The Cursed Crusade is one of the most poorly made action games this generation. Its sloppy combat, an inordinate amount of cutscenes, groan-worthy script, and invisible walls make it a chore to play. With practically no redeeming qualities whatsoever, this holy war doesn't deserve redemption.
- Cutscenes can be skipped
- Terrible controls
- Little depth
- Lobotomized AI
- Everything else
The Cursed Crusade Review:
The Cursed Crusade is one of the most fitting titles ever conceived. Ostensibly it explains the setting, time period, and supernatural elements your heroes encounter while slaughtering various armies through late 12th century Europe. Though mostly the title refers to the arduous process of actually playing the game.
At its core, The Cursed Crusade is a co-op third-person hack-and-slash affair set during one of Western civ's most violent times. You play as Denz De Bayle, a young soldier in search of his father, while your co-op (or AI) partner Esteban is a roguish Spaniard who plays Sancho to Denz's Don Quixote. It's a sound premise rife with potential for some exceptionally violent bloodletting, but unfortunately The Cursed Crusade fails on nearly every conceivable level.
First off, roughly half the game is cutscenes. That's not cheeky exaggeration, but cold, hard fact. Most of its 36 levels start and end with several minute long cutscenes (with even more spread throughout), yet gameplay lasts less than 10 minutes.
This would be almost acceptable if the cinematics were well directed, smartly written, and competently acted. They're not. The lip-syncing recalls the kind of bad kung-fu dubbing parodied in Wayne's World 2, the plot is needlessly convoluted with interminable narration rushing through exposition, and the pitiful script doesn't understand the concept of "show, don't tell." To make matters worse, the writers don't seem to know that there's a difference between Spain and Mexico and Esteban is a poor Mexican stereotype fond of casually calling Denz "hombre." I'm no linguist, but I'm pretty sure Spaniards didn't talk like that in the middle ages. The only good thing I can say about the cutscenes is that you can skip them.
Hell hath frozen over!
When the reigns are finally handed off to you things don't fair much better. There's little to do but thwack your way through hordes of soldiers, which wouldn't be so bad if the combat wasn't a complete mess. Controls are simultaneously sluggish and slippery making it feel like you're controlling an elephant on ice. While there are guard-breakers and parries, there's no dodge maneuver so good luck if you get surrounded by numerous foes.
There are plenty of options to mix and match weapons with a dozen plus moves for every combination, but I couldn't decipher the advantages of any one combo over another when simple button mashing did the trick. Your weapons are constantly breaking and while you can acquire new ones from downed enemies, they're hard to spot, disappear after a few seconds, and the context sensitive prompts to pick them up are too finicky to deal with in the heat of battle. Even when you're hitting enemies, the blows usually clink off their armor, which is far from satisfying. The brutal finishing moves consist of decapitations, impaling, and severing limbs, which might be impressive if the spotty collision detection didn't resemble children mimicking pro-wrestling with attacks that land several inches from their targets.
Level design is confusing too, which is surprising given that all you're doing is going through linear corridors fighting the same drones. You're frequently halted by invisible walls blocking off areas that look like you should be able to traverse. Sometimes it's because your characters refuse to wade through a foot deep fountain, other times it's because they won't step over a three inch curb, and often it's for no reason at all other than there's still an enemy stuck behind some scenery that must be alleviated first.
The AI is equally atrocious for Esteban in single player. It's so brain dead that he'll frequently run in place against pillars or enemies when he has more important tasks at hand like using his "legendary strength" to help open a door, or revive you when you're down.
Even the game's core gimmick of using your curse to enter a fire-shrouded netherworld at the touch of a button is underutilized. This makes you more powerful, but you'll still be going through the same environments fighting the same enemies, only with an ugly texture swap. Staying in this world too long drains your health, but the meter that dictates how much time you have is a dark red set against generic fiery environments, making it almost impossible to decipher.
The unholiest of crusades
I'd like to say something nice about The Cursed Crusade, but try as I might, I just can't. From the shoddy graphics, to the incompetent AI, to the broken, repetitive combat with utterly appalling controls, there's virtually nothing to recommend about this abysmal excuse for a game. That it was released in this state -- even as a budget title -- is shocking. The Cursed Crusade conveys the horrors of its medieval holy war, but not for the right reasons.