A Cursed Crusade indeed
Once in a while a game comes along that has great potential, but itís let down by a slew of flaws and irksome combat mechanic errors. Cursed Crusade is such a game, which has a solid premise and a deep combat system but falls flat in the execution of itís basic features.Story
You are Denz, a noble knight of the crusades, a templar no less. You have a mysterious and terrible curse that runs through your blood; youíre searching for your father and trying to cheat death. Thereís a lot of story and the game has an almost Hideo Kojima level of exposition that throws extremely lengthy cut-scenes at you at every possible turn. There is the occasional camera issue that mars the overall storytelling experience, though itís not too much of a game breaker.Gameplay
Itís an action-adventure so expect hordes of enemies to slice and dice. Thereís a fairly robust combat system here most of the time, under the hood. But, and this is the big but...the combat system can also break down and suffers from control input lag every so often. This results in block failing to work, counters mistiming and marring the overall experience. This is a shame, since thereís a massive collection of weapons and moves to unlock, with an experience point like system playing into both your move set, and the mastery of the curse, which is an integral part of the game.
There are weapons that take damage and will eventually break, leaving you with a busted sword or axe that wonít do much against your foes. There are dual wielding options; axe and mace for instance, double swords, sword and mace. The list is quite large and there are a lot of moves to unlock for each weapon, which also unlock finishing moves too. You can use the environment to your advantage, causing damage with environmental objects such as flaming braziers. You can even kick people down wells: this is Sparta style.
The problem is that itís easy to get caught on some part of the scenery, trapped in part of the brazier for example and in some cases you need to restart from a checkpoint to fix it. Then you have the cooperative nature of the game, since you travel with your counterpart Ė Esteban, who wavers from being deadly efficient as a backup AI to downright troublesome in the way that Dom has been in the first two Gears of War games.
Then thereís the curse itself, which can be triggered and drains the curse meter. As long as youíre in the curse, you can see otherworldly beings, you can see things that appear only to your cursed form and you can find shortcuts and breakable walls. Thereís also a combat advantage to the curse, you dish out and take less damage. Remain in the curse for too long and itís going to be bad, very bad.
You have various counters and dodge moves, armour plays a big role in the game and often you have to destroy the layers of armour on a bad guy before you can introduce them to a world of pain. Thereís also a crossbow or bow that plays into the mix, with tricky aiming and firing controls, including a flawed cover system for certain sections.
There are also interaction events and quick-time button presses that are required to escape from stun-locks and certain special moves.
Thereís an element of coop to the single player game, with the characters able to grapple opponents and hold them whilst the other character finishes them off. This system however is tricky to get to grips with and often doesnít work quite right.
With a little more time and polish, combat could have felt suitably impressive, close to perhaps Assassinís Creed: Brotherhood or something of that ilk, but with the combat move input lag and other issues; it feels clunky and clay-like at best. Itís certainly visceral though with both Denz and Esteban cutting heads and limbs off, stabbing people through the heart and so on.Graphics
Graphically, Iíve seen people complain that the game is bad. This is where Iím going to defend Cursed Crusade a little. Itís not a triple-A title in terms of graphical presentation but itís not a complete mess either. There are some low res textures, there is some flicker now and then on the environments and the game occasionally suffers from the slightest bit of slowdown with a dipping frame-rate. For the most part of the game the graphics arenít too bad, the detail on the characters, their armour and the environments is pretty nice.
The curse effect is quite nice as well, with a Danteís Inferno (not the game) vibe running through the whole thing, mixed with a bit of Legend in terms of the demon designs. I was reminded of the game: Primal, in some respects. The flame effects do let the whole Hellspawn Curse design down though, and they could have been done a whole lot better. Animations
The animations are not too bad in terms of combat, though sometimes the models donít connect when youíre performing a finisher move and that does break the feel somewhat. They are a little lacking when it comes to the facial animation in the cut-scenes, with characters appearing a little stilted and the range of motion isnít quite there. The star of the show in terms of animations has to be the combat system, even though some of the moves donít often connect.Physics
Some objects in the environment break, thereís a sense of weight and feel to the weapons, especially the two-handed blades and they have a mass and impact in combat. When the whole thing works, it works well enough to convey the feel of battle nicely. You can be staggered, knocked over and sent flying by some of the enemies.