Developer: Kylotonn Games
A supernatural buddy-action game set during the Crusades that deals in medieval combat with a dab of supernatural empowerment sounds great, right? Indeed, when Jon and I went to a preview event for The Cursed Crusade just over a month ago, I was impressed by all the bells and whistles that the PR company had crammed in for us. Sadly, however, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the game and became worried that we were looking at a finished product, but I brushed it off after thinking, 'Well how much can you tell from a tiny bit of gameplay?'. We've misjudged games before upon early viewing, but unfortunately my instincts were spot on.
The Cursed Crusade gives you the pleasure (or more likely displeasure) of joining Denz de Bayle, a young Templar, and his older, sneakier, mercenary companion, Esteban (prepare for some serious stereotyping), as they sign up for a new Crusade whilst attempting to rid themselves of a wretched curse that'll claim their souls. Two characters, two players - this is a game that's been designed to be fully enjoyed with another player although, as you'll see, I'm not sure 'enjoyed' is the right word.
In fairness, playing through it on your own, your AI controlled team mate in the single player isn't the worst I've ever seen, in fact at times he'll help you out of a tough situation by grabbing an enemy and waiting for you to come by and cut his throat with a quick swish of your sword. Plus, throw another player into the mix and everything's golden. Well, maybe not golden, but a strong shade of browny-yellow...or just brown.
Truth be told, I've always thought of the Crusades as a rather exciting chapter in history. However, this game goes out of its way to deliver a brutal message that the Crusades were in fact just a long line of poorly conceived linear paths full of things to kill in overly clunky ways. There is some respite, the inclusion of Templars means that supernatural licence is really a given, and the fact that Denz and Esteban are Cursed, plays into the gameplay. As well as squaring off against the odd denizen of the underworld, you can activate your Curse when things get a bit too much. As well as dealing double damage, this transforms the world around you into a hellish vision, enabling you to see the souls of your enemies as well as hidden areas. It's not indefinite, though, and you have to fill up you Cursed bar by hacking apart reams of enemies.
As it turns out, that's pretty much all you'll be doing.
The Cursed Crusade is not a game that makes things easy for the player in terms of enjoying the experience, in fact at times it seemed like it was trying to deliberately tick me off. After getting through the game's main menu and becoming irritated that I had to navigate through it with the D-pad rather than the thumb sticks, I was annoyed once more when I couldn't find any alternate control styles, no options to remap the somewhat incongruous input setup. Grumbling to myself, I jumped into things and was greeted with a cut scene.
The video's aren't easy to watch at all and that's probably because the voice actors haven't been paired up with their characters very well, it's like you've muted the TV and put on a completely different audio track in the background. Then we move onto the editing, which I would have to say is the worst I've seen in any media format. Jumping from one scene to another is incredibly confusing and the constant fading to black is particularly amateurish, especially when it cuts off the tail end of the characters' speech.
Don't expect things to get any better when you finally take control of your character. For all of the touted attack combinations in the game, the truth is that you'll probably only use them by accident during a frantic button mashing session.which is very repetitive, and chances are your combat moves won't stretch past, guard break, slash, guard break, slash, or possible guard break, slash, slash, guard break, slash, both of which'll easily allow you to defeat the majority of enemies in the game. The only time you're likely to mix up your tactics is when you're trying to remove an enemy's armour, which is a task for a blunt weapon like the mace, before switching to a mightily forged sword in order to cut them to pieces with predictable ease.
I'd like to say something good about the combat animations, but everything is so stilted that they look like they've been ripped out of a 5-10 year old game, and the kill animations quickly become boring and predictable. Blood squirting from your enemies is just a haze of red pixels, it's about as far away from reality as you can possibly get, and there are even times when a spurt of blood will appear a short distance in mid air above the person you've just stabbed.
We're supposed to be critically honest in our reviews, and the technical side of things in The Cursed Crusade is so broken that you wonder just how much time the developers had to finish this game. Okay, so it's not quite landfill material, but it does seem like an enormous rush job. In all honesty, after only a couple of hours of gameplay, I found myself becoming completely disinterested with this one and ended up rage quitting and eating an entire bag of Skittles just to prove that there was still colourful goodness in the world. I can honestly say that I've got no desire to play it ever again.
The Cursed Crusade is a fantastic example of factory line produced games that are churned out to make a quick buck, but what always baffles me is how they manage to reach shop shelves in such a shoddy state (try saying that quickly 5 times in a row!). It's a real shame because this one could have worked really well, after all the middle ages vibe seems to be pretty big at the moment following Game Of Thrones' release.
If I can give you one piece of advice it would be to steer clear of this one, unless of course you want to feel disappointed and irritated in equal measure. There are ideas here that you want to see developed, but the execution smacks of disinterest and over-hastiness. And no, that feeling doesn't go away if you play with a friend, although misery does love company.
- Esteban - both as an AI teammate and co-op choice
- Supernatural elements are a nice touch
- Yeah, now I'm starting to struggle here!
- Awful cut scenes
- Awful combat
- Incredibly repetitive gameplay
The Short Version: The focus on co-op can't save this game from being a broken, rushed and ultimately boring experience and chances are your friends'll sever all connections with you for making them play it.