Dev. Bulwark Studios
Pub. Kasedo Games
Genre defining is a laugh, isn’t it? In order to give readers a quick overview of what a game is, we’ve developed a shorthand to explain the mechanics in a quick and broadly reliable manner. It does naturally lead to arguments about what exactly constitutes an RPG, an FPS or a Katamari-esque open world collect ’em up, but for the most part this serves a useful function for everyone. With that in mind, let’s take a gander at RPG-lite, Rogue-like, turn-based, RNG-focused fantasy battle game, Crowntakers.
The old king is under threat. The evil duke threatens to usurp the throne and conquer the kingdom for himself and all looks hopeless. Fortunately for everyone, the old king liked to put it about a bit during his younger days and has sired a butt-load of illegitimate offspring that he can now appear to in a dream and cry to for help. Instead of telling his royal highness to cough up for a load of missed Christmas and birthday presents and pointing out all those missed primary school nativity plays, the newly-royal bastard snatches up a sword and rushes to the kings’ aid. If nothing else, we learn that it’s a wise man who goes around impregnating women across the country – you never know when that valuable resource might need to be tapped later down the line.
With time of the essence, Hamish McYourAvatar must gather together a band of mercenaries in order to defend the kingdom. For some reason, you don’t even have one friend who can help you out in your predicament, so you’ll need to cough up some gold for everyone you want to be in your party. Luckily, the inns scattered around the land are stuffed to the gills with pikemen, bowmen, assassins and assorted other character classes to be your Boba Fett for the journey.
And what a journey it is. Hoo boy. You start off in your house and follow roads around a strangely hexagonal land, stopping periodically to explore a feature of the landscape or fight some miscreants on the road. A typical playthrough might go like this:
- A new world is generated. Leave your house. Follow path around corner.
- Ooh, a tower! Let’s look inside.
- There are some rats here; should we search the tower or clear out the rats?
- You chose search and were bitten by rats – lose 2hp. (If you had chosen clear out rats, you could equally have been bitten or found items. It’s random!)
- Find wolves in road. Decide to be prudent and avoid battle until you’ve found a companion.
- Oh, that’s the only path you can take.
- Fight wolves on hexagonal grid. It’s only one wolf so should be no problem.
- You spawn randomly. Too far to reach wolf this turn. OK. Put back to the grid wall to avoid back-stab. Raise guard to enable counter-attack. Feeling confident.
- Wolf critical hits you for 4 damage. You miss with your retaliation.
- You attack and hit for 2 damage. Wolf retaliates and hits you for 2 damage, killing you. LOL SO RANDOM. You disappear in a puff of smoke.
Don’t worry though, it’s a rogue-like. You get to start all over again and even keep any experience points you’ve earned – pretty sweet. Try again and you’ll progress a little further, maybe unlock a new character, and so on. If you’re familiar with this style of play, you’ll already know if that mechanic is something you can live with; persistently lose until such time as you don’t. You are heavily reliant on RNG to keep you alive during the initial stages, let alone give you a reasonable chance of success. It is absolutely vital therefore that any rogue-like game either excels in gameplay or story world in order to keep you playing so you can make progress.
Sadly, Crowntakers is a pretty charmless experience. The world of the game is generic to the point that it might as well not exist. In fact, the ascii-based world of games like Angband do a better job of conjuring up a game world by forcing you to use your imagination. There’s nothing wrong with the functionality of the graphics, they are clear enough, but are so familiar as to be immediately forgettable. Your little men and women have zero personality – something that could have been achieved with a modicum of animation and a little bit of dialogue – so it’s hard to get invested in keeping them alive. They’re just a resource – and a resource that can be snatched away from you by the game at any time in a completely arbitrary way.
You need to explore the kingdom in order to get money and other resources. Without items, you can’t buff your character or heal. Without money you can’t hire any mercs. However, you can’t plan your trip around the kingdoms effectively because each point of interest gives you one chance to explore it only. So, to use the rat house example, you might decide it is best to explore that last, since it could damage your party. But once you’ve clicked on it, you have to decide straight way. If you try to return later, there’s nothing to do there.
Whilst I understand that playing a rogue-like is about balancing risk and reward, I feel that the developers have skewed the balance to the point that the fun is lost. If you’re a big fan of the genre, you might find something there to get your teeth into. All I can tell you is that I have played and enjoyed games such as FTL, Dungeons of Dreadmore and Binding of Isaac and found nothing here to convince me that playing Crowntakers would be a rewarding experience going forward.
Crowntakers is out now for PC for £12.99 on Steam