Sunday, March 9, 2014

3 days of... Dragons Crown!

Dragons, Dwarves, Damsels and stereotypes

It's not a party until someone loses their clothing. Too late.
 On first look you might think that Dragons Crown from Atlus was a fantasy dating sim, with the overly masculine men and the sexualized women. Even the non-player characters have sweeping necklines and bodies with lumps in places that shouldn't have muscles. Lying underneath these stereotypical tropes however is a deep and fun party-style rpg that is reminiscent of the old dungeon crawling classics like gauntlet legends.

I picked up Dragons Crown to play with my wife at home because she loves playing co-operative games and doesn't like the challenge that comes with matching her gaming skill with mine. I may not be the greatest gamer, but I'm no casual, so I don't blame her. Soon after we popped the game in we chose our roles from a selection of six character types. They're the classic fighter (tank), dwarf, amazon, elf, sorceress, and wizard. They all have a role to play in the party, and the combinations of characters gives the game lots of replay value.

Some might find her offensive.
I found her to be enchanting.
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. I'm no art-history major, but this artwork could be put onto a canvas an hung at the Smithsonian, and I could be convinced it was a classical depiction of a fantasy setting. That's how good it is. I could understand how it could put some people off because of the extreme stylizing, but I enjoyed it. Artistic license in this case was used to great effect to enhance the feeling of the game; most often highlighting the ridiculous characters during fights that flash across the screen on a regular basis.

The fighting is fun, and is from the classic formula that was implemented in games like XMen and TMNT from the arcade cabinets that you may have grown up with. It's also chaotic, because the screen is focused just slightly uncomfortably close to your characters, everything appears on the screen at once during a fight. Enough creatures and characters have magic that the screen often looks like Poe's version of the apocalypse. Fighting characters that need to be accurate in their strikes get lost in fire and ice flooding the screen. It takes a while to focus and watch your character, but sometimes no matter how hard you try, you get lost in the chaos of battle. It seems like an appropriate metaphor though, because battle is supposed to be confusing and blinding.

The item system is randomly generated and items are given statistics and rankings based on their quality. If you keep the same save, you can farm for items for your lower level characters so they don't have to worry about finding their own later on. This is a nice touch so I can just continuously start new characters without having to farm all over again. The result is extending the game once, and then delivering a quicker, streamlined experience for consecutive characters you create. There are rings and items that give your character new and interesting abilities, so even if you have two of the same role in a party, they can have a wide spread of differing abilities to make them unique.

This mess is what battle looks like, but with more explosions.
Adding all this together with a surprisingly engaging story for a multiplayer game, and you've got a great time. It's a fun game individually but in this case more is always better. The computer creates characters to assist you if you don't have any friends, and fills out your party with people you save from earlier missions but it is still best to play this game with at least one other person. Four people would make this game the most fun, but the scores that you may compete against each other for are not persistent after a level. So playing for score is possible, but will change for each level you beat. Also don't be disappointed to spend a lot of time in town because of the menu system, as everyone has to enter and use the shop individually it can slow down game play. That might be a good time to get some refreshments while you wait.

I loved playing, and I'll be playing this for a long while to scratch my gauntlet itch from my N64 days. Besides all the slightly offensive stylized art, Dragons Crown has a deep and rewarding structure with its rpg street fighting gameplay. I haven't found another game that quite meets my multiplayer dungeon crawler standards because as of late it's not such a popular genre. Fortunately I think that Dragons Crown is all I need for now.

You'll like this game if: You enjoy multiplayer dungeon crawlers that are as much fun to play as they are to look at. Also if you're an art history major and want to see more hand painted anything in modern media.

(If you had a different opinion or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below! If you want to recieve regular updates, follow me on Twitter @SimonGolden)

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