So I Sat Down to Play… Crimson Shroud (2012)

This is the game’s box art, but it’s a digital-only game. Hmm.

A short and sweet game. Barely over six hours, but worth almost every minute. That’s my review.

See you on the next one!

Okay, fine. I’ll elaborate.

Ever wondered what you’d do if you had a time machine? I’d use it to go back to the pitch meeting for Level 5’s Crimson Shroud, because the concept for this game is just so out there. Then again, I don’t speak Japanese so I wouldn’t understand anything.

I guess I need a better plan first, before I gain access to a time machine.

Just imagine that pitch meeting, though: this is a turn-based RPG, based on Western Pen & Paper RPGs and it includes throwing d20s, d10s and all the other classic dice, but it’s created by a Japanese developer, presented like a board game complete with action figures and cardboard backgrounds, and even a dungeon master that presents the game, its world and its rules to the player.

This is what a combat scene actually looks like. Roll for initiative!

This dungeon master, and how they interact with the player is probably my favorite part of this game. They address you directly, giving you clear instructions much like a real life DM would do, and they feel like an actual person that’s playing this game with you. Hell, they sometimes even suggest that they bend the rules for you, just to make your life slightly easier. As far as fourth wall breaking goes, I think this is one of the most subtle yet successful examples I’ve seen so far.

It’s a good thing this dungeon master exists, though, because this game is complex, and its battle system can be a bit intimidating at first. The combo system where you need to combine elements (the classic fire, earth, etc. with light and dark thrown in for good measure) can be a bit much at first, but with several pages of text to explain the system to you, you’ll be getting those bonus d8s in no time.

You’ll be seeing this screen

Make no mistake, there is a lot of text in this game. Coming from an Pen & Paper background, this makes it a good thing for me; I actually love how text-heavy this game is. Crimson Shroud’s presentation shows you just enough, and trusts that your imagination can fill in the rest. There are no animations in its cutscenes, just a clever camera pan here or a zoom there, and they’re enough, as the text takes care of the rest. I definitely understand that this is not to everyone’s liking, but this style really scratches my SSI Silver Box era itch. RPGs are games in which you’re kinda supposed to be reading a lot.

This is what we had to deal with in 1992, kids.

Still, even with all this text, this is a very obscure game. Even with all the adequate pre-game and in-game tutorials about the game’s combat and combo systems, my old nemeses Elemental Resistance and Damage Type show up and make a royal mess of things. Make no mistake, if you don’t pay attention to every fight, they will mess you up good. One fight you’ll be dealing three-digit damage to goblins, then this new type of skeleton appears in the next fight and you’ll only be dealing single-digit damage to it, and nothing will have prepared you for that. You just need to figure it out on your own, and experiment with weapons and gear.

This brings me to my own real problem with the game, and it came in just the second area (out of just four, this is a short game) of the game, where you can’t progress any further unless you get a specific, random, low-percentage drop from an enemy that also appears randomly in a specific room. And you’re not even told that this item you need is a drop, and where to find it. I had to look it up online, and even then it took me more than an hour of killing these flippin’ skeletons that took forever to die in order for the item to drop. One hour, out of a six hours game. There’s padding, and then there’s this. It was at this point where I gave up my New Game+ run which you need to finish in order to get the good ending. Thanks, but once is enough.

It’s still better than this, at least.

Still, despite this obvious problem, Crimson Shroud is a very fun game and a type of RPG that doesn’t really exist nowadays. It has a great mood and atmosphere, and it obscures just enough about its story and world that it makes you want to keep playing in order to find out what exactly is going on, even when it fails on a game design level.

It’s a shame that nobody really seems to remember this game, as it originally came out in 2012 and if you Google it today you only get a handful of results. I guess the board game RPG style it opted for is probably too idiosyncratic for its own good, and the fact that it was never released outside the Nintendo 3DS didn’t do it any favors. A PC re-release could do wonders for its legacy.

Me? I just wish there were more games like this.

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Interpreter, translator, podcaster, gamer, geek. This is where I talk (rant?) about my hobbies. My opinions are strictly my own. Expect updates to be infrequent

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George Kavallos

Interpreter, translator, podcaster, gamer, geek. This is where I talk (rant?) about my hobbies. My opinions are strictly my own. Expect updates to be infrequent