Developed by Kylotonn Games and published by Atlus, The Cursed Crusade places us in the boots of two men seeking to rid themselves of a terrible curse while battling through the fourth crusade in medieval times. Now it’s time to find out if the hack and slash style brings us a fun adventure, or something that will have us cursing over wasted money.
Within minutes of starting up The Cursed Crusade it becomes apparent that the game will amount to nothing more than mediocre, and after much longer it struggles to even achieve that level of credibility. It’s a straight forward hack and slash game which is entirely combat focused, besides the incredibly lengthy cutscenes. It starts to get tiring before the opening scene is even finished, where the first hour or two of the game is comprised mostly of cut scenes that seem to drag on forever in ridiculously detailed and boring history to set up the premise, all narrated by one of the most monotone voices of the year in gaming.
Despite this, I pressed on, and eventually found myself battling a multitude of soldiers with a large variety of weapons to pick up after defeating them. Each weapon or weapon combination grants a unique fighting style, which is by far the game’s greatest highlight. Whether you’re wielding a large two handed sword, an axe and a shield, a mace and a sword, or any multitude of other combinations each weapon setup has it’s own set of combos to pull off, which can be extended by investing more points into a particular fighting style. All combos consist of tapping square or triangle for horizontal or vertical strikes respectively, and it usually makes little difference what combo you use in any situation besides how long you can go without a pause in your attacks. However, weapons deteriorate as they’re used, and players will find themselves changing weapons constantly and utilizing a large variety of fighting styles.
To accompany the variety of fighting styles, basic blocking, parrying, bashing, and dodge maneuvers help round out the combat. Enemies emit a faint blue glow which indicates they can be parried, and an orange glow to indicate a move may be dodged, which is incredibly important to pay attention to in order to make progress. Enemies also begin to block a lot, which is where the bash move is very useful. Once these mechanics have been mastered (which is very simple to do) nearly every battle in the game can be easily won by utilizing them efficiently. Sometimes The Cursed Crusade will attempt to mix things up a little by having archers attack you, where upon characters can fight back with a hokey shooting mechanic by firing a crossbow back, but a weird auto aim system keeps it from feeling right, and sucks the fun out of it.
For all the focus on combat The Cursed Crusade sees a huge number of issues. For starters, besides the occasional boss fight there’s little variety in enemies, with almost all of them being a basic soldier with varying amounts of armor and weaponry. Regardless of what they’re holding or wearing you’ll fight them all in basically the same manner, except you may want to use a mace or great sword against enemies with more armor. Finishing moves are unlocked and performed automatically as more skill points are invested in each fighting style, but they quickly become extremely repetitive, and tedious since they take a while to pull off.
A curse mode helps mix things up a little bit, which is easily activated with L1, turning your characters into demon like creatures with greater offense and speed. Draining all your powers leads to death, so care must be taken, but the power regenerates so quickly that you can fight through a majority of the game in this mode. It’s a cool idea, but unfortunately the flames and hellish look the world takes on is actually coated in textures worse looking than the rest of the game, and combat improvements are fairly minor, making it unnecessary to use most of the time. A few powers can be acquired for use in this mode, like a healing power that usually won’t activate when you need it, a fire burst power that’s more tedious to use than just fighting, and a fire archer power which is even less powerful and harder to aim. Such poor execution of these powers means you’ll actually avoid using them until absolutely necessary, since they’re actually more of a detriment in battle than they are useful.
Besides the enormous focus on a shallow combat system, The Cursed Crusade is mostly comprised of cutscenes and little else in terms of gameplay. Each level contains hidden items like treasure chests and souls to find and release which can only be seen while in curse mode. Finding all of an item type in any level will yield bonus points to distribute, making them worth finding, but unfortunately it’s more tedious to look for these items than it is fun. Don’t expect to find any puzzles, platforming, or other forms of interaction – they simply don’t exist. The most interactive the environment ever gets is when you find a gate that requires both players to input X in a QTE scene to open a gate or door, or help push an object to a set location.
The Cursed Crusade was built for cooperative play, which is generally a nice feature, but it also means that in solo play the second character is always controlled by AI. Usually it works fine, with the AI blindly following you, executing QTE scenes when necessary, and it’ll even manage to kill a few enemies during combat. He never seems to die either, which can make solo play incredibly easy until a particular scenario where the characters get separated, and luckily when he is around there’s only ever a few hiccups where the AI loses track of where to go and randomly disappears mysteriously. Co-op play can be executed locally with split screen or online, but due to a complete lack of other online players I’ve been unable to test out network connections and their functionality (tested again by sitting in an open lobby while writing this, for well over an hour). So, if you plan on using this feature, make sure to trick a friend into renting or buying this too.
Graphically The Cursed Crusade is disappointing, to say the least. Most of the textures are bland, especially while in the curse mode which turns the environment to a hellish looking world on fire. Character models feature a decent level of detail, but frequently pop through their own clothing (clearly visible even in the main menu), or can be seen holding weapons that poke through each other at strange angles, which greatly detracts from the overall look. Faces also lack emotional depth, and lip syncing is almost always off cue. To top it off the music and voice acting isn’t much better, and often sounds weird with strange volume leveling, where one character sounds like he’s actually in the room they’re standing in, while the other character sounds like he’s speaking into a bad megaphone.
Ultimately, The Cursed Crusade suffers from something far worse than the characters within – the curse of boredom. By the end, I no longer cared about whether or not Denz finds his father, or if he and Estaban managed to break the curse, and only cared that I could turn the game off. For a game comprised almost entirely of combat it fails to follow through with any real level of depth, and devolves into repetitive button mashing with color cued responses. The story starts off with a cool premise, but fails to follow through by getting lost in tedious long winded dialogue, while shallow characters adhere to predictable stereotypes. Nearly every aspect is mediocre at best, and with so many other great hack and slash brawlers on the market, I see little reason to recommend a purchase of The Cursed Crusade unless you find it at the bottom of a bargain bin, and even then I would be wary.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
– Gameplay consists almost entirely of shallow combat
– Cutscenes drag on, plot bores to tears
– Graphical inconsistencies, bland textures, poor sound and lip syncing