Dragons are awesome and using them to fly and fight in combat should be amazing, but I’m left wondering why the experience given from Crimson Dragon is just okay? Crimson Dragon is the spiritual successor the cult classic Panzer Dragoon series and fans of the series should feel right at home with this game. Crimson Dragon does many things right, but there are some frustrating flaws that plague the game. The story is the biggest offense.
Honestly, there isn’t that much of a story. The Planet Draco was colonized and soon after that, a virus broke out that enraged wildlife and killed many. We play as a seeker, a person who is immune to the virus and can ride dragons. We are sent to find the source of the outbreak and put a stop to it. Before diving into the flaws, I’ll tell you why you should play Crimson Dragon.
A Customizable Experience
One of the coolest things about Crimson Dragon is the fact that you have plenty of say in what exactly your dragon can do. There are stat updates such as attack, defense, agility and mind that control what your dragon can execute. Some dragons are very slow, but can attack with devastating blows while other dragons are fast and can take plenty of damage while launching weak attacks. What Crimson Dragon does so well is that it lets you change some attributes on your current dragon.
All stats can’t be changed and sometimes it’s better to just buy a new dragon, but you can increase stats for a better fighting creature. Between teaching them new moves, changing their affinity, feeding them items and eventually evolving them, your dragon can become the creature you desire. Changing a dragon’s affinity is one of the coolest aspects in the customizing aspect of Crimson Dragon. I started with a fire dragon, but eventually he was not working out for me. I decided to change his affinity and even though he became a different species of dragon, I could tell that he was still the dragon the I grew attached to throughout the whole game.
Crimson Dragon supports multiplayer, but it uses multiplayer in a way that many people wouldn’t expect. Instead of friends or other players playing together, we hire “wingmen” which are dragons that other players control in their own game. The higher the level, the more credits it costs to hire them. It’s a cool twist on multiplayer. If anybody on your friends list has played Crimson Dragon, the game will show their dragons on the top of the Hire Wingman screen.
After hiring a specific wingman, you can select them to support you during a mission. You are able to take advantage of all of their abilities and can even command them to cover your from the front or the back. While using a wingman, you can even press the X button to unleash a combo attack that can destroy all of the common enemies on screen as well as take off a chunk of a boss’s health meter. You only get a few uses of these attacks per mission so it’s a good idea to be strategic about it.
A Blast From The Past… With A Modern Twist
As I said earlier, Crimson Dragon is the spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series and it plays like it too. It’s an on rails shooter that is reminiscent to games such as Star Fox. The tutorial even has us performing barrel rolls to dodge attacks. We follow the path set for us and attack the enemies that fill the screen. Levels have anywhere from 1 through 5 sections that must be completed in order to finish the level. Some of those sections include objectives such as the following:
- Collect All Beacons
- Defeat Enemies In A Certain Amount Of Time
- Avoid Taking Damage
- Defeat All Enemies
In addition to these objectives, each mission also has 3 medals that when achieved will award the player with Jewels. Jewels are used to buy items, revival gems and even dragons. Jewels are an alternative to credits. Some of the medals are extremely easy, but others are a test of patience and strength. Some medal requirements include:
- Get a Kill Rate of 90%
- Beat The Level Without Taking Damage
- Obtain an S Rank
- Collect All Beacons
- Don’t Use a Wingman
- Defeat All Of A Certain Type Of Enemy
Some of these medals are brutal because they require you to not get hit during boss battles. That’s unfortunate because the boss battles are so difficult that even the most skilled players will have trouble achieving perfection. The modern update on the genre is definitely the leveling up system. Normally, games like this only take us from level to level using the same exact character throughout the entire game. With Crimson Dragon, our dragons gain experience and level up after levels in addition to our rider leveling up separately. When a dragon levels up, their base stats increase and when the rider levels up, the game unlocks more dragons for us to buy and use.
Menus and Kinect
Navigating around Crimson Dragon’s menus may seem overwhelming at times, but it’s actually quite simple when you know what you are doing. There is a menu from missions where you can select an environment in which you wish to choose a mission. There’s a Dragon Roost menu where you deal with all things involving your dragon. From here, you can feed your dragon, teach it skills, evolve it, use items and much more. There’s the store menu in which you can buy items/dragons and finally, there is the inventory menu which shows everything you have at the moment.
Kinect makes navigation a lot easier. Just say the name of the menu you want to go to and the game will take you there. Additionally, you can use Kinect to order around the Wingmen that you hire. Kinect support is limited, but it’s very useful and that’s a plus.
Death By Camera
Even the greatest games are plagued with bad camera angles and Crimson Dragon is no exception. During the on rails sections, (most of the game) the camera is great and it really immerses us into the game. When the game switches to free-flying mode, (usually boss battles) Crimson Dragon takes a turn for the worse. First off, the game doesn’t really give us a tutorial on how to properly control our Dragon in free-flying mode. We have the ability to accelerate and decelerate, but we have no option to fly in a steady pace. If we pass an enemy, we must fly back around to that spot. It gets frustrating. In addition, with free flying, it is very difficult to turn the camera around and find the boss even with a mini map on the bottom.
Deaths were caused more times because of the camera than the actual difficulty of the boss battle. The few times that Crimson Dragon frustrated me to no end was during the boss battles. If these battles had been set up like the on-rails section and had us dodging and fighting our enemy, these levels would have been highlights of the game, unfortunately, I dreaded every boss battle that Crimson Dragon threw at me. The game loses a lot of points from me because of the camera. It’s that bad during these sections.
Conclusion: A Fun, But Forgettable Experience.
Let’s get this out of the way, Crimson Dragon is not a bad game at all. The problem is that it doesn’t live up to the potential that it had. Crimson Dragon has a bunch of great features, cool customizable dragons and powers, interesting missions and a fun take on multiplayer, but the flaws ruin the experience. There are plenty of dragon powers, but some of them are just underwhelming and don’t take advantage of what their descriptions suggest and the camera is an enemy far too powerful.
Even with these flaws, there is fun to be had with this game. The problem is whether or not people will be talking about this game in the years to come. I had a lot of fun with it, but I doubt that I will be playing this once Microsoft releases their heavy-hitters next year. I hope that this game finds an audience because it is fun, but I feel that there is a very select audience for this type of game. Crimson Dragon is a good launch title that hopefully can improve if a sequel is ever announced. With a few adjustments, the Crimson Dragon series could become a killer app for the Xbox One.