The story of Dragon's Crown is pretty standard fare. Youíre an adventurer who has come to Hydeland seeking for fame and fortune. Your first order of business is to sign up to the Adventurers Guild, and after lending a hand to a local warrior youíre accepted into the Guild. Once youíre a member of the guild you learn that the king and his retinue left in search of the Dragonís Crown some time ago and are now missing. Your next job is to search for the king and the Dragonís Crown, and with that our adventure is well and truly underway.
Your first order of business is to select a character. You have a rather standard set of RPG characters to choose from Ė a fighter, sorceress, wizard, dwarf, elf and amazon. Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses Ė the amazon and fighter are strong but have no magical prowess, while the sorceress and wizard are physically weak but pack a powerful magical punch. The dwarf has great strength and constitution (making him an ideal choice for new players), while the elf is a nimble archer with great dexterity. You canít edit your character beyond changing their name, the colour of their outfit and choosing whether they have an English or Japanese voice.
Itís worth noting that while the dwarf, amazon and fighter can go hammer and tong all day long, magic users must replenish their magic (by holding square) often, and the elf must pick up more arrows by killing enemies or finding them in treasure chests lest she run out. Neither character is completely defenceless at these times as they have secondary weapons, but they do require a bit more thought to use effectively.
In the field of battle special equipment, such as crossbows, bombs and flame-throwers can be taken from enemies or found in treasure chests. As youíd expect these weapons have limited uses, with the number remaining displayed above your character. Youíll also come across food, which, when picked up, is used automatically any time you stand still. Interestingly food can heal you up to 150% of your max HP, so youíll often run around with a lot more than your maximum health.
As you explore and do battle the right-analog stick can be used to point at objects in the background, much like in the recently-released Puppeteer. Sparkling areas throw out money (that has plenty of uses back in town) and valuables (which boost your score and experience) when pointed at. To unlock a treasure chest or door youíll need to point at it and press a button, which allows your partner Rannie to run in and open them for you.
At the end of each adventure you return to town. Any treasure you found while adventuring must be appraised before it can be equipped, or you can simply sell it straight away. Youíre given some information about the treasure Ė itís type, rank (E is worst, S is best) and level - so you can make an informed decision before appraising or selling.
If you donít want to play with NPCs you can play multiplayer Ė either locally or online. Playing locally makes sense, but you need to have two characters of similar strength because the game in no way caters for lower level players. Playing online is more viable, and you can either join a random party (there is no lobby to speak of in Dragonís Crown) or allow people to join your game.
Dragonís Crown is definitely more fun Ė NPCs lack much intelligence Ė especially if everyone knows what is going on, and how enemies, particularly bosses, behave. Itís not possible to communicate with your partners, which can make for awkward moments when theyíre determined to race ahead when youíd prefer to search out every valuable (and vice-versa) or click on every rune, but most players are considerate enough once they realize your preference. If not you can always leave them at the first opportunity with little harm done.
The structure of Dragonís Crown is both a strength, and a weakness. There are nine dungeons in the game and theyíre all quite short, taking around 10-15 minutes to complete at a steady pace, making them ideal for people without much time (Iím looking at you PS Vita players). After playing through the dungeons once, the enemy level in each dungeon is increased and you must play through them again, to both level up and to recover nine talismans.
The next biggest issue is the amount of busy work present. Individually the process of resurrecting or burying any bones you found, appraising all your treasure, equipping better gear, setting up multiple equipment sets (you get multiple layouts later in the game), and choosing new skills at the Adventurers Guild are short and sweet. Combined though, they take almost as long as the dungeons themselves, and it quickly becomes tedious.
It doesnít help that new skills donít radically redefine combat, or really make it that much more interesting. Your spells might be 10% stronger, or you might have one extra arrow in your special attack, but on balance itís just more of the same.
The visuals are one area where Dragonís Crown stands out from the crowd. The whole game runs at 1080p at it shows, with great detail on characters and enemies alike. Much of the backgrounds and interiors look like oil paintings, giving the game a feeling of a painting come to life. Spells effects look very nice, though I wish there was a bit more too them. In saying that though, things can get awfully busy when there are four players, five or six enemies and a spell or two on-screen at a time, so I should be careful what I wish for!
Itís important to preface my closing comments on Dragonís Crown by pointing out that it is also available on the PS Vita. This is important because it explains the bite-size levels that feel a little out of place on the PS3, but would likely be a perfect fit on the Vita. Dragonís Crown is a good-looking game, and itís got a lot of content (after beating it on Normal difficulty you unlock Hard, and after that you unlock Inferno) provided you donít mind repeating the same areas over and over.
In the end Dragonís Crown got repetitive too quickly for my taste, and the RPG elements outside of battle were jarringly dull. Still, thereís the core of a good game here so if you like the idea of a modern day Golden Axe and arenít put off by repetition Dragonís Crown is worth looking into.
Review By: Dave Warner