All style, little substance
On the surface, Dragon’s Crown appears to have all of the features of a great RPG brawler. Players will fast realize that after spending time with Vanillaware’s multiplayer beat ‘em up that, much like beauty, Dragon Crown’s features are skin deep.
Utilizing an art design reminiscent of their past work, such as Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire, and Muramasa, Vanillaware went back to the well in design and game theory. Dragon’s Crown tasks players with choosing one of six RPG archetypes in order to dungeon dive, excavate equipment, and destroy demons, dark orcs, and dragons.
Players will upgrade equipment as well as earn skill points via a leveling system that allows customization specific to each class. Sound familiar? Dragon’s Crown isn’t doing anything that players haven’t already seen, nor is it doing these things well.
The skill system becomes redundant once players realize that upgrades do nothing to change the way each character plays in a meaningful way. This is apparent in a combat system based on button mashing that lacks the combat style or substance of other games in the genre, such as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Castle Crashers, or even Diablo 3.
It’s fine that the warrior’s slide can be upgraded to knock opponents down or can multi-slash in the air. Why bother when you can just as easily progress through dungeons by standing in one spot and pressing the attack button ad nauseam? In some cases, this tactic is more effective than trying to be stylish.
This assumes you can stand still, as the game does a terrible job of letting players know where they are on the screen during the chaos. This problem is unbearable with four players at once. The game’s beauty and detail turn into a deterrent.
This art style has been widely criticized and discussed for it’s outlandish character design, but many forget how great the game looks in motion. While backgrounds and beautifully rendered and the game runs at a steady frame rate, characters come to life in a vibrant style. Said style comes with exaggerated character designs that are a distraction and may annoy players who have grown tired of the anime-like proportions of Japanese-developed titles.
For a title that tries to stand out in the crowd, Dragon’s Crown comes off as a game where the developer rested on the laurels of its art design. Consumers are better off delving into Vanillaware’s past titles than wasting time and money on a game that seems to be phoning in the experience.
Release Date: October 11, 2013 (EU); August 6, 2013 (NA)
Genre: Action RPG Brawler
Platform: PlayStation 3, Vita
Publisher: NIS America (EU), Atlus (NA)
Reviewer’s statement: This review was based on a European PlayStation 3 copy of the game provided by NIS America for the sake of this review.