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Review

Dragon's Crown Review

  • Game release: August 6, 2013
  • Reviewed: August 1, 2013
  • PS3

Dragon's Crown presents itself as a simple beat-'em-up, but it's actually a surprisingly deep and action-packed role-playing game.

by

Dragon's Crown may look like a typical beat-'em-up on the surface, but once you sink your teeth into its character customization, equipment system, and wealth of side quests, it reveals itself as an action role-playing game trapped in the shell of a side-scrolling brawler. The compulsive loot hunting and brisk combat that drive Dragon's Crown have also fueled beloved franchises such as Diablo and Dungeon Siege, and there are gimmicks and activities that add variety to the traditional dungeon-crawling experience. Each character class is easy to control but tough to master, and with your ability to craft unofficial subclasses, there are plenty of play styles to experiment with.

The elf is a master with a bow, and lethally quick when unarmed.

It begins with the story of the titular Dragon's Crown, the lost artifact rumored to give the possessor power over ancient dragons. When the king of Hydeland Kingdom fails to return from his search for the crown, you're employed to seek his whereabouts. This is all the setup you get, and after a few scripted story sequences, the story flattens out. The royal family of Hydeland faces typical medieval challenges, such as backstabbing and reconfiguration of power, and though it's their story that gets the ball rolling, their troubles don't rule over your free time for long.

Eventually, it's your desire to fight, develop your character, and discover rare and powerful treasure that keeps you going, with side quests providing new tasks and further information on Hydeland's troubled society. Overall, Dragon's Crown has a light story that's easy to digest, though it's not likely to capture your imagination. For that, look no further than what you see in front of you.

Vanillaware's iconic 2D artwork catches your eye from the start and lends some welcome dramatic flair to your adventure. Subtle gestures bring large, seemingly still images to life during cutscenes, with hulking warriors expanding and shrinking with every breath. Even the tiniest details are animated, fleshing out the surreal presentation. The in-game illustrations are equally rich, but feature more-fluid animations. You can see a similar style used in Vanillaware's past work, but the quality of Dragon's Crown's visuals are a step above the rest.

Make quick work of fledgling orcs from the back of beastly mounts.

Unfortunately, though there's a lot to love about the art, there's also a lot to dislike. A large number of female characters, including the sorceress and amazon, are rendered in a way that sometimes feels akin to softcore pornography. It's potentially offensive, not to mention lewd, to the point that it feels like a betrayal of the artistic skill on display. It doesn't come close to ruining what's great in Dragon's Crown, but it leaves a stain on the game.

As impressive and potentially distracting as Dragon's Crown's illustrations are, the gameplay is the real star of the show, and the combat provides the most excitement. As your party navigates icy ruins and dank caverns, your primary goal is to defeat the dozens of enemies standing in your way. Where most beat-'em-ups settle for simple combos with different animations to define each character, Dragon's Crown's warriors come with specialized basic maneuvers, on top of their already unique skill trees. Every character can string together combos from a mix of dashing, attacking, and jumping, but only the dwarf can pick up enemies and hurl them across the screen, and only the wizard can turn treasure chests into bipedal wooden sidekicks, for example. The variety of combat experiences leaves no excuses for boredom, and lots of room for creativity.

Say what you will about his height, but the dwarf can pull off a mean frog splash.

When playing solo, you have the option of fighting alongside non-player character allies. It's an interesting way to provide a simulation of the multiplayer experience, albeit devoid of communication and plagued by imperfect AI. Recruiting these allies is an unconventional but interesting process: you discover bones of fallen warriors in dungeons and resurrect your new friends at the temple in town. The levels and abilities of these fallen warriors scale with your experience, so you're never far from building a formidable squad of fighters.

The combat is entertaining enough, but Dragon's Crown doesn't rest there. There are a number of other things to do while exploring dungeons, such as searching for hidden passages, treasure, and the elusive runes. No matter the size of your party, your plucky, lock-picking sidekick Rannie is always at your service. You can direct him to open treasure chests and locked doors by using the cursor controlled by the right analog stick. That same cursor is used to activate glyphs randomly carved into dungeon walls. When you touch three that go together, they activate a powerful spell. The combinations are difficult to remember due to the number of glyphs and their primitive designs, but pursuing them is completely optional. They can be a distraction for an unfocused warrior, but understanding the various spells and using them to your team's advantage can be an invaluable skill.

Successfully casting rune spells can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield.

There comes a point when you need to grind through Dragon's Crown's nine dungeons for experience, but it isn't as boring as it sounds. Each dungeon has multiple detours and a fork in the main road, with a unique boss at either end. Boss encounters become more than straight-up fights by incorporating gimmicks. One stage with a giant kraken forces you to use cannons to destroy its limbs. Another sends your party crashing through the floor above a lava pit if you don't win the fight quickly enough. These added bits of variety go a long way toward making Dragon's Crown feel exciting, when it might otherwise feel repetitive.

Amid all the fighting, you acquire a lot of treasure. All the equipment you find comes with a known rank, but it's not until you pay to have your equipment appraised that you see the remaining details. It's like playing the lottery; you can't win a powerful new weapon if you don't pay to play. But you need to be cautious, since gold isn't just necessary to appraise items. Gold is also used for continues, for resurrecting and recruiting fallen warriors into your fold, and even for garnering stat boosts. The reliance on currency makes every decision worth reconsidering and every bounty that comes in valuable. Unlike allies, gold is neither disposable nor easily replaced.

If you choose to tackle multiple dungeons in a row, a cooking mini-game in between allows you to temporarily boost your stats.

Real-life sidekicks are an option too. Dragon's Crown can be played as a co-op experience locally or online, but oddly, outside of local co-op on the PlayStation 3, it's a feature that needs to be unlocked. This doesn't occur until about five hours into the game. The benefits of such a system may be hard to identify at first, but this actually does a good job of ensuring that those who are involved have a certain level of experience under their belt. As always, it's the real-life allies you choose that define the multiplayer experience. Play with selfish players, and you might as well play with NPCs. Join team-oriented folks, and you can employ strategy and teamwork to great effect. Once you've unlocked the harder difficulty settings, you gain access to the player-versus-player coliseum, a simple versus mode that nets the winner a pot of gold for his or her efforts.

When you defeat Dragon's Crown on the normal difficulty setting, you then unlock the hard and inferno settings. Each comes with its own level cap, along with more challenging enemies and more valuable treasure. It's largely a numbers game, with enemies that are simply stronger than before, but you also discover variations on old enemies that introduce new powers and tactics. It's unfortunate that Dragon's Crown's story isn't large enough to support an extensive campaign, but there's no shortage of challenges on hand.

A poignant example of Dragon's Crown's mesmerizing, yet troubled art style.

With so many goals to pursue, Dragon's Crown is much larger than most beat-'em-ups, and more action-packed than most role-playing games. It's both beautiful and captivating in its style and execution, and overall, it's a great hybrid of two very different genres.

The Good
A variety of enjoyable character classes to explore
A deep skill system that lends itself to variety
Boss fights incorporate interesting and challenging gimmicks
Some of the best and most original 2D art around
The Bad
Some offensive and unavoidable character designs
The story feels obligatory and lacks depth
Combatants sometimes blend together on the battlefield
8
Great
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Discussion

807 comments
astral171988
astral171988

So basically...the reviewer is into little girls?

ampiva
ampiva

Remember guys, attractive characters=offensive. Why is gamespot hiring these fucking hacks?

huerito323
huerito323

People complaining about boobs from a made up character? 

Have you seen TV lately?? All i see is slutty women advertising everything! They always have to put a half naked women in order to get people's attention, it's ridiculous. Complain about reality, not a damn video game!



slainta
slainta

Offensive characters?! What the heck is becoming of this world? 

Dschadir
Dschadir

Please not the sexist thing again, please. The moment the characters passed on the screen in front of me I immediately knew I was going to play the sorceress. Partly because of the fact that in fantasy games I like to play as a magic user and partly because of the esthetics.

I am a pretty normal guy and in no way feel that women are merely on this planet for guilty pleasure. I just like the art style and the fact that it's a sorceress class. My wife never cares about the way these characters are portrayed or that I'm usually playing the female character as this is simply a game and NOT real life.

That said, this game looks like Golden Axe reinvented, let the quest for loot begin. Diablo 2 reeled me in a decade ago with the same promises of loot everywhere and this little sucker seems to be doing the same thing all over again.

Yeah, yeah I'm coming, only one more level ...

XemansIIXII
XemansIIXII

it's a great game i think and i love that game play but what they thinking about and why they make a thing like that in a game ?!! 

a stupid female charters with non-human things they are just making this world more worst they are really want the males think about the females like they are just a tools and saying this is a freedom ... damn that 

a great game like this lost its chance with me   

santinegrete
santinegrete

There's a DLC that let's you change the narrators voice in the options menu, without having to finish the game. And it's free.

ErickPS4
ErickPS4

This game is totally a masterpiece.

ZombieGuy78
ZombieGuy78

"story feels obligatory" yeah i hate those games, like, mass effect, when everything is about the story, or heavy rain. who cares if it's a medieval story about swords and magic, you get to kill things!! and who cares who the final boss is, just kill it!! oh... i miss simple games like pong.....

Speranza318
Speranza318

Good thing Carolyn Petit didn't write the review on this one.

garyhal
garyhal

Super impossibly ripped muscle bound men: Totally normal.

Big breasted women: OMG that's a staaain!! So sexist!


Can you see what I did there. Pathetic. Gamespot is becoming a joke really.



P.S. I'm going to buy this just to support these guys and their freedom of choice and art design.

gsbliss
gsbliss

Well, it wouldn't be a Gamestop review without kowtowing to feminists and shaming men for appreciating images of beautiful women.

Tak666
Tak666

Beta-male game reviewer spotted. Already bought that man-bra?

You can't help Vanillaware artstyle, but to make it a "minus" when it comes to reviewing the game is just bad taste.

Savior4Life
Savior4Life

LOL! Offensive...? Yet the sorceress and her huge knockers are the screen shot of the video review. LMAO. 

Vincent_Wolf
Vincent_Wolf

Offensive design? Surely you don't mean Sorceress, because that would mean you have severe complexes and absolute lack of taste and if THAT design goes to a MINUS of a game, then I don't want to live on this planet anymore. She's gorgeous and stunning. One of the best female characters ever. She alone adds a solid 1.0 point to this game's score.

Amazon, on the other had, could have less muscles....

kickinlikesally
kickinlikesally

I'm just curious how this managed to escape being rated M

Toplinkar
Toplinkar

Sounds terrific, but I thought the asking price to be a bit too much (PS3 & VIta versions).


Might get Soul Sacrifice instead, but I'm on the fence about that one too.

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

They should have ported Trine 1 and Trine 2 onto Vita instead

phatsanta
phatsanta

but you know shuwar in our society that's radical and cool!

Julio_Brutal
Julio_Brutal

I don't get it. Why didn't the reviewer like them boobs? It's great how brute the male characters are and the female characters looks awesome with great boobs and stuff. Great game... just would be perfect if it was turn-based rpg/tactical or something, cause beat em ups games seems cheap lately. I love the fact that you can have have 4-player local tho. There aint never anything to play with your friends on ps3... except for rock band and football.

ANUBISZER0
ANUBISZER0

I have a buddy who hates side scrolling beat'em ups but got this game anyway solely for the breasts. Lmao the things people do.

Atermi
Atermi

Offended by the woman's forms? Oh yeah I'm also very very offended when I see my wife's breasts every time we go to bed. 


This hypocritical 'tolerancy' and 'anti-sexism' is really getting over the top nowadays.

Rimsa_Laded
Rimsa_Laded

Offensive and unavoidable character designs?
Your face is offensive and unavoidable.

IceDefenseGod
IceDefenseGod

"Offensive character designs" *use even more sexual thumbnail than the thing you're complaining about* Really? REALLY? Might wanna research "irony."

Pilgrim117
Pilgrim117

Get over the fact that the characters are over-the-top and you will find one of the best game of the year. It's all about fantasy; the men have huge muscles and women have other huge 'assets'.  The gameplay is simply marvelous. Viva Vanillaware!

roosteraxe1
roosteraxe1

I can't help but think the overly huge proportions on characters of both sexes is intentional. As in it's a joke. The pulp fantasy comics from back in the day, along with a lot of the old-school fantasy artwork and movies featured scantily clad women and men with proprtions barely within the bounds of reality. This game, a fantasy game that pays clear homage to Golden Axe and similar fantasy beat 'em ups from that era, along with pulp fantasy, is taking that art style and exaggerating it to such a ridiculous level that you can't possibly take it seriously. Of course, some people still do and will only focus on the negative "sexism" of this and completely miss the satire at play here. Such is often the case with sarcasm. It just goes right over some people's heads. Especially the easily offended. If you don't like it, don't buy it. For the people saying things like "would you let your family watch you play this?" this is clearly not a family game. I wouldn't want my kid playing this, but I wouldn't want him playing GTA, Saint's Row or COD either. I still play and enjoy those games and I imagine I will with this one too.

VivaRevolucion
VivaRevolucion

love a great couch coop romp, 

as far as the sexist thing,

Usually history sees art as "perverse" and music as "satanic" (Though they're not always used as literally as they should be.). So maybe only time with tell what exactly this is going to be considered. I'm sure the that by watching the review (regardless of what we think of what the reviewer has to say about the subject of the games art) we can make up our minds about buying this game or not. So in that regard, job well done, I'll be picking this up shortly for sure. :)

Erick
Erick moderator

Will say for anyone just trying the game, it gets a lot better the farther you get at least for me personally. Felt way stronger/had more fun after normal. Also, havent even tried multiplayer yet which seems like it could be a lot of fun! Friends getting it tonight!!!

krlayne
krlayne

How many of you remember the fantasy magazine Heavy Metal? Or the black and white Conan comics from the 1970s? In my mind this game has the same artistic style as those books. Will some be offended? Of course, and are well within their rights to be that way. Similarly, there are those who are not offended, and are well within their rights too. If you are offended, don't buy the game. Simple. As in other media, there are some things I find offensive and I speak with my wallet and with my time (I dont' spend or I don't watch). To me there is no need for anyone to be disagreeable. Just choose to disagree.

Ja-nem-ba
Ja-nem-ba

@Speranza318 No kidding, she doesn't seem to like P4 just because it has POSSIBLY questionable themes. She'd tear this one apart.

Rimsa_Laded
Rimsa_Laded

@gsbliss 

They're actually severely body shaming women that look like that IRL too.

ZombieGuy78
ZombieGuy78

@Vincent_Wolf yeah too much muscles. rest another point. oh and the elf is completely ok. BUT the dwarf is too buffed. another poing less. oh and some unlockable art is also offensive. so 9 points less. on that logic, this guy would have a good game scoring a pretty much -2 score

HyouVizer
HyouVizer

@Julio_Brutal well not all straight men are obsessed with tits, its rare but it is possible lol

if this game was a turn based battle system it would be a day one buy for me personally since i'd need for RPGs for my vita 

Bubbline
Bubbline

@Atermi I don't think the reviewer said that he is offended by the curves a woman can have. I think he meant that their exaggeration (to put it lightly) really wasn't necessary in the game. I can understand the idea behind wanting a character to be well-endowed, but in this case they are more than mutant large. I personally don't see this as sexism because all the characters have huge assets, whether they are female or male. It's just... it doesn't add anything to the characters, you know? It's as if they had to add huge boobs because they thought the character wouldn't be interesting enough/played without them.

jtmellon
jtmellon

@Atermi So um do you have any pictures of your wife's fun bags that you can share?

Rimsa_Laded
Rimsa_Laded

@Pilgrim117 I don't see how big boobs can hurt anyone, if anything they'd prevent you getting hurt.

Vincent_Wolf
Vincent_Wolf

@HyouVizer @Julio_Brutal Not all men are obsessed with huge boobs, indeed. I don't understand it, but hey, less competition to me. HOWEVER putting this to a MINUS to a game and calling it "offensive" loses this review all credibility. In EVERY normal game, review, everywhere, this would be considered a plus. I had more respect to Gamespot until now.

ZombieGuy78
ZombieGuy78

@Rimsa_Laded @Pilgrim117 well actually if they are large enough they hurt on the back of the owner. and if you choke ond them, well it could be harmfull too. so, i dunno

Dragon's Crown

  • PlayStation Vita
  • PlayStation 3
Dragon's Crown is an online adventure where players are thrust into a fantastical medieval world.
ESRB
Teen
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Dragon's Crown Wiki on Giantbomb.com