STAFF REVIEW of Crimson Dragon (Xbox One)

Thursday, December 5, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Crimson Dragon Box art Back in June at E3 2013 the world watched as the debacle unfolded for the presentation of Crimson Dragon. Those who rallied behind the classic Panzer Dragoon series were greeted with a glimmer of hope that a successor would be flying in on the next generation console; and bring forth some amazing rail based shooting aspects combined with stellar graphics, sound, and controls. Priced at $19.99 Crimson Dragon is far from a retail title, yet still provides a wealth of content, even if some of that content isn't the greatest. Brace yourself as we ride in our review of Crimson Dragon.

Humanity stands upon the edge of a knife as you enter the infamous Icarus Division on the planet Draco. Over the years a virus infestation has taken place called the Crimsonscale and it has infected every living being on the planet, including the dragons themselves. Your mission is to navigate throughout the various levels ahead and, like Darth Sidious said, "wipe them out. All of them." Killing everything on the screen is pretty much the summary of the entire story and while parts of it are entertaining, you will find that the story itself is very weak and often detracts from the game's overall quality. Originally Crimson Dragon was filled with potential to produce a storyline that enveloped the gamers as they took to the skies in their beasts, however after playing it, you will come to be annoyed that some parts of the story you cannot skip. It would actually be more entertaining to just do level select, go for rankings or medals and press on, instead of trudging through a lackluster story. It's unfortunate that right out of the gate Crimson Dragon takes a hit, but don't expect your game to get high marks for story content if you don't make the effort to write one.

For a fantastic on the rails shooting experience you need to have the gameplay to back it up, and sadly Crimson Dragon doesn't. The left and right bumpers are used for barrel rolls which will save your life if you time them right during an onslaught of incoming fire, but where you may avoid the fire you also may roll right into the side of a mountain. This wonderful sensation is brought to you by yet another clunky and muddled camera system. Fluidity is a characteristic that does not apply here as you will find yourself facing hordes of enemies from all directions and you will have to maneuver the targeting reticule around to lock in on your prey while trying to maintain a clear flight path with an unresponsive system.

To help add some stand out qualities to Crimson Dragon you will come across some areas that aren't on rails, but rather offer full 3D movement to explore the land. While this innovation seems on the surface to be a good thing, thanks to the clunky control setup, it's far from it. Losing your bearings will happen often, but when you take into account combat in this mode, you'll suffer a lot of unnecessary deaths. Originally designed to be a pure Kinect game, Crimson Dragon has opted to stick with the Xbox One controller, yet still offer some use for Kinect. Voice command navigation through the menus is a nice touch, but your controller can do that as well but not as quickly. You can also use Kinect to control your wingman, however, the voice commands you have to issue are rather lengthy and when you are in the heat of battle, controlling your wingman through voice becomes more of a chore than a benefit.

Not all is doom and gloom though for Crimson Dragon. The leveling system is fairly in depth and allows you to unlock, customize, and upgrade a wide variety of different flying dragons. Each of them offers different characteristics including elemental damage. This game however, is limited to only three types: lightning, wind and fire, and you must be careful on the making the right choice for the level ahead. Throughout the short levels you can come across new abilities that you can train your dragon in so also make sure you know what dragon you wish to upgrade and learn these new abilities. Even though this aspect of growing your own dragon is a nice addition, you will find that your starting dragon can become a world wrecking powerhouse from its early development.

Another innovation to Crimson Dragon is the ability to hire your own wingman. These do set you back a substantial amount and they are only available for use in a few missions before dissipating, but there increased damage and overall support is undeniable. These wingmen though are not just generic characters, but rather AI characters taken straight from the leaderboards. When you also factor in that a wingman can make up for a bad choice in elemental attacks, they almost become a must have.

Given that Crimson Dragon has released on the next generation of Xbox consoles, one would expect a dynamic improvement since the original Xbox days, and you would be right. Earlier on you read that this game does allow for full 3D exploration of only some levels, however, all the arenas you fly through are sensational when compared to the past Panzer Dragoon games. Even the flapping wings of the different dragons seem more realistic; however, the models of the dragons themselves do leave something to be desired. Given that we have seen phenomenal looking flying beasts on the Xbox 360, you find yourself asking the question "if they could do it on the Xbox 360, then why not at least match the quality on the Xbox One?". The graphics though are not the only thing enhanced in Crimson Dragon. The entire game boasts a driving electronic soundtrack that not only varies between levels and missions, but also will lead your heart to be pounding in your chest and your palms sweating intensely as you dodge, roll, climb, dive, and survive the impending attacks. Once you hit a boss battle though, you know it's on as your speakers start pumping and you fight for your very life.

While Crimson Dragon is priced at $19.99, if you are a fan of the Panzer Dragoon series, then you will find a multitude of content to keep you occupied and satisfied. Yes there are some serious issues that hold this title back, but overall the average execution may just make this game a guilty pleasure. One thing that would have been better would be if they allowed you to customize your dragon via SmartGlass, but hopefully that is a feature that is coming down the road. When you take into account other games available on other platforms, it goes without saying that there are worse games you could buy for $19.99 so why not pick up a better game for a better price?

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.5 / 10


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