Dragon’s Crown – Review

Dragon’s Crown is the latest exclusive offering for PS3 and PS Vita gamers from Vanillaware and Atlus. It is a 2d beat ‘em up with a host of RPG elements which gives it some depth that it otherwise wouldn’t have had if it was just your standard beat ‘em up. When you start your adventure you have six classes to choose from: Fighter, Sorceress, Wizard, Dwarf, Elf and Amazon. One of the really nice things Vanillaware did here is they give you a recommendation based on the level you want to play. For example, I wanted to play Dragon’s Crown on normal for review purposes so, based on the game’s recommendation, I chose to play as the Amazon. The elf, for example, is recommended for expert players while the fighter is recommended for everyone.

Once you start the game you will find yourself in a town which will act as your central hub in the game. This is where all of your preparations will be done before you enter into a dungeon and enter into battle. The Dragon’s Haven Inn is where you will select your allies (you can have up to three), report your adventures (save your game), mess with the options or select the player you want to play as. It should be noted that after you complete a dungeon and go back to town all of your allies will return to the queue. What this means is when you return to town you will always have to go to the Dragon’s Haven Inn to re-select your allies. I really didn’t like this design decision as there were a couple of times when I would enter a dungeon and not have any allies due to them automatically returning to my list of allies and not staying on my team. Obviously that was my fault and I no longer did that once I got used to the game’s system but I feel your allies should remain in the party unless you choose to remove them. Speaking of your allies you acquire them in a rather unique way. As you are proceeding through dungeons you will frequently come across a pile of bones. These are adventurers that met their end while trying to fight the evil creatures in the dungeon and, more often than not, trying to accomplish the very same task that you were sent there to complete. You will want to pick up these pile of bones and, once you get back in town, go to the Canaan Temple. This is where you can resurrect fallen adventurers and that is how you gain allies in the game. You can also pray in the temple which will help give you a stat boost or you can bury the bones you have found.

Other landmarks in the town include Morgan’s Magic Item Shop, Lucain’s Tower, Adventurers Guild, the Castle, Stables and the Gate that will send you to the world map so you can pick which dungeon to go to. The item shop is where you will purchase and sell items, appraise items you have found during your journey and repair weapons. You will definitely want to keep an eye on how your equipment is doing as broken equipment will be far less effective during battle and, in some cases, that could be the difference between victory and defeat. Lucain’s Tower is where you will be purchasing Rune stones and some other things relating to magic. The Adventurers Guild is where you will pick up side quests which will help you to level up quicker in addition to unlocking some trophies. The Castle is where some of the story will take place which I will avoid talking about so as not to spoil it for you and the Stables are another way to get to a dungeon. When you get to a certain point in the game the Gate somehow breaks and you no longer get to choose which dungeon you go to. You can still use the game but it will drop you off at a random location. The Stables on the other hand basically replace the functionality the Gate had early on but at a price. Instead of entering a dungeon for free you now have to pay to use the Stables and the price goes up after every use. So, as you can imagine, using the Stables can get pretty expensive which I really didn’t like. It was almost like I was being penalized for wanting to go to a dungeon and advance the story instead of opting to take my chances with the random location the Gate would send me to.

Combat is standard fare here where you have your attack button, jump button and everything else these titles tend to have. You can also hotkey four items to the d-pad which is a great way to get to a health potion quickly if you are on the brink of dying. When you enter a dungeon you essentially get three lives. When you get killed you will respawn, although that process takes too long for my liking. Once you run out of lives in the dungeon you can still respawn but now it is going to cost you. Every subsequent respawn you might need in that dungeon will now be higher in price, similar to how the Stables work. Once you run out of money if you get killed then you better hope your party gets the objective done before the clockdown timer runs out or you will fail the dungeon and have to start over. To resurrect fallen allies you simply over hover them with a finger icon on the screen using the right analog stick and hit L1 to bring them back to life. This will also cost you money and you can do this as long as you can afford to do so. Death in Dragon’s Crown is also permanent so if your level 50 ally gets taken out and you can’t afford to revive them in time then they are gone. Fortunately I was able to avoid this outcome for the most part but there were some people I definitely lost as I was getting used to the system. One thing that I really didn’t like about Dragon’s Crown is that you can’t pause the game. While you are in town you can push the Start button to bring up a menu but everything is still happening around you. In town that doesn’t matter since everyone there is friendly but it can get irritating when you are in a dungeon. In a dungeon when you press start the only thing you really get to do is check on your side quests to see how you are doing. While you are doing that though the action is still going on around you and you become vulnerable to being attacked by an enemy. There is no way to pause the action so if you have someone at the door, need to take a phone call or whatever then you better hope your party can handle the job if you need to walk away for a minute.

Dragon’s Crown is initially a single player game, however, once you get to a certain point in the story multiplayer options open up. Multiplayer in Dragon’s Crown consists of multiplayer with your friends. Once you get to a certain point you can “turn on” the online portion where you will be given a couple of different options. You can choose to enter a friend’s room and tackle a dungeon together or select the random room option where you will be placed in a random dungeon with a random group of people. I had people join my room in the middle of a dungeon and I joined other parties as well and both went off without a hitch. The experience was very smooth and there was no online lag at all. Once I got through a dungeon with my party I was given the choice of going back to town or immediately jumping into another dungeon and I was able to take all of the experience with me that I had earned with my party. There is no competitive multiplayer which might disappoint some people but it is a lot of fun to go through the dungeon with friends.

One thing that might turn some people off is that there are only around nine dungeons in the game and you will replay each dungeon quite a bit. The way the game works is that the very first time you go through a dungeon you are going down the “A” path. Once you go through all of the dungeons initially you can go through them again but this time you are offered a choice. Do you want to go down the “A” path again or go down the “B” path now? The “B” path offers more challenge as well as a big boss fight that you will need to win to advance the story. After you meet all of the requirements a final stage will open up where you can fight the final boss. Additionally, the side quests in the Adventurers Guild that you get will be repeatedly be sending you back to these dungeons. There was one example where I went through a dungeon and completely explored everything. I unlocked every treasure chest, found every secret and things like that. When I picked up one of the quests at the guild they wanted me to go back to the same dungeon and get something out of a treasure chest. It didn’t matter that I had already done that before because it wasn’t a part of that quest at that time and that is something important to keep in mind. If you have a side quest to kill 30 enemies of a certain type, for example, then make sure that quest is activated or you could kill 100 of those enemies and it wouldn’t make a difference. I can forsee some people having a problem needing to continually return to the same dungeons but for me it seemed to work. It would have been nice if there was more variety but since I was having fun playing the game it didn’t seem to hamper the game at all. Once you beat the game then hard mode will open up. Going through normal mode your level is capped at 35. Once in hard mode, the game resets but the challenge for each dungeon increases as you might expect. After you complete that then Inferno mode is unlocked where you can try and hit the maximum level cap in the game of 99.

Dragon’s Crown is available on both the PS3 and the PS Vita and generally speaking they are the same experience. The Vita has some touch control mechanics such as touching a treasure chest to get your friend to unlock it whereas on the PS3 you control a cursor with the right analog stick as I mentioned above. Other than tiny things like that it is pretty much the same experience. Dragon’s Crown does offer cross-save functionality though which I put to good use. When I originally received this title for review I had some traveling I needed to do so I simply started my adventure on the Vita. Once I got home I uploaded my Vita save to the cloud and then downloaded it on my PS3 and resumed from where I left off on the Vita. The majority of my time with Dragon’s Crown was spent on the PS3, however, my time with the Vita version was a good experience and it seemed to run perfectly fine. I will say though that I did end up preferring to play this game on my big television screen as opposed to the small Vita screen. Just a personal preference.

Aesthetically Dragon’s Crown is a beautiful game. The graphics are somewhat of a water color pastel with an amazing hand drawn look and feel. There aren’t any cut scenes in this title per se, with Vanillaware opting to go the animated route. Whenever I would visit the Castle, for example, a picture of the princess might show up and she would tell me what I needed to do. There aren’t any fancy cinematic sequences to be found here nor does the game need them. In fact I would go so far as to say that would have taken away from the experience here. The world Vanillaware has created here is beautiful and I wouldn’t change a thing in that regard.

If you are someone who enjoys a hybrid 2D beat ‘em up/RPG then you will find a lot to like with Dragon’s Crown. Some of the repetitiveness might get to some people but, overall, I really enjoyed my time with this game. Once you get to the point where you can join your friends in battle the game gets even more fun. Keep in mind that this title is not cross-buy which means you will have to buy it on both the PS3 and Vita if you want to experience it on both systems. For those of you trophy hunters the platinum trophy in Dragon’s Crown is definitely attainable in my opinion, however, it will take you a really long time to get it. It is estimated that it will take you over 100 hours to fully beat the game with all six characters and potentially more for any type of side quests you might need to do or grinding you might need to do to level up your character. Overall Dragon’s Crown really is a joy to play and one I definitely recommend if you are a fan of these respective genres.

Score: 8.5/10

Originally posted on Gaming Target

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