Find out why Adam has such an awesome but toxic relationship with this rogue-like RPG from Kalypso Media
Crowntakers is awesome. Awesome at kicking my arse, frustrating the hell out of me, leaving me cold, lonely and broken - only for my foolish self to run straight back into this toxic relationship. Not toxic because Crowntakers is inherently bad, oh no. This rogue-like RPG with turn-based battles has its claws so deep into me that despite a few niggles, it’s poisoning my time-stream with an abyss usually reserved for such high-impact titles like Dragon Age or The Witcher.
Find out why Adam has such an awesome but toxic relationship with this rogue-like RPG from Kalypso Media.
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Let me explain: Crowntakers is an isometric-viewpoint rogue-like RPG with a terribly corny story about freeing your father from the prison of an evil Lord thingamejig. Now you’re probably stopping there because isometric viewpoint and rogue-like are reason enough to stick knitting needles into a reviewers eye, but stay your hand sir, there are reasons too for me to still live.
And those reasons, bizarrely, are why you will die within 5-10 minutes of starting a new game.
Eventually you’ll work up to a team of five but those blades-for-hire cost coin
On easy mode - normal is locked until later in the game - each time you die your experience is carried over to the next character. As the story puts it - the King had many other sons - the dirty rascal, and this means you start afresh with a new, identical hero each time. Not only does your level carry over but also the level of any mercenaries you recruited on the previous runs. Each death becomes a progression in a way, allowing you to level up more before you reached your previous point - although weapons, armour and items are reset every time you start again.
Though that may sound irritating to some I can assure you it builds a compelling, one more go, drug into the experience just like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac. Crowntakers may not have that level of polish to its battle system as those games have overall, but it still makes for an experience that’s hard to put down.
Unlocking Normal mode feels like a further kick in the teeth as this means the core repetitive mechanic is removed and you’re expected to progress through the whole game in one go. What kind of new ‘Normal’ is that eh?
The world map - where it always rains
The world map is where you progress through each level, stopping off at caves and village houses to acquire items and risk random events happening to your characters. Inns allow recruitment of certain mercenaries, you are allowed to recruit one for each game level, item shopping and resting to restore some HP. Blacksmiths enable you to upgrade weapons and armour with runes, metals and leather. All very predictable and very basic as you wander from point-to-point and Crowntakers allows little variation or depth to this, sometimes giving you the option of going further into a dark cave or choosing to feed or kill giant snails (yes I know). The results of these choices are seemingly random with the chance of something terrible happening slightly smaller than collecting loot.
Health is not regenerated after every battle and items such as meat and mushroom can hurt you just as easily as heal. The randomly generated effects of certain items and events is frustrating when it works against you, but as you play and figure out how risky eating tainted meat is then… well you only have yourself to blame. It IS tainted meat for a reason.
Initially you have very little health as well, meaning that most encounters can be fatal and boss battles at the end of each section are usually disasters. Levelling up a few times though soon works in your favour and the randomly generated levels keep each run pretty fresh and challenging.
Once you’re in battle though, Crowntakers takes that random element a bit too far and spreads your team and enemies in a genuinely unfair manner. Some mercenaries you recruit are archers, good at long range squishy close-up and spawning them surrounded by enemies is a blatant evil by the developers. Some might argue that’s part of the challenge but having no say in the position of your team at the beginning of each battle is an arse-kicking too far for this adventurer.
A visit to the blacksmith is essential for progression
That said I found the rest of the battle mechanics pretty satisfying - simple perhaps - but easy to grasp and quick to play which is what you need in a game like this. With a hexagonal layout you’ll want to get round the back of enemies as much as possible to deliver critical blows. Attacks of Opportunity happen on both sides when you bunch characters together which leads to a free attack that can invariably turn the tide of battle. Awesome when it works with you, devastating when it goes against, but basic tactical sense will enable you to survive the tougher battles if you’re at the right level especially if you keep to the edges of the map to ensure you aren’t backstabbed.
Controller support is present but you’ll have a much better time using the mouse as it’s difficult to hover over items and weapons to see what they are with the controller interface. The game isn’t visually taxing so most laptops should run it without issue on Windows, Mac or Linux.
Aside from balancing the random elements of the game to make them less unfair, Crowntakers is a superbly focussed effort that can be enjoyed in short bursts or gorged on for multiple hour sessions. It’s likely to be better consumed sparingly, like a good port, but it has a complexity greater than it initially appears. As a relief from overly-serious epic games about dragons and Frenchmen this is a welcome diversion.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The realisation that death brings you ever-closer to victory.
Very easy to play but with increasing depth the further you play
Randomised levels keep each run fresh
Randomised elements can sometimes really screw you over