Ever find yourself wishing you could play a tabletop RPG but don't have any friends? Here you go. Crimson Shroud is basically a tabletop RPG sans table. Considering that I've never played a tabletop RPG before and am only tangentially familiar with them from hearing my roommate play D&D over Google Hangouts, I didn't really know what to expect going into this game. Turns out it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.
The basic plot of Crimson Shroud involves your party - a generic warrior type, a plucky shooty bow guy, and a not-elf mage chick - and your romp through a ruined castle full of the undead. And minotaurs. There's like a whole damn herd of minotaurs in that damn place. Anyway, you were sent in by some earl to find some dead guy and some book, and you figure that you'll look for a mythical towel that may or may not actually exist. Along the way you discover that the dominant religious institution is full of shit, and your government is horribly corrupt. It's basically just like real life except with magic and zombies.
The gameplay, as I mentioned in the beginning, is pretty much straight tabletop RPG. You even have an omniscient narrator who acts like a dungeon master. When you get into a battle, most of your status and stat spells/attacks are dependent on a dice roll, as are things like lifting fog of war. It's kind of neat, but I kind of prefer that stuff be taken care of by automatic scripting since that's basically what happens anyway - not like you can very well cheese a dice roll with a 3DS. One huge gripe I have with the game with regards to this tabletop legacy is that your characters don't gain experience or stat increases whatsoever. Your stats are dependent solely on your equipment, and since there are no shops or anything, you better hope you find some good equipment. That didn't end up being a problem for me - I only ever lost an encounter once, and that was a boss battle that became much more manageable once I googled what approach other people took. It bugs me, though. If I'm playing an RPG, I expect to gain experience and level up. It just feels...unnatural...to have an RPG without experience points. I've always considered experience points to be an integral part of RPGs, at least when it comes to video games, so this game didn't really feel like an RPG to me aside from the fantasy setting any more than Advance Wars does.
My last grip with the game is one that everyone who's played it will complain about. There's one part in Chapter 2 where a necessary item for progression is a random drop from a certain enemy type, and it's neither a common drop nor a particularly common enemy. It took me about two hours - a full third of my entire playtime - just to get this one item so I could proceed. I complain about backtracking and necessary grinding as artificially padding length in other RPGs, but this just takes it to a whole new level. If you're going to make progress necessarily dependent on an item drop, at least make it a relatively easy to find item.
All in all, I wasn't impressed with Crimson Shroud. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagine, and the gameplay mechanics (aside from that fucking random drop) are solid, and the difficulty is well balanced. I just didn't like it. The campaign was extremely short (3 or 4 hours if you exclude the bullshit hunt for that item), the characters felt flat as pancakes, and the dungeon was extremely linear and left very little exploration to be done, although the overall narrative was excellent. I know a lot of folks really like Crimson Shroud, but it was just okay to me.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.