Vanillaware’s love letter to the old school RPG brawlers is here! Was it worth the wait?
In 2011, UTV Ignition Games announced that they were bringing over Vanillaware’s latest work, Dragon’s Crown. I was tickled pink. I mean, Ignition already blessed us with the wonder that was El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, and Vanillaware has given us great games such as Odin Sphere and GrimGrimoire. It was like a match made in heaven!
But then UTV Ignition Games went kaput, and Dragon’s Crown fell in the dreaded abyss that is development limbo… that is until Atlus stepped up in early 2012 and said that they were gonna publish it in Ignition’s stead. And then internet rejoiced.
So, here we are. After all the waiting, and uncertainty, and the drama, the game’s finally out. Is it all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s find out in the review!
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PlayStation 3 Also on: PlayStation Vita
Original Release Date: August 5, 2013
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Reason for Rating: Blood and Gore; Partial Nudity; Suggestive Themes; Use of Alcohol and Tobacco; Violence
You’re a young adventurer, eager to make a name for yourself. You and your travel companion, Rannie the Rogue with a heart of gold, head to the kingdom of Hydeland, dreaming of riches and epic quests. You sign up at the local Adventurer’s Guild and started taking odd jobs, when you received a special request from the Castle. Before you know it, you get ensnared in a royal squabble regarding the succession of the throne, political infighting, and otherworldly forces culminating to an epic struggle to find the fabled Dragon’s Crown and prevent the Ancient Dragon from reaching full power and ultimately destroy the world.
Head Out Into The World!
First thing you gotta do is create your character! Choose one of the six classes – Amazon, Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, Sorceress, or Wizard – give ’em a name, choose a colour scheme, and create several witty sentences that other people will see during the online portion. Something to note is that you can create up to 16 different characters, and you have three Save Slots. Plenty of room!
Once you get going, the first half of the game is one giant tutorial; learning your character’s moveset, and getting acquainted with all the various services you have at your disposal. It won’t be long after you start that you’ll be able to have party members. By collecting the bones of fallen Guild members in dungeons, you can resurrect them at the town Temple for a fee. Once they’re back on their feet, you can add them to your party at the Dragon’s Haven Inn. Keep in mind that you can only have 32 sets of bones and 30 allies, so you’ll have to part ways with your allies at some point (and bury bones, which if you do, you may get an item as a token of appreciation).
One way to decide who should stay and who should go is to keep an eye on their equipment. All weapons and armour have a set amount of durability that you must be aware of. Once that durability reaches zero, that piece of equipment will break and will be essentially useless. You can repair your gear at the Item Shop for a fee (price will vary depending on the amount of wear and tear), but remember that you can only repair YOUR stuff. Once your NPCs start breaking their equipment, you might have to let them go, as they’ll be more of a liability than anything else. Later on in the game, you’ll be able to purchase several Bags, and you can have several equipment builds, so that’s one way to cut down on the need to constantly repair your gear.
Consumable items are bought in refillable sets: you can use an item a certain amount of times in a dungeon, and it restocks itself when you get back into town. But you have a limited amount of restocks, and you’ll have to buy a new set when they’re up. Magic works the same way (i.e., you can only use it a certain amount and it refills when you return to town). Also, there is a cooldown period after using magic or an item (you can get an ability to lessen the cooldown period).
Speaking of magic, you may notice fancy letters carved into the backgrounds. Those are Runes, and you’ll eventually be able to activate them with Rune Stones you purchase in town for some magical hi jinks, such as regenerating health, increasing your Attack Power, etc.
Just like the old-school RPG brawlers of the day, you have lives. If you or your allies run out of lives, you can buy your way back in, but be careful: you’ll have to pay more if you have to rely on it again. If you don’t have enough money to revive your allies (or you just let the timer run out), you’ll lose them for good.
As for how reliable your AI companions are in battle. Well… they have a tendency of using all their most powerful attacks on the lesser foes than save them for later on. So while it’s nice to have ’em along, ya can’t help but wish they were a wee bit less… er… trigger happy.
Climbing That Tree… With Skill!
As you mow down foes and find hidden treasures in dungeons, you’ll be racking up points which will help calculate how many experience points you’ve earned this run. When you do level up, you’ll also earn one Skill Point, which can be used to purchase new skills and augments to your character at the Adventure’s Guild.
You can also earn Skill Points by completing Quests you register for at the Guild. These Quests will have you going back to previous areas (numerous times in some instances), and range from being simple and straightforward, to challenging depending on your class (solo boss fights as the Sorceress can be a bother, won’t lie). But you’ll be overcome with joy when you’re rolling in those Skill Points, that extra cash, and those Experience Points. WOOO!
The Quests are fun, but some might not like having to go back multiple times to locations hoping to get the last bit of a Quest done (those Owlbears, man… a PAIN to find).
Overall Dragon Hunting?
I can’t tell you how much fun I had running around the locales of Hydeland. Each of the classes have interesting moves that they can learn and use (though some a more useful than others). The fact that you can customize your build is wonderful, and if you don’t like the choices you’ve made, there is a way to undo them (… but that’s gonna take some work).
The fighting is fast and furious, as you can string together combos with your weak attacks, strong attacks, spells, what-have-you. It is quite satisfying to pull all those moves off. As mentioned, your NPC buddies aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but they can help you add some extra muscle, especially if your character isn’t too strong.
Exploring dungeons is great. Using the right thumbstick brings up a pointer, and you can tap things in the background using the L1 button. If you do find something, the narrator will make a comment alerting you that there might be something there, and behold! A secret room full of secrets! Oooo!
In the first half of the game, you have to explore the nine different dungeons in the kingdom. Seems simple enough, yea? When the second half starts, you’ll have to go through them again… except now there’s a new “B path” that you can choose to explore, where the enemies are much harder. Heck, even the enemies in the original path get a kick in difficulty.
And the bosses… oooooo, man. The “B path” boss battles all have a particular quirk about them, like using a nearby cannon to do damage, or having the boss chase you down a corridor and you have to attack when he momentarily stops. These bosses are no cake walk. You have to go through the “B path” at some point in order to advance the story, but knowing that you can grind on the more-familiar paths is nice.
Also, once you’ve completed a dungeon, you can choose to continue adventuring instead of going back into town, which will net you some pretty sweet bonuses like increased Gold, bigger Point Bonuses, and the like. Plus, after going through some dungeons and choosing to continue, you may be able to play a Cooking Mini-game. Feed your troops well, and they’ll get stat boosts to help them in the next dungeon. YUM!
I think one of the highlights for me was all the people you meet during your adventure. Seems like everyone I ran into reminded me of something fantasy-related. We have your Lord of the Rings references, got some Conan the Barbarian in there, even Monty Python & the Holy Grail.
Monty Python & the Holy Grail. Oh my God. I was squealing when I saw Monty Python references.
One of the other highlights that I can’t praise enough is the narrator. This British chap adds a little bit of extra magic to the storytelling; a really good fit. If you don’t like his voice, however, you can purchase voice packs of our six heroes acting as a narrator.
Overall, this really threw me back to the days where Capcom fantasy brawlers like King of Dragons and Knights of the Round were all the rage.