Hacking, slashing, and microtransactions converge in this Xbox Live Arcade Diablo clone.

Crimson Alliance is a multiplayer overhead hack and slash RPG in the same vein as Diablo, Torchlight, or Gauntlet. You have your choice of three classes, the mercenary, wizard, and assassin. Your character can purchase or obtain equipment that improves their abilities or adds special effects to their attacks. While listed as a "free" download, you're actually downloading a demo that requires a purchase of 800 MS points per unlockable class or 1200 MS points to unlock all 3 classes. You can also spend MS points to obtain in game gold, which the game pressures you to do in various ways.

You'll progress through each stage mowing down waves of baddies. Stages are not randomly generated, so you'll face the same map and opponents every time. Stage layouts are very linear with only a few small diversions into secret areas. Every secret area can be found by thoroughly exploring the surrounds and destroying any breakable objects. Explosive barrels and destructible objects are scattered around to liven things up. Sometimes you'll run across puzzles that almost always require 2 players to solve. Enemy variety is decent, but I found the lack of bosses to be disappointing. It's mostly waves of trash with a few mid-boss types thrown in. It's fairly mindless fun if you're with a group of friends and want to relax and slay some monsters. The campaign will take 5-7 hours on average, including optional challenge maps.

The goal of each stage is to get a high score. Players are rated on killing enemies while not taking any damage, killing multiple enemies in rapid succession, secret areas discovered, and time taken. If the player meets certain pre-defined scoring goals on a stage they are awarded with medals. The scoring system is slightly slanted towards multiplayer due to the fact that multiple players can obtain multi-kill bonuses faster and more easily than a solo player. On the other hand a poorly performing ally that gets hit frequently will lower the combo multiplier and ruin a scoring run. Checkpoints are frequent early on but start to get a little rarer by the end of the game.

Each class has a few default abilities with no potential to learn more. All classes also have access to a few items such as monster bait or deployable turrets. Unfortunately that leaves Crimson Alliance as a fairly simple game that can quickly fall into repetition and button mashing. While there are strategies to figure out, they are all fairly simple.

Not all classes are made equal, of course. In solo play the wizard tends to be the best. His blink has no cool down, can pass through some objects and enemies, and has loads of invincibility frames. In fact the wizard remains completely invincible while chaining blinks. His fireball has long range which is perfect for blink kiting, and he can fire while blocking at the same time. The mercenary isn't quite as good, being a standard sword and shield class, but can hold his own on the leaderboards thanks to some late game equipment that gives his attacks powerful special effects. In multiplayer, combinations of wizards and mercenaries tend to do best. The assassin is fairly weak and isn't frequently spotted near the top of the leaderboards.

There are 5 difficulty modes which alter enemy HP and damage. The higher difficulties award more high score points and gold as well. With that in mind, Crimson Alliance is designed to place pressure on the player to buy in game gold to purchase items with. With very few exceptions, the gear you find during missions is inferior to nearby merchant items. You normally earn gold at a glacial pace. It can take dozens of runs to afford some of the late game items that cost 75-79k gold. Treasure chests exist in every merchant store prompting you to spend MS points for 40k gold, which isn't even enough to buy one expensive late game item.

Gold or platinum medals are nearly impossible to get on Normal or Hard, so you'll need better gear to handle the more difficult modes and earn medals and high scores. To drive the point home, even great performances on normal mode will almost always result in a silver or bronze medal and your in game character making disapproving motions towards you.

The punchline is that once you've paid the developers for in game gold (or spent hours grinding missions) and boosted your stats with merchant items, the hardest mode doesn't feel any more difficult than normal mode, so you are essentially paying money for the right to earn high scores or achievements that are more or less impossible to obtain on the "easier" modes. While it's possible to take on early missions on the hardest difficulty in poor quality gear, it's very repetitive and boring kiting and/or stunning enemies that literally take minutes to kill, and of course one or two mistakes will result in death. It's either grind for gold or pay up. This does not portend well for whatever DLC the developers have planned for the game.

Crimson Alliance looks good with a nice physics engine that can send destructible objects and enemy corpses flying. Sound effects are well done but tend to get repetitive after you've slain the same group of enemies for the umpteenth time. The music is unintrusive and not particularly noteworthy. It changes depending on whether you're in combat or not, but you generally won't take notice of it.

Crimson Alliance is a decent hack and slash game with a few questionable marketing tactics. It's a fun romp with friends as long as you aren't too concerned with high scores or achievements.

  • Mindless hack and slash fun with a few friends
  • Good scoring system assuming you have the gear for harder modes
  • Nice variety of environments and enemies
  • Good looking and well animated game
  • Simple combat that can devolve into button mashing
  • Too much emphasis on obtaining gold
  • Class imbalances
  • Too few bosses
Quote:"Crimson Alliance is a decent hack and slash game with a few questionable marketing tactics."
Reviewed by Matthew Emirzian | 09.20.11

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Crimson Alliance

Xbox Live

Certian Affinity

Action RPG

US Release
September '11


Xbox Live Arcade

Players 1-4
Co-op 2-4
D/L Content
0 MS Points
972.28 MB