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Review #060: Crimson Keep (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Frank W.

Developer: Team Crimson

Publisher: Merge Games

Category: Role-Playing, Adventure, Action

Release Date: 11.29.2018

Download Crimson Keep from the Nintendo eShop here.

Roguelikes Everywhere

I love roguelike games. If you looked at my Switch before I started to review Switch games, you would see that my Switch library is chock full of roguelikes and roguelites, so I am no stranger to the genre or its crushing practices. Games like Dead Cells and Enter the Gungeon are built on the stilts of amazingly solid gameplay at their core, which makes them fun to play, even through the constant deaths and bad runs. This rings true for a lot of the best roguelikes of all time. The genre needs a very solid foundation in order to not only be gratifying to play, but to also make you pick the controller back up after a devastating loss, and this is where Crimson Keep falters the most. Crimson Keep, like most Roguelikes, has a very light story. Basically, an evil person has put you in this dungeon, and you have to get out. Not much more to it than that, aside from the skeleton guy, who tells you stories before you get into the randomly generated segments at the start of a run. He gives you some little stories that are kind of cool, but I didn’t continue to talk to him past the first few times.

Let's Discuss the Gameplay a Little More…

You start the game, pick from 3 classes that have some different skills and stats. When it comes time to level up, you can get moves ranging from throwing poison axes, to firestorms that hit enemies in front of you. There are swords, axes, magic wands, and lots of different armor to equip, with all kinds of stats and effects for your character. From what I can tell, the weapons’ main difference, outside of wands, is damage and swing speed. You have various threshold levels as you level up, and upon reaching those levels, you get to pick a new skill. You can unlock new skills by beating a certain number of bosses as another class, or by reaching other similar milestones. This encourages trying out the different playstyles in order to unlock the full potential of a class, as some entire tiers are locked at the start of the game.

This is kind of a cool concept, but the combat is clunky and slow, and the only way to really handle anything is by completing a very tedious loop of walking forward, swinging, and dashing back, and just gradually kiting the enemy backward as you whittle its health down. This is all well and good, but it’s extremely unsatisfying, and frankly, unfun to play. Without playing like this, progressing at ALL is extremely difficult.

One at a Time, Please…

Roguelikes should be hard, but when you die, generally you can place the blame on your skills, or a batch of bad luck, or even an item combo not working together correctly. In Crimson Keep, however, it felt undeserved every time I died, and I attribute it to the game’s clunky mechanics, along with its inability to allow any kind of a fair fight with more than one enemy at a time. The second you are faced with multiple combatants, any positive point I could make about its combat really just falls apart at this point, and it turns into a mess. Managing one enemy is pretty unfun, but a second enemy turns it into a struggle to even just try and get a leg up in the least bit against these combatants. You can really only do so much in a first-person melee game, and this lack of options really hurts the fun factor—and even playability—for this game.

Wrapping Up

I was able to get a few levels in after many, many, attempts, but the aesthetic never moved beyond very generic cave areas with generic skeletons, orcs, and demons. There wasn’t a single thing during this game that drove me to continue to play it, and I think that can be cited as this game’s biggest fault. I did not once find myself doing anything but dreading picking this game back up, and I never felt the urge to find out what was next. I don’t know if you picked up on it, but I really did not enjoy this game. You can spend $19.99 in the eShop on something far better than this. It feels worthier of a $7.99 price tag from what I experienced. With a heavy amount of polishing and tweaking, this could be an average game in the roguelike genre, but for now, I am giving this game a 2 out of 10. It was a good attempt, and moving forward, I have faith in the studio to keep making awesome content. I hope they can learn from the mistakes they made, and make a game that will knock my socks off someday!

Final Score: 2/10

Download Crimson Keep from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided By Merge Games

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