Certain Affinity has had a hand in creating everything from Call of Duty: Black Ops to Left 4 Dead, and they've helped in the development of some of the biggest games out there. They also put together the Halo: Reach Defiant Map Pack, which was the handing-off point from Bungie to 343 Industries. They also developed the extremely addictive, pirate-based, real-time strategy multiplayer title Age of Booty.
Now, they're returning to the original IP well by introducing Crimson Alliance, an exclusive Xbox 360 downloadable title coming this Summer 2011 on Xbox Live. It's a three-player, dungeon crawler that brings some unique abilities to the world of fantasy, and provides all of the loot-whoring you could possibly desire. We recently visited their offices in Austin, Texas to get an exclusive hands-on preview of the game, so read on to enter the Crimson.
At it's heart, Crimson Alliance is an action-RPG, and that stems from the fact that Certain Affinity loves both shooters and RPGs. This is the first time they've had a chance to work in the RPG space, so they're putting a lot of effort into the game, and it looks very different than Age of Booty, their last solo effort. They've also made an effort to make the game not Torchlight, because nobody wants to be an also-ran. The good news is that it's definitely not Torchlight, and as much as I love that property, the Xbox version didn't give me everything I wanted in a console dungeon-crawling fantasy game.
I jumped into the game with Certain Affinity's Tim Fields, and I selected a Mercenary, while he chose the Wizard, with the third character option being an enormous tank of a Warrior. You can play up to four players co-op, either on the same box (sharing the screen) or via online. That's a definite plus because you're going to need a lot of help from your friends as you fight your way through the levels, or you can meet up in challenge maps that let you approach co-op challenges that will utilize your specced out characters later on.
Exploring through the first level, I was smashing open every possible container in sight and looking for money and health, while battling with lower level baddies. You'll encounter the standards like explosive barrels and the like, and it's all rendered in a fun, near-cartoonish art style reminiscent of Torchlight. But that's about where the similarities end. Crimson Alliance quickly ramps up and brings the action to you very quickly.
While the game is a hack and slasher at heart, if you're playing with the Mercenary or the Warrior solo, you'll be very thankful when someone playing as a Wizard joins up and adds ranged combat to your party. You can also pick up several special "skills" throughout the game that get mapped to your d-pad, and those are basically equippable items for each character. The Mercenary, for instance, can drop a turret that automatically fires bolts at enemies, and so on.
The game features a combo meter that builds up as you battle without taking hits, and that gives you a multiplier on your score. There's also an "Ultimate Power" for each class, which has to be acquired in the game. That power will fill up over time, and the more full the meter is, the more impressive the power will be when you unleash it. Health will regenerate very slowly over time, but you'll definitely want to find and keep health potions handy whenever possible.
You'll encounter vendors from time to time that will buy and sell items, but items aren't cheap, so you'll need to pick up gold whenever you can. They're also adding in the ability to buy more gold in-game via Microsoft Points, and it'll be interesting to see how users respond to that. You'll also find class-specific chests that will give you better weapons and items, like shields for your Mercenary. Each class also has a quick movement button, which is a dash for the Mercenary and teleport for the Wizard. Destructible environments also populate the levels, providing some visual awesomeness to your battles. Certain doors can only be opened by certain classes as well, so you'll definitely want a mix with you.
Tim zapped us into some higher level content, and it was miles above the earlier levels in terms of difficulty. In fact, it was so much harder that I kept dying, while Tim had to revive me. Surely that's a glitch, right? Because everyone know how much I rule at dungeon crawling. And by rule, I mean I need a lot of first aid. More practice is definitely required. From ice that freezes you, to smart enemies that use cover, there's a lot of learning yet to come in this game.
While the canted view and the bright, animated visuals might look somewhat familiar, Crimson Alliance is extremely impressive, and with four-player co-op, and classic dungeon crawling, it looks like it will be one of the XBLA Summer titles to beat.
Crimson Alliance will be available exclusively on the Xbox 360 through Xbox Live this summer.