Just last year, we remember bemoaning the disappearance of the co-op dungeon-crawler. Crazy, huh? Since then, we’ve seen quite a few attempts at the genre crop up. Generally, though, these have followed the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance mold, focusing on character progression, looting and atmosphere. Crimson Alliance went the other direction, looking to revitalize a style we haven’t seen since Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.
The game follows a familiar path: various stages of enemies crop up, and you slog your way through them. The team at Certain Affinity took a very crafted approach to the levels, which is a rarity with these games. Special items are hidden in various crevices and behind doors only opened by one of the game’s three characters. It’s not a loot-fest like some games, though; players only equip three items at once, and each modify a handful of stats. The simplicity is refreshing, but there’s still enough here to make interesting decisions. (It’s similar to how Castle Crashers handles it with its weapon/orb system.)
The environments are interesting. It’s not all your dark, nasty dungeons and very-very-green forests. You’ll make your way through towns and desert areas, and the aesthetic is vibrant and lush. The level design for combat is interesting as well. In a genre that’s usually fine throwing waves after nondescript waves at you, Crimson Alliance designs a few set-piece battles each level, with enemies that move with strategies, terrain that can get you backed into a corner or lobbing attacks from above and limited, but more difficult, waves.
You play as one of three classes: the standard spell-shooting mage, the burly warrior and the swift rogue. Each has its sets of items, secret doors and situations in which it is most useful. In a four-player game, we question the decision to not include a fourth class, as inevitably the two players sharing one type will get tired of splitting items and combat duties. Ultimately, though, with four-player local or online play, Certain Affinity did a good job here.
A note about the pricing scheme: the game’s $15. There are options to buy a $10 version with only one of the three classes, but just ignore those. Trust us; it’s not worth it. What is worth it, though, is the game. It’s a bit more compelling than others in the genre due to its focus on actual game design over spoils and progression, and you’ll have fun with friends.
Pros: Interesting levels, lush visuals
Cons: Three classes, strange pricing decisions