E3 2011: The Cursed Crusade First Look Hands-On Preview

We enter the curse in our first hands-on experience with this upcoming action adventure game set during the late 12th century.

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Developer Kylotonn is mining the holy wars of medieval Europe for its upcoming action adventure The Cursed Crusade. We stopped by publisher Atlus' booth at E3 and got our first hands-on experience with it.

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What It Looks Like: Most of the time, The Cursed Crusade looks like a violent, bloody third-person action game set in authentic medieval environments. The tone of the visuals is somber, which seemed appropriate for the game's subject matter.

What You Do: You play as Denz, a cursed Templar, who seeks a way to break the curse. Denz is joined by a partner, the mercenary Esteban, who can either be controlled by AI or by a second player via local or online cooperative play. The curse Denz bears may be a burden on his immortal soul, but it also comes in handy on your adventure. When your curse gauge is full, you can "enter the curse." This not only makes Denz more powerful for a period of time, but it also changes the look of the game. The environment changes into a fiery hellscape, and enemies appear as skeletal demons. It's a dramatic effect.

How It Plays: The controls immediately felt typical of third-person action games, making the game easy to pick up and play. There were a variety of swords and maces for us to pick up from fallen enemies, and because weapons degraded with use, it was in our best interest to pick up new ones from time to time. (A visual indication of a weapon's quality made it easy to quickly determine whether that weapon was better than our current one.) You have total freedom to configure the weapons you wield. You can equip yourself with a sword and a shield, a sword and a mace, two maces, or any other combination of weapons you find. Different configurations allow for different attacks. One of our favorite moves had Denz impale a foe on his sword and take advantage of this by whacking the impaled enemy with his mace a few times.

The combat had a satisfying weight to it, and in those situations where we were facing several foes at once, enemies didn't shy away from attacking us from behind while we were busy fighting someone else. This encouraged us to play defensively and keep an eye on our surroundings. We also equipped a crossbow for some long-range attacks, which switched the camera to an over-the-shoulder view. And we had a few opportunities to use the environment to our advantage. For instance, at one point, we grabbed ashes from a flaming brazier and used them to blind an enemy. Elsewhere, we kicked an opponent backward into a well.

What They Say: "Embark on a contentious quest for retribution spanning five chapters and 40 missions that promises to bring fire, death, and destruction to the great cities of medieval Europe. Easy to grasp yet deep in its execution, a weapon-based combat engine features over 90 combos, 130-plus weapons, and a timing-based counter system."

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What We Say: The Cursed Crusade has the potential to be a satisfying action adventure that makes good use of a tumultuous time in history. It's scheduled for release this fall for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. We'll bring you more on the game as its release approaches.

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