Saturday, December 1

Review: Crimson Keep [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of things that was really cool this past year was to go to my first trade show at PAX East. While I’ve worked on amateur sites for quite some time getting to something like E3 on the West Coast simply wasn’t going to happen. Anyway, one interesting opportunity that comes with the territory with these shows is getting to see games earlier on in development. For the most part there’s good and there’s bad, but even when games struggle you count on them improving by the time they’re released. One game I got to check out that I’d hoped would come together better was Crimson Keep.

For an indication of my hesitation to say anything bad about it you’ll note in my PAX coverage it’s a game that I never mention. That’s because my impressions of it weren’t terribly good and I didn’t want to do any harm to it before release if there were going to be some improvements. Sadly, while some minor details may have somehow changed, the relatively unimpressive and janky game I played there is pretty much what’s hit the eShop.

Played as a first-person roguelike slasher, there’s no doubt the goal behind Crimson Keep was to create a fun and visceral experience. Instead it plays out remarkably blandly, with you trading blows with monsters and contending with janky controls from the action to even the way the menus work as you try to decide what upgrades to get with the experience you accumulate. True to roguelike form the layout of the dungeons and what gear you may stumble upon in your journey is random, though since you never see most of it you can only appreciate things as random and generally pretty weak stat modifiers you’ll struggle to feel any major effect from. Very quickly the monsters get repetitive and somewhat monotonous, you can sometimes get them to get themselves stuck between the wall and objects for laughs, and combat just ends up being a slog as you try to get in a shot, dart away to avoid a counter-attack, and repeat.

All in all there may be an audience of some sort for Crimson Keep since there’s nothing quite like it on the system. However, a lack of competition doesn’t excuse the shortcomings and ho-hum gameplay it ultimately offers either. It’s a game you can play for a bit, and perhaps get some enjoyment out of if you’re determined, but it’s ultimately just thoroughly unsatisfying and not much fun in any meaningful way.

Score: 4.5

  • There’s really no other game on Switch quite like it
  • Perhaps you can latch onto the combat and grind through just to test your patience and perseverance

  • On most levels it’s simply uninspired and dull
  • Gameplay is, for the most part, enormously repetitive
  • The controls and interfaces, in general, need work