The Crusades remain mostly underused in gaming. Recently we had the mediocre First Templar, and now developer Kylotonn is taking a stab at it with The Cursed Crusade. The Crusades are ripe for gaming, and I still wonder why more developers don’t use this setting. That said, Cursed Crusade unfortunately suffers the same fate as the aforementioned game, as well as a host of glitches and problems that make it frustrating when it shouldn’t be. Still, if you can muster up enough patience, there is a bit of fun to be had here.
Much like First Templar, Cursed Crusade is a co-op affair. You have two characters, and either can be selected before each level when playing solo. Denz de Bayle is a knight looking to join the Crusade and find his lost father, and he teams up with stereotypical sidekick Esteban Noviembre. The problem with the story is that it never really feels like it goes anywhere, which is confusing, considering this game is loaded with cut scenes.
For every twenty minutes of action, you are greeted with at least four cut scenes playing out a fairly convoluted tale about Denz and Estenban’s struggle with a curse, and Death attempting to take their souls. The script is purely contrived, but the voice actors do a good job of trying to sell what is here. The parts about being cursed seem to be the most interesting, but the longer the game goes on, the more confusing it becomes. Even Esteban starts to question what is going on after a while. Seriously the game tries to force too much story at you and ends up just diluting what narrative is actually there.
Much like you would imagine, Cursed Crusade is a hack and slash title that focuses on weapons-based combat. You have the option to fight with a two-handed sword, dual weapons or a sword and board style. Attacks come in the two standard varieties, horizontal and vertical slashes, and combos very based on the weapon style you choose. What I loved was the skill tree that allows you to choose which type of combat to upgrade. You earn victory points after each level that you can use to unlock more strings in a combo. Finish the combo and you earn the finishing move. It is a simple, yet addictive, system that keeps the combat fresh.
Of course, not all is sunshine and lollipops here. Combat, while involving, is rather sluggish most of the time. There is a clear lag between button presses and attacks, and the lock-on mechanic plain doesn’t work. I tried over and over to keep my character focused, only to have them swinging at dead air and leaving myself open to attack. Weapons also break far too often. You can pretty much grab any enemies’ weapon after defeating them, and you almost have to. I was constantly changing styles simply because I kept breaking my preferred two-handed sword. You also have ranged attacks, but they are extremely slow and only useful in limited situations.
Victory points are also used to upgrade things such as armor and strength over the course of the game. The cursed mode also comes into play as you learn new abilities. You can switch to cursed mode at anytime by tapping a button and it allows you to move faster and even see enemies and objects that are hidden from the naked eye. While in this mode, though, you slowly drain a bar, stay in it too long and you will die. You can upgrade your resistance to the curse, allowing you to stay in longer, but for the most part you can just disable it and let the bar recharge as you kill enemies.
The biggest issue with Cursed Crusade is that it feels unfinished at times. Glitches abound and cause you to have to restart checkpoints or entire levels at times. For example, I found myself stuck in a wall after a cut scene, unable to advance. I had my AI partners stuck in front of a moveable object not allowing me to progress, and I have even had entire character models not loading into the game. There are issues all over the place, and I didn’t even mention the clipping and graphical glitches that actually don’t affect game play at all.
Visually, the game is passable with some solid animations. The environments are not terrible, but they do lack in appeal. The effects and clipping are the real criminals here though. Swords go through walls and blood looks like paste. Nothing ever looks and feels like it should. The game also has a sort of generic overtone to the package. Voice acting is well done, even if the script is poorly written at times. The music feels epic, but also lacks in quality and repeats far too often. The game’s presentation feels much like its game play: unfinished.
The main campaign is long, and will take you well over ten hours to complete, but unfortunately it never really gets its hooks into you. Playing co-op alleviates some of the issues, but there likely aren’t going to be many people picking this up, and even then, the glitches will still frustrate. I really liked the game when it worked. Sure, it is slow and methodical at times and downright boring at others, but a good sword slashing game is just what you need to give you a break from all the guns found in most games. I just wish more care had been applied to the functionality of the game. As it stands, Cursed Crusade is the definition of disappointing.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.