The story behind Dragon’s Crown is simple and leaves much to the imagination. As a brave adventurer, you have traveled to Hydeland to explore the dungeons and labyrinths that lay in wait on the outskirts of town. Upon joining the local Adventurers guild, you receive a request from Princess Vivian and Prime Minister Gustaf to retrieve the royal scepter from a thief. This quest, like many others, eventually lead you to the legendary Dragon’s Crown.
Dragon’s Crown is an action adventure game that is very similar to Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara – its core mechanics are based on hacking and slashing your enemies into oblivion and casting devastating offensive magic. But unlike Capcom’s recent offering, Dragon’s Crown offers the player enough flexibility to build their character as they level. It’s an adventure that can be experienced more than once, where no two characters are alike.
As you begin the long journey ahead, you are presented with a menu system to create a new character. Dragon’s Crown contains six characters that cater to gamers of all skill levels – The Fighter, Dwarf and Amazon are the best choices when first playing the game because of their balanced stats and efficiency with melee weapons. Gamers looking for a challenge will find the Sorceress, Wizard and Elf more to their liking. Their lack of defense means they must constantly carry health potions and keep their distance during combat.
Once the character creation process is complete, you are introduced to a brief tutorial that explains character movement, combat and how to interact with your thief companion, Rannie. During your travels, Rannie becomes a very important member of your party. His purpose is to unlock chests and doors; he will also collect any treasure left behind by your party.
While you do not control Rannie directly, you must use the right analog stick to move a finger cursor over Ronnie, and then select the desired object by pressing the L1 button. When Ronnie unlocks a chest, gold and items (if any are present) explode from the chest and fall to the ground. Food drops off enemies and can sometimes be found after destroying wooden crates.
Once you have obtained the food, you will begin eating it automatically the moment you stand still. Consuming food will restore up to 150% of your maximum health. It’s important to collect as much food as possible, but there is one drawback – your character will consume the food even when you’re not injured. It’s also worth noting that Rannie cannot open crates; the player must break them open.
The game places a strong emphasis on collecting treasure. Since treasure drops are numerous, a grading system keeps track of the items your party has collected. The more gold and items a treasure contains, the better its ranking will be. A treasure ranking of ‘A’ or ‘S’ is the best you can receive, while a ranking of ‘E’ is considered quite poor. Spoils are another form of treasure that usually turn out to be accessories or weapons. These items can be appraised at the end of each quest to reveal their stats. When these items haven’t been appraised, you can view their item ranking to determine whether they’re worth appraising or not. Like the treasure system, all ‘Spoils’ receive a ranking from A-E.
Dragon’s Crown uses a leveling system where your character gains XP for defeating enemies and completing quests. The system is fairly basic and requires little-to-no explanation. However, you do gain ‘Life Points’ every time your character levels. Life Points are used to resurrect your character when they die (they can also be used to resurrect fallen party members). When you run out of Life Points, you must ‘Continue’ the game by donating gold to the God Athena. When you are resurrected during combat, your character only retains half of its hit points, so you’re immediately left at a disadvantage,
The game is party centric; you can visit Dragon’s Haven Inn to configure multiplayer (where players can join at anytime) or add characters to your party. During your travels, you will find bones of fallen adventurers that can be resurrected at Canaan Temple. Once revived, these adventurers can be added to your party as AI controlled companions. Like most of the game, even resurrecting a pile of bones is played out in a brilliant, cinematic fashion. You are treated to a beautiful piece of animation as cherubs approach a stone slab where the pile of bones lay, returning a once beating heart to its owner. It’s an almost surreal experience; a beautiful oil painting come to life.
Combat is a heart-pounding affair as you battle hordes of undead monsters, lizard men and dark sorcerers, among others. As you battle the evil forces that plague Hydeland, your AI controlled party members will immediately engage the enemy and offer back up support when needed. Fighting consists of using basic and special attacks. By repeatedly pressing the Square button, your character will execute a series of basic attacks. If these attacks hit an enemy, they will restore any missing MP (Magic Points) that were previously used to cast a spell, for example. However, this does vary based on the character being used.
Special attacks are unique to each character class. For example: the Sorceress can cast a variety of ‘Specials’ (i.e. magic) when the left Analog Stick is held in different directions, while the Circle button is being pressed. Holding up on the Analog Stick – depending on the level of the Sorceress – can conjure large pillars of flames that engulf your enemies. As you level, new spells and skills can be purchased at the Adventurers Guild.
The controls are rock-solid and never falter for a minute. For classes that use magic, you can hold the Square button to recover missing MP (Magic Points) and still move your character to avoid danger. You’re vulnerable during this process since you can’t attack, but at least you’re not frozen in place. The menu system is easy to access too. Any items that are equipped in your item menu can be accessed by pressing left or right on the directional pad. To use a healing potion, for example – you must select it and then press down on the directional pad. Dragon’s Crown controls are simple and streamlined for the experience; they eliminate the use of menu systems that would otherwise hinder the fast-action delivered during combat.
The boss encounters are epic in proportion as you battle creatures such as a hulking minotaur beast and a giant half-woman harpy that is anything less than awe-inspiring. These and other monsters from mythology challenge you every step of the way as you search for the Dragon’s Crown.You will find yourself continuing often as most boss battles challenge even the most seasoned gamer, and can take upwards of five to ten minutes to complete.
Vanillaware did an extraordinary job on the graphics. The city of Hydeland is a breathtaking sight as it resembles an ancient oil painting. Villagers casually stroll by as you explore the city. The guild and shops in town are slightly above the playfield and a red arrow appears when you can enter an area. It is very reminiscent of Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.
The entire adventure is narrated; you are told where to visit and what to expect during combat as certain segments include explanations via voice narration. There isn’t a single moment during Dragon’s Crown where you feel something could have been done better.
Dragon’s Crown by Vanillaware is the single best action adventure game on Playstation 3. In fact, it’s the best game of the year as far as this reviewer is concerned. When a game comes along and redefines a genre like Dragon’s Crown has with its streamlined combat system and solid gameplay mechanics, it’s easy to conclude that it’s a must-have for any Playstation 3 gamer.
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Also Available for PS Vita / PSN)
ESRB: T (Teen)
Price: $49.99 ($39.99 PS Vita)
|Incredibly beautiful 2D graphics that resemble oil paintings.|
|A soul-soothing sound track and high quality narration.|
|Gamers of all skill levels will be challenged by the boss battles.|
|Vanillaware has delivered a 2D masterpiece that trumps anything in recent memory.|