Sunday, May 22, 2016

Crimson Shroud and Convoluted Gameplay

Oh Crimson Shroud. Who knew such a tiny little game hidden as a downloadable on the 3DS could turn out to be such a tease? I bought it back in February 2014, simply because I had some cash over in my 3DS funds, it was cheap and seemed reasonably fun. It's taken me two years and five hours of gametime just to get through the second area of the game. Yet it says a lot of the gameplay that after all that time I still had the want to give it just one more try.

There have been more games than I dare to count throughout the years where I've gotten stuck somewhere and given up. Sometimes I give up forever, which usually isn't a decision I take straight away, but after having stared at the game icon on my desktop often enough without having any interest in playing it, it normally gets the boot. Equally often I do decide to give it another go, only to find that whatever had me stuck wasn't much of a problem at all and I go on my merry way.

The artstyle isn't the only thing that feels like Final Fantasy.

There are so many different ways you can get stuck in a game - a boss or area is too difficult, or you simply don't know what to do or where to go next. If it's simply a matter of not being able to figuring something out I might resort to a walkthrough or playthrough to push me along. If it's a tough area I often give it a set amount of tries or some grinding to try and get through. If that turns out not to be enough the game has to be very fun or compelling to have me put in that bit of extra effort needed of me to get further. Ys Origin was one of those games that failed to get that from me. Crimson Shroud it turns out did get it, eventually, eventhough what it asked of me was almost laughably harsh.

You know a game is pretty off the radar when it doesn't have its own Wikipedia page nor Gamefaqs walkthrough, but Crimson Shroud is such a game. It had gotten good reviews however, and I had quite fun with it when I started playing. The quirky aesthetics, it all looks like a tabletop RPG, definitely added to the charm and the gameplay was compelling eventhough it was a pretty by the numbers and scaled down RPG. The Classic Game Room review states it pretty well when they call it "a fifth of an RPG", because that is exactly what it feels like. For what little I've played however, it feels like it's drawn out the essence of what makes RPGs fun and run with it. I was a bit bummed therefor, when I hit what almost was a literal brick wall only a few hours into the game (it was in fact a door).

You'll get to see these a lot.

At what looks like the end of the second area is a room called the Gerseym Waterway in which you fight a handful of skeletons. They're pretty tricky the first couple of times you fight them, but this will soon change as you realize you're going to have to fight them for many, many more times, especially if you're unlucky like me. When I first got here and defeated the skeletons nothing happened. The door that lead to the next area didn't open and I had no idea why. So I started trecking around, I started revisiting every room I had been in so far (thankfully not too many) and I eventually returned to the room and fought the skeletons again. And again. After more than an hour of this and not being anywhere closer to a solution I decided I was clearly too stupid for whatever puzzle was keeping me from advancing, and looked it up on the internet.

Turns out you need a special item from the mage skeletons specifically, that also is a rare drop. Even after I read that I didn't give up however, but after yet another hour or so of fighting without having seen the drop I decided it was time to move on. And I didn't touch the game again for 1,5 year.

Until today, when I decided to give it another go. I was feeling lucky, or something, but I actually really wanted to continue the game. I started playing, and I fought the skeletons again, over and over. After several attempts I decided to refresh my memory on what needed to be done and turned to the almighty internet. This is when I discovered that there wasn't an easily found walkthrough of it anywhere, and only one pretty bad quality playthrough of it on Youtube. I had to scour forums to find the information I needed, and the information wasn't being very clear. Everyone seemed to agree that a certain item was needed, but some claimed that you needed to kill the skeletons in a certain order for it to appear. Then you needed to take this item to another certain room, use it to unlock a chest to get another item with which you could unlock the door. But the first item could also be used as a trinket, making it even unclearer that it was a crucial item for furthering your progress.

Apparently there are hints to this in the game. I can tell you they are pretty damn vague! And I definitely would've never ever in my wildest dreams have been able to figure this out on my own, and I doubt I would've even been able to randomly succeed just by trying long enough. It immediately made me think of Simon's Quest and its convoluted gameplay. Fortunately for Crimson Shroud, it was fun enough to make me want to go through the effort and it turns out today was indeed my lucky day, as the trinket dropped for me eventually. Now I can continue to play it, two years after I almost gave up on it. That is probably the longest I've had a game on standby, but at least now I can see if I can finish it and move on.

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