After a brief visit to my local game store, I found a game called The Cursed Crusade. The back cover promised an exhilarating adventure through The Crusades, local co-op, and action-rpg leveling up. Seeing as all of these aspects interested me, I decided to pick it up for $17.99. Once I got home, I casually looked over some information on the game online to find that it was met with horrible reviews. With this grim news in mind, I grit my teeth and placed the disc into my Xbox 360. Did the other critics judge this game correctly? I wouldn’t be so sure…
The Cursed Crusade follows the tale of Denz De Bayle and Esteban Noviembre. They are strangers who share the same curse, perpetually being hunted by Death. Both devout Christians, they join in The Crusade in an attempt to purify themselves. After joining, they find that The Crusade isn’t what it was meant to be and that their means to escaping the curse may lie in ancient relics of the Crucifixion. This begins an adventure across several nations, during which the two characters battle demons, others who share the curse, and attempt to reach Denz’s father. While the plot may not have been the best, you can certainly tell that the developers put a helluva lot of effort into it. Easily half of this game is comprised of cutscenes, flushing out the story completely. While the story may not suck you in completely, it does satisfy your curiosity as to why you’re slaughtering hundreds of people in each level. Point of interest: The ending is pretty shitty. It was a perfectly enjoyable story, up to the last cutscene. We’re not talking Mass Effect 3-level shit, but it doesn’t wrap anything up in the plot. Thought I should warn you.
The gameplay is a pretty standard combination of hack-and-slash and spellcasting, but that isn’t what makes the combat interesting. What makes it interesting is the many different weapon combinations and the unlockable combos that accompany them. There are 16 different weapon combinations, each with its own tree of unlockable skills. After beating each level, you earn an amount of skill points that are put into your weapon combination lists. Between all of the different weapons and combos, you end up having hundreds of unique attacks. Also, at the end of each level you get a point to level up your character’s basic attributes, such as: Strength, Armor, Curse Strength, etc. The Cursed Crusade may not add much to the hack-and-slash genre, it certainly sets itself apart from the competition.
For being a budget game, The Cursed Crusade looks surprisingly decent. Sure, it isn’t going to crash your Xbox like Crysis or Skyrim, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you turn on this game. The cutscenes are smooth and polished, but the in-game visuals fall a bit flat. The character models are stiff, displaying little emotion. Also, there are plenty of clipping issues. The soundtrack is a hum-drum collection of stock music from every medieval game you’ve played. It plays well with the epic feeling of the game, but contributes nothing significant.
Unfortunately, there are a few big flaws that I could easily see turning some people off. The most glaring of these is the camera. For most of the game, it is a standard third-person camera angle, but it randomly switches into horrible fixed-angle shots. Whenever the game deems it so, you’ll be thrown for a loop trying to figure out where your character has been relocated to. Not only does it bother your perspective of the game, but it can also get your character into a strange limbo mode. When the camera quickly switches, the controls for your character can get stuck in the previous camera’s set-up. Forward becomes strafing, turning can be reversed, and your combat efficiency is nullified. This issue isn’t constantly happening, but it happens frequently enough to make it difficult to ignore.
Another major flaw of The Cursed Crusade is that it is repetitive. The massive amount of customization for the weapon combinations certainly helps keep things fresh, but you inevitably become bored with the gameplay. No matter the mission, you’ll constantly be running from one place to the next, killing guys along the way and burning doors. Also, the voice acting is dreadful. Denz sounds like Captain America on 3 Valium, while Esteban sounds like the quintessential racist stereotype of a Spaniard. The supporting characters aren’t too terribly voiced, but their acceptable performances are dwarfed by the constant banter between the two protagonists. It wavers between, “Hilariously Bad” and, “Bad-And-Not-Funny-At-All”.
The achievement list in The Cursed Crusade is a dream. Now, I hate collectible achievements. I despise every aspect of having to collect shitty trinkets in order to complete a game. But, this game forced me to lighten my view on it. There are plenty of collectibles in The Cursed Crusade, but there are only 8-10 in each mission. The achievements tied to the collectibles are easily attained with a guide. Other than those achievements, most of the others are plot based or tied to mastering the weapon combinations. I net 41/42 achievements in my first playthrough with a collectible guide. This brings me many smiles and Achievement Hounds know what I’m talking about.
Despite all of its mistakes, I finished The Cursed Crusade with a smile. It has its flaws, but I still enjoyed the time I spent playing it. It’s a cheap, enjoyable, and easy co-op game. To be honest, I’m not entirely certain why this game received so much hate from all of the critics. Then again, maybe those other critics payed full price for The Cursed Crusade…I may have felt a little more jipped, too. If you’re looking for a couch co-op game on the cheap, I can’t suggest The Cursed Crusade enough.
If cheap co-op is your name, The Cursed Crusade is your game. Worth it.
By Blake Edwards