Dragon's Crown: Successfully Reinventing the Beat 'Em Up
Preface: For this Dragon's Crown review, I will not delve into the game's depiction of women. If I feel like I have something to add to that already much discussed subject, I will post about it on GameSkinny and throw the link into this article. That being said, if you are offended by the art in this game and are not sure whether putting up with it is worth the purchase, check out Danielle Riendeau's writeup for one that discusses it.
In a world full of cash shops, QTEs, and dime-a-dozen FPSes, beat'em up fans have been largely ignored. That is until Vanillaware released Dragon's Crown.
Dragon's Crown feels like the first real modern interpretation of the 2D beat 'em up genre. It takes the old formula and fleshes it out, adding depth and replayability that most games in the genre lack.
Dragon's Crown has superb sound design. The sound effects pop, the music is atmospheric, and the voice acting is great.
Thank you to Atlus, by the way, for providing us with the ability to switch between English and Japanese voice acting by character. Every individual voice is great, but it's nice to have the option to choose. It also adds some variation in co-op.
The graphics make everything pop out like no other game I have played before. The colorful hand painted world of Dragon's Crown is a fresh breather from the bald space marine filled market and even sets it apart from other 2D games in the same genre.
Just when you think you are used to the beautiful graphics, a new boss or level comes up and reminds you just how amazing 2D art can look when done right. Even the level select screen will take your breath away when you first see it rotate.
The story in Dragon's Crown isn't anything to write home about. The presentation, on the other hand, is everything a lover of the fantasy genre could hope for.
The setting is Vanillaware's take on the usual Western fantasy fare, but it is presented in a deliciously D&D-esque way. Instead of each character having their dialogue acted out, it is all relayed to the player via narration. This narration can be changed with a DLC pack, allowing players to use their own character's voice instead of the default.
The game is crawling with references and homages left and right, ranging from Arabian Nights to Dungeons and Dragons to Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Conan the Barbarian to multiple Disney works. It was fun trying to catch each one.
There is just too much to say about the gameplay. Dragon's Crown is the perfect blend of beat'em up and loot collecting. It's like Golden Axe and Diablo had a baby and that baby went on to surpass its parents in every way possible.
The combat in DC has a depth that isn't seen in most games of its genre. Players have a pretty decent set of moves to choose from initially and can build on this as they level up their characters and gain skills.
Players have a decent amount of choices, too, when it comes to speccing. Not every Wizard plays the same. However, if you regret the purchases you made with your skill points down the line, there are ways to respec. This affords players the chance to experiment to see which builds are the most effective.
Not only is the combat deep, but the loot system is rewarding. There are different qualities of loot and they all seem to be randomly generated. Getting new items will keep you motivated to play through the end game to see your DPS shoot up.
There are only 9 stages with two branching paths each. However, these levels don't really feel like they get old thanks to the motivation players get from the loot system.
As you beat the game and unlock harder difficulties, you can mix the game up by playing the Chaos Labyrinth. This gives you harder enemies with more variation and better rewards.
If you grew up playing old school beat 'em ups and want to see what happens when a developer successfully fleshes them out with the best aspects of modern gaming, Dragon's Crown was designed specifically for you.