A very late review of one of the launch titles for Xbox One which I have finally completed!
Crimson Dragon was originally an Xbox 360 game via Xbox Live Arcade for Kinect and was somewhat mysteriously pulled from the marketplace before launch and disappearing to become an Xbox One launch title, retaining its Kinect controls but is also playable with a controller those who wanted to play without Kinect. The game is developed by Grounding Inc helmed by Panzer Dragoon creator Yukio Futatsugi with support from Land Ho and Iron Galaxy, published by Microsoft Studios.
So how does Crimson stack up on Xbox One then? Well its a mixed bag to be honest, I did play it with a controller and to be honest its Kinect roots showed a lot. The handling of the dragon is on-rails for the most part, you can move them side to side, up and down and do barrel rolls as well, it felt kind of wooden and difficult to really move them around quickly unless you do a barrel role which always convenient is I was trying to collect some beacons but that is partly because of the stats of the dragon I had I think. The problem as I saw it was that the dragon you control takes up a lot of space on-screen because of its Kinect root, the camera needed to be further out with a smaller dragon so I can see the battlefield better.
Each dragon can be upgraded and has various stats, they can have 2 attacks each one is their base attack and can’t be changed but they can learn many others one of which can be selected to take into battle with you. The various attacks have different power levels, some auto-lock on, others are free-aim based the power grows as your dragons stats increase although some of the attacks I found to be just plain weak, I usually went for the 6 target attacks.
The levels are made up in a very Japanese style of small sections which have a goal and depending on how you meet that goal will affect your ranking up to an S rank, there are 3 medals per level which can be for things like kill rate, total ranking, collect all the beacons, kill all certain enemies etc, there’s enough variety to feel too repetitive from an objective standpoint. There are many enemies types which have a variety of attacks, I didn’t find anything particularly standout, you shoot them, they die, some take more bullets than others. The boss battles seem to be over very quickly if you use the wingman special abilities mentioned below.
The gameplay is clearly flawed probably due to Kinect but it’s not unplayable, getting S ranks can be satisfying but I felt the weapons seemed a bit underpowered and samey, there isn’t a particular one that stood out as good and powerful to me. You can also hire a wingman which you pay credits for to use for a certain amount of levels (between 3 and 5) and these are based on the stats of your friends dragons or that of random strangers on Xbox Live and these wingmen join you in battle and help you fight off enemies, they also have a special ability which when pressed is like a bomb type thing (varies between each dragon) and these are very power and can help clear areas and defeat bosses, its strange though that you need a wingman to do it but dragons do the attack, you can’t do them solo and that backs up my feeling that when playing without a wingman, the dragons feel underpowered.
There are also a few free-roam sections but the controls and handling of the dragons isn’t really good enough to make it satisfying, they feel like afterthoughts in development and were sections I didn’t really enjoy, it also feels like Grounding Inc wanted to go free-roam but knew they didn’t have time so they ported over everything as it was from the Xbox 360 version and added the free-roam bits for extra content, either way they aren’t very good.
All of that sounds pretty negative and really its not all bad, it has satisfying moments but it feels flawed and disappointing, what I did like about the game was the RPG-lite progression of your dragons and the economy, its worth noting that at launch there was seemingly much more grind involved and they nerfed it in a subsequent update but I didn’t feel it necessary to grind so much here.
As you do levels you collect credits (to buy stuff with), Ampoule’s which are boosts for 1 or 2 attributes for a particular level – you collect these, store them and select them on a per level basis, you also get new skills to teach your dragon on levels and XP “food” for set amounts which you can feed to your dragon and help them level up quicker. I’m a sucker for progression in games, upgrading characters, earning XP, levelling them up and then going back to playing levels I did poorly on with my new more powerful character and doing better and Crimson Dragon does this well and I liked it.
You get XP for finishing levels and I found it to be reasonably generous, you can buy new dragons from the store (5 new ones) but when you get a dragon to level 10 you can use an item to evolve them into a better dragon and then their level is reset and you upgrade them over again, as the progression seemed fair and didn’t need too much grind I found this to be the best part of the game and what they should expand on.
The dragons have different stats and strengths which obviously improve as you level up because its such a core part of the gameplay and appeals to me this is where my motivation came from to continue playing, it’s not that the gameplay itself is terrible, but as I said its flawed and fairly unremarkable in general, when they decided to shelve the finished Xbox 360 version to move it to Xbox One they probably shouldn’t have, they should have released it as it was and then expanded the RPG system in the final version and slapped a new name on it as I think the Crimson Dragon name is unfortunately fairly tarnished by how the game has ended up.
There are micro transactions available to buy jewels but I found I got enough of them throughout my playing time to not need to consider buying them, they seemed like a strange inclusion if I’m honest although thats probably because they made changes to it after release.
The story that goes on isn’t particularly interesting either and really didn’t make me feel like I wanted to continue playing to see what happened, it was just sort of there to be honest.
Crimson Dragon is a disappointing game in its execution of the core gameplay but does redeem itself in its progression system, I did have fun with it despite the flaws but I think a lot of people would have been disappointed because it never managed to shrug off its Kinect roots and this affected it a lot. I would be very interested to see Grounding Inc get another shot at Crimson Dragon perhaps if they renamed it, built it for the controller from the ground up and focused on the RPG aspects with a more refined core gameplay however I wonder if Scalebound from Platinum Games might make this unlikely and perhaps that will be the game Crimson Dragon could have been. The achievements are relatively easy to get at least and admittedly I haven’t tried the multiplayer.
Formats: Xbox One (Played)
Developer: Grounding Inc (with help from Land Ho and Iron Galaxy)
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Crimson Dragon on the Xbox Store