Back in May of 2012, Japan received a compilation game called Guild01, published by Level-5. One of the four games on the compilation, Crimson Shroud, was developed at Level-5 and was recently released as a digital download in the West. Nintendo gamers probably best recognize Level-5 as the company behind the Layton games, or working with SquareEnix on some of the past Dragon Quest games. So how does their mini-RPG hold up?
The game opens with a scene of an injured young woman being grilled by a hardened soldier. It’s quickly apparent that the woman isn’t a stranger to hardship, herself. It’s also easy to guess that this will not be a feel-good game. Crimson Shroud is broken out into chapters, each prefaced with an encounter between the soldier, Flint, and the young woman, Frea, regarding recent events. The chapters themselves are what happened before Flint found the injured woman. The main protagonist is Giauque, an adventurer for hire, and his most recent quest to find a missing book of some major historical and political importance, along with his partners Lippi and Frea.
Combat in this game is similar to most RPGs. The characters and enemies take turns, using attacks, magic and skills, to defeat each other. Crimson Shroud is unique in the added chance element. The player can sometimes elect to add one or more dice to the attack, increasing either the damage or the chance to hit, based on what they roll. Some skills are entirely dice-based. In keeping with this table-top feel, the characters and enemies are all figurines. When entering a new part of the map, there is a description of the area, again, almost like in a table-top RPG. Where other games would show something, Crimson Shroud will tell it. Be prepared to do a lot of reading when playing this game. The whole presentation, from the room descriptions to the figurines falling over when defeated, adds to the unique feel of this game.
I, personally, have no hope of painting my minis that well.
Although the visuals and a general feel of this game is derivative of a tabletop game, the mechanics are actually nothing like it. Dice are rolled almost randomly instead of with every action. Also, Crimson Shroud does not have a level system. Skills and magic is determined by the equipment a character is wearing and the occasional skill learned at the end of an encounter. There are no shops, so the characters rely on what can be found by battling enemies or finding treasure chests. There is a system that can be used to upgrade equipment so the three bucklers you find can be turned into one stronger +3 buckler. Players have the option of fighting the enemies over and over for equipment. In my time with the game, I did this, so I cannot say for sure if it was necessary, or if I could have beaten the game with whatever dropped the first time around.
Crimson Shroud is a fairly short game, which is to be expected from a digital download that was originally part of a game compilation. This smaller package works very well for the story and the feelings this game is trying to convey to the player. The entirety of this game takes place in one dungeon and can be completed in eight or nine hours. That is, unless you are a victim of the game’s greatest flaw: chance. There is a battle early in the game where an item required to advance the story might be missed. This flaw highlights one of the greatest advantages of true tabletop gaming: if the players kill the wrong enemy, the game master can simply change their plans and put the key item on whatever dead body is available. In Crimson Shroud, a player unaware of potential problem can spend hours running in circles.
Die, Skeleton Mage! Fear my pile of polygons!
All in all, I enjoyed my time with Crimson Shroud. The early trouble with finding that particular item was annoying, but the game was smooth sailing otherwise. The story was intriguing, one I would have loved to have experienced around a table of friends with character sheets and d20s at the ready. Although I only spent 8 hours with them, I had a very firm understanding of Giauque, Lippi, Frea and Flint, and this can only be a credit to the strength of the story and the storytelling. This bite-sized RPG was a great way to spend a long weekend, and I recommend it to any RPG fan who is up for a bit of reading and a great story.
Tabletop Gaming is like the nerdiest of the nerdy..and I'm desperately sorrowful that I didn't get a chance to really experience it as a kid. I played Dungeons and Dragons once or twice, and I did like it, but I never got to play it again after that for whatever reason. Hmm. I know my buddy stole my name because he liked it ("Rancor the Paladin"), and sold me his N64 years later, so theres that.
Anyway, I like that +3 Buckler thing! It sounds soooo familiar, and I can't tell you what other game I had that in, but I enjoyed it heavily (Shiren the Wanderer, Phantom Brave? HMMMM..) Monster Hunter Tri doesn't use levels either (not in the Level Up! sense), and it took me forever to wrap my head around that. Did you find yourself wishing for standard level ups? Also, do you like other griddish-based games? Have you played Gladius, or anything in the Fire Emblem series?
@Mr_Mustache I've been playing D&D with some friends off and on for about 14 years, but we didn't start until we were old enough to know better. Very nerdy. The +3 Buckler thing is a D&D staple. Regular items can be imbued with magical properties; the stronger the enchantment, the higher the number. So I'm not surprised it shows up here and there. I think it was in Warriors of the Eternal Sun, too, but that was a Genesis game, and clearly was derivative of Advanced D&D. The hard part about a D&D group lasting as long as mine is that we're all out of ideas. This game made me a bit jealous in that regard--how come I don't have stories that cool anymore?!
There was once or twice in the game, as it got harder, that I wished for regular level ups. So I decided to grind for equipment. I think it was some combination of the new equipment and having a chance through all those extra combats to get more accustomed to the buffs and skills system, that made me successful in the end.
I don't think I've ever played Gladius or Fire Emblem. I'm scared to death of losing a character permanently, but I'll admit to being curious about them! I think my most grindy games have been the Dragon Quest games (a series I would trade various limbs for) and Rune Factory games, wherein I grind for turnips and pineapples.
Maybe you need to outsource? Get a fresh mind in there! 3rd party stories!
--Oh!, haha, you can just reset the game! Gladius doesn't have that thing, but I liked it a lot. It IS grid-based, and is set in like..the times of the Colisseum; pretty neat! There are other things though, too, like giant bugs and awesome polar bears. I had this rad dude who wore a wolf scalp on the top of his head, and he threw awesome javelins. Must play again soon.
No, I'm pretty sure it was Shiren the Wanderer now. Ogre Battle has set items that you find, randomly (and not very good ones at that, usually). You get a FEW specific items through the game from NPCs, but buried treasure is always 100% random. Weird how that works...
Ogre Battle 64 got better with it, and you got specific items after beating a stage, usually the boss' weapon. AND, when you equip it, you can SEE it. I absolutely love when games do that, especially the older ones when they couldn't really do it just yet. Like, Secret of Mana has you showcasing different swords, but it never looks like you're wearing armor.
I love it when games do that - actually show the different armor you've put on your characters. It's a very cool touch. I was pretty happy when I saw that both Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story did that.
Do most games do this nowadays? Or is it still just some games, here and there?
The RPGs I've played most recently are a mixed bag. Final Fantasy XIII didn't really do it (weapons changed, but that was it), and Tales of Graces f didn't do it either (though you could change character costumes and those stuck in all cutscenes (but not skits)). However, Xenoblade and The Last Story did. So...some do?
I think i might pick this game up when i get home from work. I am looking for an rpg to play before fire emblem comes out and this seems like the perfect choice. I am interested in unchained blades, but i am not 29.99 interested. This price is easier to swallow.
I've never played a table top game so that aspect of Crimson Shroud doesn't really make an impact on me. However, reading your review and the way you describe the intriguing story set-up (and how it's still all meaningful within the relatively short time span of playing this RPG) makes me realize this game could very well be worth checking out. Good review Vicki!