Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Certain Affinity/ Platform: Xbox 360

As I played through Crimson Alliance, I was reminded constantly of my teenage days spent playing Gauntlet: Dark Legacy on my GameCube.  It was a top-down co-op action game with very simplistic RPG elements, but the game was big enough and had enough characters to unlock and things to find to keep the game fun and interesting.  Crimson Alliance looks about the same sort of simple hack-and-slash gameplay as Gauntlet, but does it pull it off as well?

For the most part, Crimson Alliance does work a lot like Gauntlet.  Up to four players crawl through various dungeons and ruins with very little to worry about in terms of skill trees, mana or ammo.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what you like in your action-RPG), that’s about where the similarities end.  The game is nowhere near as long as Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, and as of right now there are only three characters to choose from: Mercenary, Assassin and Wizard.  The characters do not level up at all, but instead become more powerful through different types of loot you can find and Legend of Zelda-esque heart pieces to raise your maximum health.

While there is no random loot, there is a rather large selection of armors, weapons and other assorted tools for each character to be found in shops or hidden chests in each level.  I don’t really see the lack of features in Crimson Alliance as a sign of laziness, as it lends to the quick, pick-up-and-play feel of the game.  Everything in Crimson Alliance moves very quickly, and despite the game’s short length it encourages multiple play-throughs due to the amount of secret areas to find in every level and strictness of the scoring system (every hit you take detracts from your end-of-level score multiplier).

One thing I enjoyed about Crimson Alliance was the feel of the combat.  Every character has a “dodge” move (or something similar, like the Wizard’s teleport) that can quickly move you in and out of combat, which makes it fun to watch for an enemy about to attack, then dodge out of the way and counterattack.  As fun as this was, though, after awhile it did admittedly get a little tiring to teleport, fireball fireball fireball every group of enemies.  Having some kind of way to change your moveset would’ve been nice to break up the monotony.

One of the unique things about Crimson Alliance is, oddly enough, the pricing.  The game itself is free, giving you essentially a one-level “demo” in which to test the three characters.  If you find a character you like, you can either buy that one character for 800 Microsoft Points ($10) or buy all three characters at once for 1200 ($15).  Its an interesting way to price a game, but it seems a little strange to price the entire set of three characters at only $5 more than a single character.  In addition to that you can also buy 40,000 in-game gold peices with which to buy weapons and armor for only 80 MSP ($1), which is more than tempting.

Crimson Alliance is a pretty fun action-RPG, and despite its simplicity it is rather fun to play with friends.  The framerate does take a noticable hit when playing online, however there were little problems in the way of lag or connection issues otherwise.