The best type of video games are those that ease you in gently, disguised as a casual experience that you sit down to play for twenty minutes. Suddenly, it’s five hours later and you need another Red Bull, but only after you complete just one more quest.
“Dragon’s Crown” is that sort of game.
The new side-scrolling beat-em-up takes its cues from classics such as the 1991 Sega Genesis title “Streets of Rage” and 1990’s arcade hit “Golden Axe,” and throws in addictive role-playing qualities found in more recent titles such as Blizzard’s time-sucking MMORPG “World of Warcraft.”
“Dragon’s Crown” takes place in the fantasy world of Hydeland. The player takes control of a stock character, such as a fighter, sorceress or a dwarf, and sets off in search of fame and fortune in the form of the titular dragon’s crown. The magical crown, we are told, has been lost and without it, the picturesque world in which your character resides is threatened by trauma, tragedy and of course, big scaly dragons.
It is therefore up to you to save the world.
And what a beautiful world it is. Hydeland drips with color and stunning exceptional character designs. Accompanied by a quality soundtrack that could have been lifted right out of “The Lord of the Rings,” “Dragon’s Crown” is a game that oozes quality.
The fundamentals of the game are very traditional; you fight through a side scrolling 2D level, through a series of monsters, to meet a boss at the end with a health bar that fills the screen. If the player is victorious in bludgeoning the creature to death, they are rewarded handsomely with treasure and experience points.
Yet even a multitude of side-quests, weapon upgrades and leveling-up don’t change this central facet that “Dragon’s Crown” is ultimately a repetitive game with nine levels that will be fought through multiple times on the gamer’s way to defeating the final boss.
Consequently, a player who plans to play single-player only may wish to think carefully before stumping up the cash. For it is through the multiplayer functionality where “Dragon’s Crown” comes into its own.
Although the grinding aspects are still present, “Dragon’s Crown” is a game meant to be played with multiple people. Although it can be played with computer controlled sidekicks, it isn’t the same. The title finds longevity from the experience of banding together with three other players to defeat the tougher bosses that arrive to replace the easier ones later in the game.
This questing aspect is aided by a minigame between levels in which you all cook food at a campfire to regain health and increase attributes (it’s more fun that it sounds), and a multiplier that increases the value of the treasure collected the more levels are played without returning to the base to replenish.
It is through these multiplayer and RPG aspects that “Dragon’s Crown” really finds its purpose, and will hook hardcore players. It means that casual players not prepared to grind through multiple playthroughs of the same level may find something lacking.
An aspect that takes the sheen off things is “Dragon Crown”’s presentation of women. Although both the men and the women have magnified attributes, whether it be ridiculously muscular arms or diving cleavages, the depiction of women is sexualized to the point of absurdity.
There has been much debate within the gaming community about whether the title is sexist, with Polygon reviewer Danielle Riendeau vocalizing the discontent felt by many gamers.
Sexist or not, the artistic excellence of the game is undoubtedly tarnished by a loading screen in which a helpless, half naked female character can be poked and prodded into squirming and cooing by players, or by a scene where an injured female warrior narrates instructions to the gamer with her legs spread as wide as the screen.
Ultimately “Dragon’s Crown” is a title that taps into a long history of side-scrolling beat-em-ups, throws in lavish presentation and RPG elements, and comes out with an excellent title. Casual gamers may find the repetition off-putting, and the lurid presentation of females will turn-off others. But hardcore gamers who can ignore these aspects will find a game that will sink its teeth in and won’t let go.
Rating – 8/10
Dragon’s Crown is available now for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. The Entertainment Software Rating board rating is T—Teen.