Review: Dragon’s Crown (*** stars) Part 4

Part 3

Why is this a problem? Dragon’s Crown really emphasizes skill a lot of the time! Most enemy types require different approaches, prioritizing targets, and then knowing their weaknesses (such as ghouls being weak to torches). As well, you have a limited number of consumables you can carry at any one time, and a pretty low amount of health by comparison. When you mess up, it’s your fault, and you have to deal with the consequences. For the most part, this approach works great, but for bosses it sometimes turns into a war of frustration, credit-feeding, and attrition as I try to find out where I am and not die – both of which I fail often. This is a multiplayer problem mostly, as when a Sorceress or Wizard unleash a giant opaque spell, it’s super hard to see! I think we can attribute this to the color scheme as well, which doesn’t highlight player characters enough to differentiate them from the environment like most games in this style; while it looks amazing, the muted nature of the scheme means I blend far too easily into the background. Add a giant monster sprite to this, and the stacking sprites confuse me to no end.

Apparently they’ve added a transparency feature in the last patch, and there are numerous display options which help to reduce the clutter, but it remains a problem from the first boss fight to the last boss fight. The more things that are happening, the harder it is to actually control yourself and figure out what’s happening. I really hate that I have to keep harping on this, but it’s a flaw I just simply cannot overlook. The game is extremely fun to play with great mechanics, visuals, and music (Hitoshi Sakimoto nails it as usual), but man does the artistic clutter get in the way of this fun loot grind. Your tolerance for this will determine whether or not Dragon’s Crown is for you. You can get good enough to discern the visual noise, but if it’s not fun before that, then why should you continue? Diablo does a much better job of making your character clear and distinct, much as I prefer Dragon’s Crown and its art style. From a critical standpoint, I just can’t say that Diablo is worse.

On a pure fun factor level, I’d give it a five, but I gotta knock it down a few stars simply due to the big problems here. I think I would rarely knock down a game for a few minor flaws, but this comes close to game-breaking. That’s especially true if you play as any of the melee classes; while the Wizard, Sorceress, and Elf can merely hit-and-run to make sure they can see, the other classes have no such luxury. It just baffles me why they thought this was an acceptable way to design a game, especially one that can be quite unforgiving with the damage and attack? It’s all the worse when, unlike the rest of the game, the Ancient Dragon does not allow you to use gold for revival purposes. Don’t train us with one option and then remove it with no real reason attached! Dragon’s Crown desperately wants to be a game of skill, and yet the art hampers that very same emphasis on skill. It really comes down to grinding to make up for the deficit in visual noise differentiation. That, I think, is a poor way to solve the problems with your game systems.

I imagine you can see now why I’m conflicted with this whole rating process. I do recommend it on some level, yet I can’t say anyone will enjoy it. If you’re willing to put up with a major flaw, repeatedly, then please give Dragon’s Crown a spin, Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for frustration. This may be Vanillaware’s best game by a long shot, but that long shot didn’t go as far as you would like.

Bad game design frustrates me to no end, but good game design thwarted by one tiny, yet horrifically influential, detail really makes it all the worse. It’s like missing the big picture for one’s own personal gain, or failing to see the real issues by focusing on minor side issues. Here, it’s visual style, but that’s pretty much applicable to anywhere in human life: we can tend towards our own personal crusades, forgetting the wider world around us. We can view other people in black and white by our standards while failing to see their life as a whole. Christian myopia is a dangerous thing, and we would do well to avoid it as often as possible. When we disbelieve or focus on our own pet projects, what will we lose in the end?

21 From that time [r]Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “[s]God forbid it, Lord! This shall never [t]happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on [u]God’s interests, but man’s.”

Matthew 16

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.