A traditionalist's pen and paper campaign.
Review written by
March 19th, 2013
Countless RPGs take inspiration from classic pen and paper role-playing games, but Level 5's Crimson Shroud truly pays homage to classic dungeon mastering in almost every aspect. The game developed by Yatsumi Matsuno combines the hallmarks of a turn based JRPG with the aesthetics of a table top experience. This combination makes for an appealing but limited game that is a solid addition to the Nintendo 3DS eShop, but may not be for everyone.
The main draw to Crimson Shroud is its presentation. The entire game is played out with a narrator acting as a dungeon master in the sense that chunks of text will be describing the overall tone and all of the storytelling in the second person. Players are given some branching choices to make but there doesn't seem to be much difference in what happens based on your decisions.
You control a team of 'Chasers' who are the usual bounty hunter/outlaws you would expect in this kind of genre game. You've got the main attacker, Giauque, his faithful guide and ranger Lippi and a magical outcast girl Frea. It's fun to see their personalities clash as you explore dungeons in the form of a top down map that you'd expect to see drawn out on graph paper.
Instead of having direct control of Giauque or any of the Chasers, they all display as miniature statues or tokens that just appear on the play field. All of the characters and monsters show up in this way and it blends well with the whole presentation of the game. There are many times throughout the game where you will have to 'roll' virtual dice in order to gain initiative or modify your attacks. This is all done on the Nintendo 3DS' touch screen but one can't help but wonder how legitimate this system is. The dice mechanic is most likely there for table top enthusiasts who aren't die hard probability majors. You kind of have to enjoy it for what it is.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Crimson Shroud is a single player game. If this were any other JRPG that would be the standard affair but the disappointing bit comes with the whole Dungeons and Dragons look. If the whole point of the game is to replicate the very social game night ritual many table top groups enjoy, why not make it so that you could play Crimson Shroud with a friend? The final product is in a sense very lonely.
The gameplay is all done through menus, with no literal running around 'as' any character and this gives the game a somewhat tactical feel, but it is easy to get the feeling that graphically speaking Crimson Shroud must have been very cost effective to produce. You won't find a typical 40 hour quest here but there is a New Game + option that does add somewhat to the replay value of the game.
Combat is fairly solid and tries to mix it up often from the standard JRPG frame, there aren't any character levels and all stat growth and some spells are fixed to armor and weapons that you pick up after every battle. While fighting it is possible to perform both supportive and active moves such as using a skill and attacking, or buffing your MP then casting magic. It is different enough that it is worth exploring.
Crimson Shroud is a strange one. It only appeals to a very specific audience and even they may not be completely satisfied with the limited experience and presentation offered by the game. Is it worth playing? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. Basically you've got to roll the dice and see for yourself if Crimson Shroud's spell is effective on you.
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