Call me a sucker for dungeon crawlers but I picked up the “free to play” XBLA game Crimson Alliance. It isn’t all that free which I’ll explain later. After finishing Torchlight a while back I was eager to jump into something similar and this filled the gap…sort of. It has all the right elements but fell short overall.
Going back to the whole “free to play” gimmick; yes it is free to download and play. Although you’re limited to what you can do, don’t have full access to each of the 3 classes, and (may not factor for some) cannot earn achievements. You can purchase an individual unlock for each class or a bundle that includes all three. For the price and class consideration you should purchase the bundle if you want to try more than one character.
Where Torchlight shines (pun!) and Crimson Alliance fails is the actual dungeon crawling aspect. Crimson Alliance has all preloaded stages so it’s easy to remember when enemies ambush you or where hidden items are located. The first time around it doesn’t matter but completing one stage a few times gets redundant quickly. (See following paragraph why you’ll want to complete stages more than once.) Perhaps it’s just my preference but I enjoy the randomness that other games have done.
One redeeming quality about the same stages is the medals you can earn at the end of their completion. Based on your attacks/kills, whether you got hit or not, and gold accumulated factor into a total point value after the level is over. Since you’ll be shooting for that gold medal, having a preloaded stage makes it simpler since you can plan your attacks ahead of time knowing where fights will take place. It’s a nice addition to counteract the repetitive maps.
Another good thing this game does have is multiplayer. You can invite friends or search for other party members and wreck some havoc. The Rogue class is nice but having a good Warrior and Wizard combo work really nice together. The Wizard can freeze enemies from a distance and the Warrior can smash them into ice particles. Almost doesn’t seem fair, does it? It’s a nice touch since some stages are really difficult to obtain a gold medal by yourself especially the end levels.
Overall, it doesn’t change any aspect of dungeon crawlers and it’s over pretty quickly. The “free to play” set up is slightly confusing. The levels can get boring especially playing them over and over for the gold medal. The reward system is a good touch and having multiplayer added surely helps. If you are a fan of these types of games, you may enjoy it for a while but keep it mind, it’s not deep and do not expect to find tons of loot. In fact, you might want to save your own loot for Diablo III or Torchlight II.