Dragon’s Crown: A Grand Adventure, But Grander Online

By Kris . August 1, 2013 . 1:38am

The first time I beat Dragon’s Crown, I beat it without going online. This was a mistake.

 

That’s not to say that it’s a bad game offline, quite the contrary. Playing offline gives you a chance to acclimate to the game’s 9 stages (with two routes through each and numerous hidden doors and secrets). In fact, the game demands that you go through each stage’s first, easier route before it even allows you to go online.

 

When I first started Dragon’s Crown, I decided to start with the Fighter. The Fighter is very direct. He’s got one combo on the ground and a lengthy sword-spinning attack in the air, but aside from that he’s mostly like everyone else:  launcher, slide kick, running attack. This is changed up a bit when you stab your sword into the ground with circle, sending out a shockwave that hits everything in the immediate vicinity and switching to hand-to-hand combat. The Fighter’s fist-fighting, however, is similar enough to sword-based combat that you’ll hardly need any time to adjust.  He’s also the only character with a shield, somewhat awkwardly activated by holding square instead of tapping it.

 

At first, I was a bit worried by how limited his moveset seemed. He felt almost too basic, like I was playing a brawler from the early ‘90s instead of one from 2013. However, as I played through the opening few missions, I’d both level up and unlock side quests that asked me to return to areas I’d cleared. In typical RPG fashion, every time I leveled up, I’d get a skill point that I could funnel into either generic (i.e. extra storage or gold takes on healing properties)  or Fighter-specific (enemy-stunning shield bash possible after blocking an attack or extended attack patterns) skills. Leveling up alone still didn’t give me a whole lot of options. The side quests, on the other hand, did. Depending on the level of quest difficulty, I could get multiple skill points, and redoing certain stages might have me level up in the process.

 

Before I knew it, I had crafted a Fighter that fit my attack-heavy playstyle and started tweaking the way I played to better match the abilities that I could upgrade. I funneled points into stronger attacks and the chance to auto-block attacks so I could basically constantly stay in harm’s way and survive, but I also began using the shield bash against enemies that outleveled or overwhelmed me so I could start a combo against them when they were stunned. This gradual evolution of my playstyle allowed me to survive against some of the later, tougher bosses when my AI compatriots were being less than helpful.

 

On your travels, you’ll find the bones of various wanderers who have supposedly died mid-adventure. Pick them up and you can pay a small fee at the church to revive them when you get back to town. They’ll wait for you in the town bar and you can recruit them to go with you on their adventures. While this is handy at first, the further you play, the less helpful AI becomes. I basically only was able to beat the last boss on the standard difficulty because my teammates acted as distractions for it as I attacked, getting torn to shreds and hardly getting out of the way of the boss’s screen-spanning attacks. Add to that the fact that you have to reselect your teammates (and resurrect new ones) every time you return to town (whether it’s after a successful quest or a crushing defeat) and dealing with AI gets a bit tiring after a while. It’s easier just to select the option to have AI compatriots drop by in the middle of an adventure, even if that doesn’t necessarily let you build the party you want and might leave you in the lurch before a boss.

 

Despite my complaints about the AI and my initial trepidation toward the Fighter, I had a great time with Dragon’s Crown. There’s a sense of storybook adventure to it that I haven’t seen in many other games. From the narrator who describes your adventure and will occasionally provide a few hints for your exploration or combat (shouldering the majority of the game’s voice work in the process), to the gorgeous backgrounds that are given a bit of history and personality through the various side quests’ flavor text, to the way that each stage has secrets that can be revealed and hidden paths that can be unlocked by “clicking” parts of the stage with the right analog stick or the touch screen, there’s something about the game that feels a lot more alive than most other 2D sidescrollers tend to feel.

 

All of that is mixed together with little nods to other games, Disney (you talk to a mouse named Rickey who’s a magician’s apprentice), movies, and even works of art. It feels more personal than a lot of other games, like you’re having a chat with the people who made Dragon’s Crown as you play through it. It’s like you’re a kid again and one of your parents is telling you a story but they’re putting on voices and embellishing things in ways that only they’d do.

 

After I’d beaten the game, I figured I’d be able to pick another character and just hop right online with them. I chose the Amazon and was excited to play through the game online with her until I realized that I couldn’t. I needed to go through the first run of stages again. I shared item stocks with my Fighter, but nothing else. I needed to earn my online play for each character, and at first I was a bit disappointed by that.

 

After playing through a couple of stages offline with the Amazon (whose aggression-rewarding berserk modes fit my playstyle even better than the Fighter did), I decided to switch back to my Fighter and try hard mode. Despite the fact that he was level 30, the first route of the first mission seemed to have me completely outmatched, with the boss outleveling me by 10 levels. I figured I’d give online play a try instead of taking those chances with only the AI on my side.

 

As soon as I stepped online, I realized why you need to earn the right to do so with each character. Multiplayer is madness in comparison to single player. Instead of shepherding your AI around and hoping they do the right thing, you’re working on keeping up with the rest of the team. To be an asset you need to know your character back to front. All of a sudden, I was very grateful to have had 15 hours of experience under my belt as the Fighter. I’d gradually developed him into a killing machine. I could defeat most standard enemies off of a single wall bounce (which handily, I could start by running up to an enemy and shoulder-ramming them), stay in the air for obscene amounts of time by abusing aerial launchers and air tackles, and I had some basic strategies for surviving each boss… but everyone else knew their characters just as well (if not better) than I knew mine.

 

A single skirmish online might have Sorceresses flying through the air and reanimating skeleton knights, wizards bringing down the game’s frame rate (at least on Vita) with screen-covering tornadoes and blizzards while teleporting all over the place, and Dwarves tossing enemies all over the screen like professional wrestlers. Even with the additional bit of slowdown online, everything seems faster and more chaotic. I didn’t even notice that the damage numbers that popped out of enemies were color coded until I started trying to keep track of where exactly I was in the explosions of particles and numbers. It was frantic, but also joyous. Everyone was playing the game as it was meant to be played.

 

Once you’ve unlocked online play, you also gain the ability to keep playing another quest immediately after finishing one with a bonus to your spoils, experience, or score (which, in proper arcade fashion, grants you an “extend” or extra life if you get beyond a certain value). Offline, I was always too battered by the end of a mission to have any desire to play another one immediately afterwards. I’d need to repair my equipment or grab myself some new AI after my current set was slaughtered, so I didn’t really see the point. However, online, it’s fun to be able to continue the adventure with your current set of people and reap the rewards for sticking together. My first time playing online had me play two quests back-to-back and resulted in my gaining three levels. This is clearly the right way to play Dragon’s Crown. I’m just disappointed that getting started on multiplayer took me this long.

 

Food for Thought:

1. Most of the people I played online with were Japanese players who had their Vita mics turned off (as I did). However, the ingame cursor (which you use to click on things) served as a handy means for expressing joy or annoyance.

 

2. I played entirely on Vita, and while the game looks great (as you can see from the screenshots), as I mentioned earlier, there are noticeable framerate drops when there’s a lot going on.

 

3. Definitely try everyone before you decide on your character to play through the game with. I’m currently happy with my Fighter, but still kind of wish I chose the Amazon first.

 

4. I like that there are multiple ways to defeat bosses on the B route, but don’t like the fact that they’re effectively time limits that don’t provide you with the rewards you’d get for properly beating them. These usually look really cool though.


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  • Go2hell66

    No doubt in my mind this will be one of the greatest games i play this gen :)

    just a shame you have play through all the stages offline 1st, would have been great to jump straight into the online action

    • Landale

      It would be great, in the beginning perhaps. But later on down the line ending up with someone who’s completely clueless, especially if communication may be difficult, would likely end up being more aggravating than playing with bad AI.

      • http://www.unit03.net blackraen

        I like the idea of having to play the stage at least once offline. This means that not only do you know what’s generally going on but you’ve completed the primary quest you are eligible for the secondaries.

        This also means that the game designers can tell their story. Random matching online play for your initial playthrough would dilute the experience as you would have a harder time noticing the environments, as well as feel rushed when presented with story components, not to mention interruptions, etc.

        That said, it seems to me like the “per character” requirement is a little steep. I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a patch soon to make it so completing a stage on any character unlocks it for all classes.

  • XypherCode

    Awesome! :))

  • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

    I might have missed it, but what exactly is the difference between route A and B? Just the time limit, or do the paths actually change as does story or whatever?

    • plmko

      Route A and B are completely different paths with different stories, bosses and loot. Route A is what you’ll be going through as ‘training’ and route B is where the meat is. However it is worth backtracking through route A, as there are many secrets you can only get later.

      • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

        Woah, that’s very neat! Thanks for clearing things up~

  • SpecDotSign

    I’m almost certainly all in on the Amazon. Never cared much for mages. The Elf’s play style has garnered my attention though.

    • TheExile285

      Damn, it seems like Amazon is the new Elf, lol.

      I’ll be starting with Amazon as well.

    • http://epiclyamazing.wordpress.com/ AzureNova

      Amazon all the way for me as well.

      • TheExile285

        Good choice! Same for me!

    • miyamoto

      Yup straight up Amazon Tyris Flare Kindle Fire for me.

  • FitzpatrickPhillips

    Oh man. I didn’t really plan to play this online

    • Federico Astica

      Me too. Dissapointed that apparently this game has crapy AI. I’ll stick with Muramasa Rebirth.

  • Lexaus_the_Alchemist

    Sounds like online is definitely the place to be after you’ve at least unlocked it. But having to do it for each character is a bit overkill. Oh well.

    Man, 6 more days to go… Geez this wait is becoming annoying …

  • z_merquise

    Beat-em-ups like Dragon’s Crown is more fun in multiplayer. Luckily, my brother is also interested in this game so I look forward to play with someone for co-op. Just like the old times.

    I’m just hoping my internet connection is good enough to play with someone online.

    To Kris:
    Have you tried playing co-op offline in PS3?

    I want to know if other players (P2, P3 and P4) can create their own characters that anyone can use or use existing ones created by Player 1. Or is it like in Scott Pilgrim game where every player have their own set of characters to build-up and cannot be used by other players?

  • The Watcher

    Too bad you have to unlock MP first by beating the game by yourself. lame

    • Wappuli

      Only online co-op needs to be unlocked, and it’s ~half of the game(A-path of all stages), not the whole game.

    • Federico Astica

      Just like sex. You start alone and then you go multiplayer.

  • TheExile285

    Thanks for the Playtest Kris. Have you gotten a chance to mess around with PvP at all?

    • Linhua

      … hold on here… I think I missed this… there is PvP in this game…?

      • http://denshoni.tumblr.com/ Denshoni

        After you complete the game on normal the PvP area unlocks.

        • Linhua

          … i’m ASSUMING that it only takes one run to get this and have access to EVERY character rather than having to complete the game with EVERY character… >.>…

          … if you have to have beaten the game with every character in order to have them all available in PvP… that would be… TERRIBLE .-.

          • Edwin Karat

            The article claims you have to unlock each character separately. All that is shared is the item pool.

          • Linhua

            … that’s assuming PvP is the same as the Multiplayer Co-Op… which it should be… and that would be a damn shame too… =

          • http://denshoni.tumblr.com/ Denshoni

            Yes, you have to complete the game with each character to unlock PvP for that character.

            Also, playing local the main story progress is only saved for the character being used by first player. Played local with friends to around LVL20. When we decided to swap our LVL20 characters around among us to try them out, we had to start over right after the tutorial.

          • Linhua

            … I see… so you’ve imported, yes…?

            … and no luck locally either… well now… = … this is all very terrible news… however, you have my thanks for clearing this up.

      • TheExile285

        Yep, none of the reviewers have mentioned it though which is a shame.

        • Linhua

          … it’s a DAMN shame .-. You’d think something like this would play a critical part in a review given that it may very well be the deal maker/breaker at the end of all the other good and bad news.

          … Human competition is pretty big for me… so knowing that it’s there makes me feel a little better about having already purchased it…

          … but I would have REALLY liked to know what I was getting into… =

  • Sim

    its easier to get the 9 talismans online and i highly recommend doing so, try beating the red dragon and wraith with crappy AI LOL

  • Andrew H.

    So many awesome games this month! Dragon’s Crown, FFXIV: ARR and Xillia.. I will most likely get/have time for DC before 14 releases. Then maybe get xillia a few months down the road.

    And also a nice write up. What did you think about the art style?

  • https://twitter.com/Panda_castro Panda

    Sounds like I’m gonna have a good time. Can’t wait!

  • Kevin Schwarz

    I’ll stick with the Elf, seems way more strategic, and that’s my play. Nice opinion from this article, now to make my own opinion of it in a week when it comes out.

    • deadMastershiro

      I know what you mean elf is AWESOME!

  • ShadowDivz

    Kris you should have mentioend the DLC which changes the narrator to one of the characters.
    I hope the sorceress has a sexy voice and the elf has a cute one.
    I look forward to playing this game.

  • Linhua

    … the Elf has always been my choice… but the Amazon has been creeping up on my radar as of late.

    … New Elf indeed… lol.

  • Eric Harris

    Wizard

  • Christopher Nunes

    I’ve been interested in getting this game but I can’t as I have too much on my plate as it is but I’m willing to get it as it sounds like a lot of fun! Surprised by the online requirement as it seems like you have to unlock the stage first offline to play online.

    So far I’m interest in playing as the Elf cause I like the sound of their playstyle as I might give it a go if I get the game.

    Great article Kris, this made me want to get the game more than.

  • Letiumtide

    Is local co-op available from the beginning?

    • Belenger

      Yes, but just PS3, local co-op unexistant on VITa, you need to pass the minimum dungeon requirement to unlock online multiplayer.

      • Letiumtide

        Thanks, PS3 is really the only one I care about.

  • ZekeFreek

    Probably start with the Elf.

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