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Crimson Shroud (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Crimson Shroud Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

The red coat is coming

All magic in the world stems from gifts delivered directly to mankind from the gods. That much, as far as Crimson Shroud is concerned, is fact. Or is it? As you lead your party through a treacherous dungeon in search of the original gift — the titular and mysterious Crimson Shroud — other possibilities present themselves. To discuss them here would be to spoil the intriguingly layered plot; suffice to say that by the time you'll start having second thoughts, there's no turning back.

The release of Crimson Shroud is a bittersweet one. On the one hand, it's the last of the three Guild01 games we're likely to receive in the west. But on the other hand it's the best of the batch, and we've unquestionably ended on a high note.

Crimson Shroud is essentially a table-top game brought to life as a digital RPG. And we don't just mean that it takes inspiration from table-top games...it lifts almost the entire experience wholesale. You'll be rolling dice, manipulating game pieces and even taking your cues from an omnipresent Dungeon Master. It's a lot like playing the game in person, with the obvious exception that successes and failures are calculated more quickly.

You control a party of three, though the game frequently refers to Giauque as the main character. Giauque is a Chaser, a money-driven mercenary that is hired to seek out and retrieve the Crimson Shroud. He serves as the bruiser of the group and is extremely handy with melee weapons. Along for the ride are Frea, a Qish-descended mage who can serve as your healer, and Lippi, a one-eyed, one-handed archer with an adventurous streak. The adventure begins in media res as your party is attacked upon entering the palace of Rahab and a fourth adventurer — your knowledgeable guide — is slain.

As you can imagine, Crimson Shroud wastes no time in throwing you into the action, and the first handful of battles serve as effective tutorials. At any point you can return to the first screen of the game to review anything you've learned, and that's extremely helpful because Crimson Shroud is a difficult game to get the hang of.

Everything from combat to inventory management is handled through menus, but there are enough options to navigate through that you're bound to get lost many times as you try to remember where to find the option you're looking for. On top of that there are plenty of optional things to do along the way — such as "melding" pieces of equipment together to create stronger items, or adding dice to an attack to increase its effectiveness — and they need to be done in a very precise manner, otherwise the game simply won't allow it.

Because of this, there's a steep learning curve with Crimson Shroud. It's nothing that's liable to get you killed — the turn-based combat prevents speed from being an issue at any point — but it can be frustrating to tap through menus for several minutes without finding what you need.

Fortunately, that's our only real complaint — other than that, it's an extremely satisfying adventure. The story has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged, and even the narrative sections manage to spice themselves up by offering branching choices and optional flashbacks along the way, as well as the option to revisit past areas in order to reveal new story elements. There's a lot of text in Crimson Shroud, but that's true to its professed table-top origins. You're in the hands of a Dungeon Master, and you must trust him to weave his tale as you proceed. If tapping through dialogue isn't your thing then you may find yourself periodically bored here, but if you're willing to follow along and surrender yourself to the dangerous world that's assembling itself around you, you'll find yourself enamoured by a moody and atmospheric experience like no other in the eShop.

Combat is handled by choosing options from a menu. You can attack, use an item, use a spell, use a skill, or perform some combination of the above. The more you attack the more MP you'll gain, but the less you do during your turn the more quickly you'll get to act again. This is just one Crimson Shroud's many opportunities for advanced strategising. You can come out guns blazing and beat the enemy to a pulp up front, but if they survive you'll be at their mercy until it's your turn to move again. Conversely, you can whittle them down with smaller — but more regular — attacks, preventing them from dominating the fight. You'll have to experiment to find out what works for you.

Your characters and any enemy you meet will be represented by a small, lovingly-crafted figurine. There are no animations apart from wobbling around when the characters take damage or turning to face things that capture their attention. When a character is defeated their figurine simply topples over, revealing an amusingly meta logo on their base that never loses its charm. If a character does die in battle, he or she will be reincarnated when it ends...as long as you win, of course.

The dice are used for many things throughout the game. For starters, they are used to decide outcomes, such as whether or not you can escape from an enemy before it spots you. Other times you can use dice to increase the effectiveness of one of your attacks or spells, and some moves have a roll of the dice hardwired into them in order to determine their effectiveness. You roll the dice by picking them up with the stylus and shaking them around by sliding back and forth on the touch screen. Release them and they go flying. Funnily enough, you can actually throw them hard enough that they fly up to the top screen and hit your characters on the head, at which point any rogue die is placed into your inventory for a later use at your own discretion.

There is no leveling up in the traditional sense. When you defeat enemies you can loot their bodies, but how much loot you can carry is contingent upon how well you did in battle. Dispatch of them quickly and easily and you can clean them out, but beat them by the skin of your teeth and you may have to leave rare and powerful items behind simply because you can't carry them. This means that the strength of each of your characters is tied to the weapons and items they equip, so smart inventory management is an absolute must.

Of course there's far more we could go into about how Crimson Shroud is played, but part of the fun is figuring that out for yourself. Delving into the depths of the game's mechanics is very much an adventure in itself; as your team moves deeper into the catacombs of the palace, you'll explore more deeply the potential of the battle system around you, discovering new and interesting ways to handle even the smallest tasks and situations.

Visually, the game looks lovely. There are some fairly lengthy load times, which is surprising considering how static the environments are, but it's nothing intolerable. The figurines look fantastic, and the game world has a pleasing diorama-like quality to it, making it feel like you might actually be playing in a small, table-top world constructed by a friend. The music is even better, with an alternately brooding and triumphant soundtrack that outdoes itself with every new song.

However when we say small world, we really do mean it. The main adventure itself can be finished in under 10 hours, and it's unlikely to take any longer than that even if you take your time. Fortunately, though, Crimson Shroud follows in the footsteps of its Guild01 brethren and strongly endorses replay. Liberation Maiden had its achievements, Aero Porter was endless to begin with, and now Crimson Shroud encourages multiple playthroughs by allowing you to restart the adventure with all of your gear intact, and even more powerful enemies to face.

It may seem like a small concession being made by what is essentially a short game, but the branching options and impressively layered storyline lend themselves very well to at least one more complete run through the game, and you'll find plenty of new weapons and spells to keep you experimenting in ways you wouldn't have been able to before.

If you're unlikely to want to replay the game, regardless of how much different and more demanding another playthrough can be, then Crimson Shroud is a brief experience...though even then it's worth noting that it's a very good one. If you are willing to stick with the game and work your way through an adventure you'll understand and appreciate even more the second time, then there's very little to complain about here.

Conclusion

As an RPG that digs into the table-top history of the genre, Crimson Shroud is both a great deal of fun and an artistic triumph. While there are issues — mainly a steep learning curve and an almost frustratingly brief campaign — they're easy to overlook in the face of such charming presentation, fantastic music, and near-endless replayability. Crimson Shroud isn't a game that does a lot of things, but rather a game that does a small number of things extremely well. Crimson Shroud is absolutely a dungeon worth crawling.

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User Comments (75)

mozie

#1

mozie said:

Been waiting for this since first announced, bargain for the price too!!

Spoony_Tech

#2

Spoony_Tech said:

One of the more honest reviews we will see on this game for sure. Thanks for taking the time to give us a in-depth review. Will be picking this up the moment it comes out!

RetrogamerFan

#7

RetrogamerFan said:

Excellent review, will defnitely pick this one up. The game length sounds fine for the price and quality on offer; being able to play thorugh the game again with your items in tact sounds like a good compromise.

DarkCoolEdge

#10

DarkCoolEdge said:

Nice review, thank you. Everyone should read this one and games radar's, night and day.

I'll download it next week.

WiiLovePeace

#11

WiiLovePeace said:

Hmmmmmm... Do I buy this or Nano Assault Neo? Decisions, decisions... (I'll probably get both eventually, though I only have monies for one of them now)

sinsalaca

#12

sinsalaca said:

Short? 10 hours for a game that costs $7.99 seems like a good value to me. Especially when you consider the number of games that have been released recenty that don't even last 5 hours and cost the same amount of money. Was never much of a fan of table top games like D&D, but am intrigued and may give it a whirl.

Aqueous

#13

Aqueous said:

7.99 guys, it is listed in the eshop.

Thank you Philip. You've done an excellent review as always. Though it does leave me with a small question. Does the story alter in the second play through?

McHaggis

#15

McHaggis said:

The reviewer's description kind of made me think of Space Crusade on the old Commodore Amiga. I've got fond memories of that game, so I think I might download this when I finish the current backlog of games I have.

Pikachupwnage

#20

Pikachupwnage said:

Wait so you get to select your attacks? The dice just can affect your attack?

Thank God. I was under the impression the dice decided everything.

Falk_Sturmfels

#23

Falk_Sturmfels said:

I will buy it for sure. But I will wait until christmas eve, cause my brother wants to give me an eshop-card as a present.

ejamer

#24

ejamer said:

This sounds fantastic - right up my alley. There are a lot of digital games I want this holiday season. Hopefully Santa's elves knows to make eShop points. ;)

Pogocoop

#27

Pogocoop said:

I have been looking forward to this since I saw it on Guild 01 , I'm super happy it got here, and even happier that I'm buying it tommorow!

Jeremyx7

#30

Jeremyx7 said:

RPGs this detailed should be much longer...but I know it's a eshop game. Hopefully the same development team makes an actual Full Fledged Console/PC RPG in time. That would be great judging by the details of this write up.

moomoo

#31

moomoo said:

I don't see the problem with an under 10 hour play time when it is inexpensive. I'll be getting this soon. It looks like something that I would like.

RR529

#32

RR529 said:

I don't have the money now (and I'm trying to get a retail game for Christmas), but sounds like I'll eventually be giving this a DL.

slidecage

#34

slidecage said:

was a day 1 buy for me a few months back..

short time *6 to 8 hours^ way too much for an 8 buck game

doubt i will download it

Retro_on_theGo

#35

Retro_on_theGo said:

...How long loading times exactly are we talking? And is the music more atmospheric or something that you would listen to even after you're done with the game?
This sound promising. Great review, Philip!

Windy

#38

Windy said:

WOW! WOW! WOW! I knew it! just Knew it! Phillip thanks for the great info. for me this was an absolute no brainer I was buying it from the minute I heard about it. I played D&D years ago and had some fun with it. I was not totally into it and always wished that a graphical version would come along. well this sounds like my wish has come true. Great review of the game thank you very much. I loaded my Nintendo account a month ago with some bucks in anticipation of this game. I was so glad to see the price was even better than I first thought it be. Thank you again and did I happen to say WOW? hee hee

Windy

#39

Windy said:

BAH! GamesRadar. He was upset there are no voice overs. Well sometimes a game requires you to read and if you ever played D&D as a dungeon Master you did exactly that. He also doesn't like the dice roll. well D&D pretty much was the start of all RPG's as we know them today and Dice rolls have been taken out of the games for some reason. I find this to be refreshing. We will see tommorrow but i'm sticking with Phillip on this one. Thanks Phillip!

zipmonStaff

#40

zipmon said:

Great review Phil! This looks brilliant, I can't wait to try it out!

ecco6t9

#44

ecco6t9 said:

Sounds a bit like the GBA game Dungeons & Dragons Eye of the Beholder. I am downloading this one for sure.

SLiM

#45

SLiM said:

I'm intrigued after seeing the great review. May have to pick it up soon.

Windy

#48

Windy said:

I have a buddy coming by tonight we are going to do a critique on Crimson Shroud. I really like the game and fans of D&D will also like it. Battle system is a little slow but very intriguing. This game is all about the Game Mastrs narrative so if you dont like reading alot of text do not get this game. But if you like a solid story which presents itself with a wonderful narrative jump all over Crimson Shroud.
IM 2 and a half hours into the game so far loving the game. The narrative from the GM is this games strong suit. It's an intriguing plot with plenty of twists. The battle system to me is also very intriguing although slow. There is no need to grind your stats are all raised through finding items which is not a problem. Lots of items by re-doing rooms grinding in a sense but really hanging out in a room or searching a room a few times is all it takes.

Fans of Dungeons and Dragons will totally understand why this game is the way it is and totally enjoy this title.

My 2 and half hour of play has been fun so far I give the game a 8. Lastly this is your fathers RPG :P ! Hee Hee

MrWu

#50

MrWu said:

1 hour in, just in the intro bits. I am painstaikingly reading the text and using my imagination to get into the game.

It's so weird because there are fairly competent graphics to go along with it. Yes, they look like those RPG tokens you move aorund, but the setting and ambience is something you can't recreate in a tabletop where invariably, you'll see the table!

I also love the gradient blue sky, reminds me of FFT. They could have easily put in a sky texture to make it seem more real, but instead we get the gradient backgrounds, which signals the visuals and the models exist in a kind of pseudo-real limbo, a kind of virtual tabletop world.

Fantastic. Great eshop release!

3dsgamer02

#51

3dsgamer02 said:

After I read the review this was a instant download for me. It is really fun to play espacially if you grew up with D&D and AD&D pen and paper RPGs. It brings back a lot of memories. I strongly recommend this to everyone. For 8 bucks this is a steal.

Windy

#53

Windy said:

4 hours in just started Chapter 2 so I must really be Snailing along. I want to check everything and then re-check it. Ive actually got in to extra Battles because of it and have collected a bunch of items. I hate it when Party members die! Just when you start to think your group is All That, One of your party members will get killed. It's actually really nice the way the game flows. I cant stop playing and for myself that means the game is good for me. Have No fear, when a party member gets killed they re-join you after the battle is over if you win that battle.

Windy

#55

Windy said:

Last comment I promise :) This is absolutely like no RPG you ever played. Its not presented in a traditional way nor plays in a Traditional way. it's different but very cool. I hope we see more like this. If you like to read a good fantasy novel you will love this type of gameplay

FonistofCruxis

#56

FonistofCruxis said:

I love JRPGs but I'd rather not get one that plays like a table-top RPG with figures wobbling and dice rolling rather than actual characters moving around so I won't be getting this.

Nintendawg

#57

Nintendawg said:

Got it last night and I must say I'm impressed. I also love the fact that even though it's a JRPG, it's got Western aesthetics both in its presentation and in its gameplay mechanics. Thus you get the best of both worlds.
Yes, the e-shop was in dire need of such a title.

MeloMan

#60

MeloMan said:

Can't say I'm into table-top RPGs, but I have always wanted to dabble in one. For $8 I get all this quality? Wow. Guess this is next on my download list...

Weedy

#61

Weedy said:

I waited for the review on this one, have played it for a couple of hrs and really having fun, thanks Phil for the recommendation.

Raptor78

#67

Raptor78 said:

The second play through is really worth the effort... it makes the first play through seem like a Tutorial. The enemies really step up their game and the battles need much more stratergy and thus even simple dungeon fodder like Goblins take a lot longer to defeat, better rewards though for your efforts... somebody posted elsewhere that the original version had a new game++, not sure if I will be able to make it through the new game+ but it would be interesting to know whether the eshop version will have the same option.

@Falk_Sturmfels... you need to get an artifact from one of the battles with the undead. Before you select your loot from the battles take your time to read the info that goes along the top of the bottom screen when you highlight an item, it will give you an idea of what your looking for. A big clue is that the object you need is something to do with the darkened room. ;)

Raptor78

#68

Raptor78 said:

...oh and the writing in the game is amazing, when I read the ending it was... no, don't want to spoil anything, but it was certainly worth slogging through the final boss for.

Windy

#69

Windy said:

@Azikira Ok So I was Lying. I just like Crimson Shroud Alot. hee hee

The game is not like anything Ive played it feels like reading a really good novel that you get to chose which way you go.

Falk_Sturmfels

#70

Falk_Sturmfels said:

Ah, I beated it the first time now. Can´t wait for the second gothrough. The music in the final battle and in the following credits was probably the best score on 3DS yet.

Windy

#72

Windy said:

@Devil_Surivior well it happens. some games are not to some peoples tastes. where some people love one game there are others who hate it. oh, well. I love this and obviously so do many others. The Graphics to me are the only downfall to Crimson Shroud and I actually think they add ambience. The Music and Narrative are absolutely off the hook.

I beat the game a couple nights ago it took me 14 hours 29 minutes I must be slow. Others beating it in 8 hours. I did do some Item farming though I kept re-attacking rooms to get extra items. ITEM CAMPING! haha! great stuff cant wait for the second run through its supposed to be alot tougher. I had 3 group deaths the first runthrough

Dogpigfish

#73

Dogpigfish said:

Bad review, it's an overly expensive interactive book. Makes it sound like a tactics game, but it's not. 99% dialog and some tapping and frustrating menus. Nothing more. Huge disappointment.

Dunban

#74

Dunban said:

Yes, the Dialogs are too long, and the Presentation is a bit boring. And I expected more strategic possibilities (its by the Creator of FF Tactics Advance). But the atmosphere is very unique and the hunt after more and more dices is a nice new Element. All in all i like it a lot and it`s worth the price. Maybe i would give a 7/10

kyuubikid213

#75

kyuubikid213 said:

I like it, but I wish the dialog portions weren't as long...or at least portrayed in a different way. Perhaps have someone read it to you...? Or don't have the unnecessary bits at all and let you take in what you are presented with.

As for the combat, it's similar to other RPGs I've played, so it's fine.

I would personally give it a 7. I'd give it a 9 if it didn't...if it wasn't a table-top RPG. If it was like Dragon Quest, Pokemon, or Final Fantasy in the setup and layout, I would award it a 9. The visuals are nice, but being stuck on the one image for the majority of the ten minute dialog scenes is dull.

Again...good game, but I get the same enjoyment from playing this as I would if they made a Crimson Shroud book and had you fiddle with the dice every twenty pages.

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