“He who receives a gift sells his liberty.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from playing the Guild01 games it’s this: It is possible to create high quality for small priced games. It doesn’t always have to be MIDI, chip-tunes, and 16-bits. I could also add that I shouldn’t get too hyped up for something based on previous games but I already learned that this past summer with Renegade Kid and Planet Crashers.
Crimson Shroud, the last of the three localized Guild01 games from Level-5, was developed in-house by famed game designer Yasumi Matsuno. And just like the other games, it has a high level of quality to it. However, unlike Liberation Maiden – a shooter with anime-style design and cutscenes – and Aero Porter – a puzzle game that simulates baggage sorting at an airport – Crimson Shroud is a turn-based RPG with heavy story elements and influence from table-top games like Dungeons & Dragons.
And I’m not talking about being influenced like all RPGs are influenced. This is a game where the characters are all game pieces in a 3D world that acts as our board. You roll dice to determine different effects in the game. And the story is very wordy and told in novel form rather than through dialog scenes.
You play as the trio of Chasers named Giauque, Lippi, and Frea. Giauque is the leader, wielding melee combat weapons and making decisions (well, you make the decisions) for the group. Lippi is a one-eyed bowman who uses a “gift” that replaced his missing eye to detect traps around the group. Frea is a descendant of the Qish tribe, a group of magic users. She is able to sense spirits around her.
Now the Chasers are kind of like mercenaries, being paid to find things that are lost. They work various jobs, some of which are rather illegal – including this job. Giauque’s group was approached by a Duke to find out what happened to a friend of his when he went looking for an important document that pertains to the original magical gift, the Crimson Shroud – a document that you’ll learn about much later in the game.
This gets them into trouble with the Senate (which, ironically, the Duke is a part of) and finds Frea caught by Sir Flint Ronsenbach, one of the Knights of the Peace working for the Senate (this is not a spoiler, the story is actually told through Frea to Flint). Through the story, you’ll also learn of two other groups battling over the gifts: the Conclave – a religious group that sees the gifts as being heaven sent – and the Gatherers – who work toward recovering all gifts so that they can keep an eye on them.
Well, that’s definitely enough backstory. Let’s break this down.
The story was incredibly well written and one of the game’s strongest points. Matsuno’s team certainly spared nothing on making this adventure seem grander than the 10 hour game time would indicate. It does feel like it ended rather abruptly but still urges you to try to tie everything together and figure the story out yourself.
Gameplay can feel a bit clunky at first but I would blame that more on the tutorials that happen early on rather than the game design itself. Once you get past the first chapter, the game will start to flow better… well, until a certain room in the second chapter, but I’ll get to that later.
Battle is turn-based, with each character given up to two potential moves each turn: an attack/magic spell and a skill. That number can be effected by certain debuffs or impairments, such as fright (causing a character to not use skills for a certain amount of time) and turning into stone. Moves in battle can be augmented with rolling dice that you collect from magic combos. You also roll dice (different from the augmentation dice) in order to activate debuffs on enemies.
The character design choice was interesting – making everyone a game piece on a board. But I think it worked out rather well. Backgrounds also looked good and the 3D was used to good effect. Also, text stands out well when using the 3D slider, but looks good either way.
Oh yeah, and the music is just flat-out awesome. The instrumentation was excellent and made me question whether I was listening to real or virtual instruments (I’m pretty sure it was the latter). If you have the means, I highly recommend getting the soundtrack. It is currently available through the iTunes store (https://itunes NULL.apple NULL.com/us/album/crimsonshroud-original-soundtrack/id533768803).
For a game that did so much right and got me engrossed so much in the story, there is one singular thing that keeps me from giving this game a perfect score. If you’ve read any of the other reviews for this game you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
In the second chapter, you’ll come across a few dead ends. One of them is a dark room that you need an item for to continue the story. But in order to get said item, you need to light up the room it is in. Fair enough. In order to light up the room, you need to defeat some enemies in another room. Sounds okay so far.
Now, from what I can tell, you need to defeat the enemies in a certain order to get the item. That is also fine. It’s okay for an RPG to have puzzles like that. I’d almost feel insulted if it didn’t, especially since it’s an RPG that doesn’t deal with EXP and levels (all stats and magic are based on your weapons and armor).
What I have a problem with is when I have to execute the puzzle several times in order to get the special item. If I accomplish the requirement for a special item, I should receive it the first time, not the fifth, eighth, or twelfth time. At that point, it feels like a random drop more than a special item.
And frankly, it’s starting to feel more like video game myth than fact, like saying you can see Samus naked if you beat Metroid in half an hour.
Crimson Shroud was not only a great way to end the Guild01 games but a great way to close out the year (unless you also played Fluidity: Spin Cycle). It does a couple of things different and can feel a bit enigmatic but it is ultimately a game worth playing.
As for the Guild01 series on a whole, it was a rather enjoyable and enlightening experience. For the most part, I feel like it was money well spent. And I can’t wait to see what’s next, especially with Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune in the mix for Guild02.
And maybe we can even get the other Guild01 game over as well…
Review copy was purchased by the author.