The Cursed Crusade is a game that seems to be flying under the radar, given that it is set to be released in two weeks and I had never even heard of it before I played the demo. It is being developed by Kylotonn Entertainment, the studio responsible for such classics as “Bet on Soldier: Blood Sport” and “Speedball 2 – Tournament”. Kylotonn Entertainment has thus far only released these and other similar little known games on Steam, with The Cursed Crusade marking their first foray into multiplatform console games. The Cursed Crusade is being published by Atlus and is set to be released on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC on October 25, 2011.
The Cursed Crusade is a co-op focused action game with primarily melee centric combat and some light shooting elements. The game takes place during the crusades and mixes both historic and fantasy elements. The one mission included in the demo begins with a group of soldiers preparing for a siege on a castle. The commander starts giving a speech to the two player characters and a group of soldiers accompanying them and several things become immediately apparent. The visuals in The Cursed Crusade are simply not up to the standards to be expected from a 2011 release. The textures look muddy, the color palette is your typical washed out greys and browns usually reserved for military shooters, and the character models, especially the faces, look very odd and unappealing. Another thing you’ll notice immediately is that the voice acting is quite bad. The two main characters give slightly better performances than the others, but still fail to meet the high standards likely to be found in many of the big games this holiday season.
As for the gameplay itself, it is of higher quality than the presentation, but unfortunately not by much. The mission begins with the two main character slowly moving up a bridge using a large shield and being fired upon by arrows. This is a very slow segment that requires little input from the player, only requiring a press of a button to huddle behind the shield when the next hail of arrows is fired. The part is meant to establish a very “buddy cop” like vibe between the two characters, as they exchange banter the whole way down the bridge. Eventually they reach the gate and some actual gameplay begins. The players are tasked with taking out the archers using a crossbow. The act of firing leaves something to be desired. The game has very heavy auto aim, where the second you aim in the general area of an enemy, the cross-hair locks on. This makes the shooting very easy and not much fun. Once inside the castle, the main element of gameplay begins; melee.
The melee combat is similar to many games released this generation. You use the X button for light attacks and the Y button for heavy attacks (Xbox 360 controller). You can equip a variety of different types of weapons and string combos together. The game also relies heavily on quick time events, meaning you trigger one at least every other enemy. There are also some decent looking Assassin’s Creed style finishing animations that seem to be triggered randomly. The combat is decent enough, but there are a few problems I had with it. The movement in this game feels off, and just doesn’t match the precision of other similar games. The characters control very rigidly, somewhat similar to how the movement feels in Resident Evil 4. For a horror third person shooter that is fine, but for a melee focused action game it just feels too tank-like to make moving around in combat feel natural. Another problem is the difficulty, it is just too easy. Sure there are lots of combos and such to pull off during combat, but I barely even took a single hit by just mashing the X button over and over on the middle difficulty setting. The game also has some Army of Two style “co-op moments”, where you walk over to a heavy door or something and wait for your teammate so you can open it together. These are all fine and good, but when playing alone with an AI partner, I had moments where I was standing in the spot and my teammate just wouldn’t come to help.
The demo ends with a tease of fantasy elements, revealing that one of the two player characters has some sort of demonic curse on him. The environment changes to have a very fire and brimstone look and the character is shown to be flaming with horns. Its a decent way to end the demo and leaves the player wanting to know more about this mysterious curse. Unfortunately, The Cursed Crusade doesn’t appear to be a game of very high quality. It is visually dated, the voice acting is sub-par, and the gameplay is average at its best and tedious and boring at its worst. Maybe if this game was being released during the annual summer game drought it might by worth a look, but in the middle of the holiday release rush, it is just going to be ignored. With all the AAA games being released this fall, there are much better games more worthy of your time and money.