The Cursed Crusade is a repetitive hack-and-slash that is marred by clumsy combat, poor dialogue, and some serious technical issues.
- Lots of weapon combinations to play around with.
- Sluggish, awkward controls
- Fighting is a chore
- Far too repetitive in all aspects
- A multitude of technical failings
- Entirely forgettable story.
UK REVIEW--One thing should already be clear about The Crusades: They were extremely unpleasant. A Christian military campaign quickly turned sour, with knights becoming little more than mercenaries as they rampaged around and sacked cities across the Holy Land. In short, it was a time of strife and bloodshed. And, if The Cursed Crusade is to be believed, it was a time when ludicrous supernatural curses occurred, weapons broke after a few hits, and soldiers repeatedly got stuck on walls. Almost everything about the game is broken in some way, and between the ill-conceived mechanics and glitches, one could almost believe that the game itself is cursed.
The Cursed Crusade tells the tale of a pair of crusaders: Denz de Bayle and Esteban Noviembre. They're on a quest to break the curse that haunts them. Pursued by Death and in the employ of the evil Boniface, they must reunite a bunch of holy relics and save their souls from eternal damnation. At least, that seems to be what the plot is trying to convey. The game is full of exposition, with cutscene after cutscene breaking up the action, but the plot never really goes anywhere. There are no twists and no major developments until the very end; thus there is little to warrant the two hours of cutscenes within the game.
Denz and Esteban might have made for a likeable duo, if the script were any good or if the cutscenes were well directed. Scenes cut out in the middle of dialogue while screen tearing plagues the cinematics. Denz and Esteban are well acted, but the writing itself makes the chemistry feel forced. There are attempts at humor in the second half of the game, but the jokes also fall flat. During one scene, which tries to ape the "This is SPARTA!" line from the movie 300, Denz's character model simply failed to load, making it farcical for all the wrong reasons.
Weapons are collected as you go, and there are a large number of combinations. Denz and Esteban can use swords, axes, maces, spears, and shields, which can be mixed and matched. Two-handed weapons provide heavy attack power, a weapon used with a shield provides good defense, and dual-wielding provides some nippy attacks that are low on damage but high on speed. Enemies have different armor levels, and you can guard break, dodge, parry, and riposte. There are also a series of finishing moves that can be unlocked for each weapon combination by spending victory points. Victory points are earned for completing levels, as well as completing optional objectives in each level, such as purifying a number of souls, cleansing a crucifix, or finding hidden coffers.
Initially, the combat seems quite deep, but it quickly falls apart. For starters, weapons break and have to be maintained. This isn't inherently bad, but a number of issues make this highly problematic. Swords break far too frequently, often after just a couple kills, which leads to a frantic sprint as you look for the prompt that tells you you're standing on another weapon. They're often difficult to see, and if enemies are following, then you have no hope of actually spotting a weapon on the ground. To make matters worse, there's no indication that you've actually picked up a weapon, and sometimes, the blade simply disappears. Even more awkwardly, the characters slip and slide around due to input lag, and accurately standing on the weapon you're trying to recover is tricky in the heat of battle.
This is a shame because each weapon has a different weight, and they all appear to be historically accurate. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a fight where there are no weapons to replace your broken one, so you have to fight with a hilt or a stick until you can find another. This means that you can do almost no damage to your opponent, which causes a severe and unwelcome difficulty spike in the later stages of the game. What's more, every fight is very similar, save for the number of enemies present. Even boss fights recycle ideas, with one particular boss fight repeated three times through the game with only minor variants to the formula. Combos are largely useless because of the unresponsive controls, so mashing the light attack button and countering occasionally is by far the best way to get through everything. Toward the end of the game, a different type of enemy is introduced, but you still never do anything more than hack away at an armored foe. The regular fights are made worse by the awful enemy AI. Combatants frequently get stuck in scenery, causing you to run around and look for a soldier stuck behind a tree before you can proceed.