and accentuated monster designs to the unique oil painting art style, there’s not a single moment when Dragon’s Crown stops being gorgeous.
And while this art style does often present an unexpected boob from time to time, the argument here is not one of sexism but one of art.
It’s more classical than its nature as a videogame might suggest, and much like a naked depiction of Eve chomping on an apple there’s a beauty not in its imagery but in its creation.
Vanillaware – much like Muramasa Rebirth – should be praised for its single-minded approach to its craft, and for that reason alone it’s worth heartily recommending Dragon’s Crown. Tits and all.
But before this Dragon’s Crown review devolves any further into the namby-pamby – we’re one step away from discussing ludonarrative dissonance – let’s talk mechanics.
Dragon’s Crown breeds classic side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups – Streets Of Rage, Golden Axe et al – with a fairly well rounded RPG system.
What that really means is that you move from left to right bashing away at the various beasties and baddies that come your way. It’s an age-old system and one that every gamer worth their salt should be familiar with.
The unfamiliarity comes in the disparity between skills and characters and abilities. Who you play affects how you play, and that’s Dragon’s Crown’s biggest selling point.
Multiple Playthroughs Are A Must
If, say, you choose to play as a Wizard you’ll probably expect to cast a few spells here and there. That’s a given. But playing as the Warrior isn’t the same with a palette swap and the odd ability change. They are completely different.
The Warrior, for example, can defend and will be at the frontlines, absorbing the brunt force of an attack while the softie Wizard can hide at the back spamming Magic Missile or whatever the modern equivalent is these days.
If the reference is lost on you, then let us be explicit. There’s a clear Dungeons & Dragons vibe throughout Dragon’s Crown, and a large part of that is the handful of classes and their differences.
The Elf, for example, doesn’t use mana for her abilities and instead has a finite number of arrows, which she must recollect to allow her to fight again.
The Dwarf can grapple enemies, carrying them around the level and making him extremely useful for combining attacks with the rest of the team.
Each class is distinct from one another, adding to the desire for players to dip into each of them rather than focusing entirely on one skill tree.
This desire to see more emphasises the repeated play of Dragon’s Crown too. Often you’ll return to past locations to improve your treasure rank and collect better loot, or even to complete sub-quests that only appear once you’ve completed a zone.
There aren’t too many stages to fight through and though a number of them can have ‘alternate’ routes unlocked later on in the game for a large portion of it you will be revisiting areas.
How Combat Plays Out In Dragon’s Crown
The biggest focus here is the combat though and – initially, at least – Dragon’s Crown really impresses. There are a wide variety of abilities available to every class, and combining those both alone and with team-mates is important to success.
Ripping apart a group of orcs with nothing but a well-timed Wizard whirlwind and a combo of arrows from your Elfin partner is a slick skill that is both great fun to execute and just as visually impressive.
The problem is the, frankly, spammy nature of combat. As well formed as the whole system is, there’s no ignoring the fact that at times all you’re doing is unleashing hell and little else.
Which sounds more thrilling than it actually is.
Arcade classics like Streets Of Rage relied not just on the barebones mechanics of the combat, but the need to balance your assaults. Sometimes it’s enough just to chuck an enemy away to give you a bit of breathing space to deal with another.
Not so with Dragon’s Crown.
Partly to do with its focus on RPG elements and partly to do with the emphasis on co-op, Dragon’s Crown fails to match that similar man-management that beat-‘em-up games largely rely on.
There’s always going to be some way to flip your opposition into the air and – once there – it’s a case of spamming your attacks until the battle is won.
Solo this would be a little trickier to succeed, but even if you don’t have a friend or two to join you on your quest you’re still drawn into the companion revival feature, which will invariably see you equipping AI controlled characters in a fight.
Play with a group, real or AI, and there’s none of that balancing act that these games often need – instead it’s just numbers floating off an enemy as they’re held almost persistently in the air.
Dungeons & Dragons Meets Dragon’s Crown
There are merits to all of this, however, and one such example is in the boss fights. It’s here that a little more strategy is necessary since – in many cases – these massive beasts can’t be stopped with a whirlwind or three.
The result is a necessary combination of abilities either to overwhelm the boss into a brief stunned state, or careful timing to pick when you deal damage.
The way it adds to the world fleshes out each stage too, a culmination of screens of hack-‘n’-slash interspersed with poking every single nook and/or cranny you’re able to find.
Why? Well, treasure of course. Adding to that D&D vibe all the more, an optional ability to wave a tiny ghostly hand around the screen with the right-stick enables a ‘Search Check’ of sorts, unveiling shiny trinkets that would have otherwise gone uncollected.
Doing so adds to your Treasure Rank that, in turn, improves your loot and therefore your ability to overcome adversity.
You’re accompanied throughout by an all-seeing narrator too, replacing individual NPC voice actors with a single Dungeon Master style of storytelling.
It’s just one more element that helps build the feeling of something exceptionally fantastical, constantly archaic yet somehow compelling all the same. Dragon’s Crown is something you need to play.
Version tested: PS3 – this was based on the US version of the game and is not representative of the EU version.