The Cursed Crusade is set during the Fourth Crusade and stars two crusaders named Denz and Esteban, who are in bad straights. Due to family issues, they're both inflicted with a mysterious supernatural curse, which grants them great power but also great burdens. When you're in the middle of a crusade, that's kind of an issue. The two are trying to figure out a way to rid themselves of the curse before it devours them entirely. It's a straightforward story, but one can expect a number of twists and turns along the way.
The Cursed Crusade is an action-adventure title, almost akin to a beat-'em-up. You pick one of the two crusaders and fight your way through massive swarms of medieval enemies. The combat is reasonably simple in that you have some kind of medieval melee weapon, ranging from great swords to maces, and you use it to beat the ever-loving crap out of your foes. Combos are easy to pull off, and one of the intended goals is for the game to not take more than a few minutes to get accustomed to it. The game is designed with co-op play in mind, and it really shows. Two characters working together make it easier to defeat opponents. One can distract an enemy and another can sneak up behind the foe and stab him while he's distracted. Of course, this only works if you're not being overwhelmed by enemies, so you can't always gang up on foes.
In a way, The Cursed Crusade is almost like a shooter. Instead of having predefined weapons, you basically scavenge weapons from your fallen foes. You can hold up to two weapons simultaneously, but the difference is that you're using swords and maces instead of guns. Each weapon has its own set of moves and abilities. You can pick up a sword and shield for greater defense, or a mace for greater damage in exchange for slower speed. You can even choose to dual-wield weapons to add new move combinations. However, your weapons are breakable, so you must balance out your killing capabilities with your weapon usage. Dual-wielding makes you a lot deadlier, but it also means that you're using up both of your weapons at once. If your weapon breaks, you may find yourself unarmed against a deadly foe.
You have one unbreakable weapon: the crossbow. Both characters have a crossbow that they can pull out at any time. As you can imagine, said bow is pretty worthless in melee combat, but it can be pretty handy in co-op. The bow controls are your traditional third-person shooter controls, and some might even find them more comfortable than the melee controls because they're familiar. You can use the crossbow to snipe from a distance, aiming at either enemies or breakable objects, and there are some puzzles in the game that require the crossbow to solve.
The mysterious curse grants special powers to the main characters. At any time, they can enter a "cursed" state, which turns the world into a burning hellish landscape and grants them special abilities. They become faster and stronger and eventually gain more overt supernatural powers, such as the ability to set their opponent aflame. The cursed state allows the heroes to see supernatural beings that they normally shouldn't. It's a glimpse into another world that can be very dangerous. On top of that, the curse state slowly drains away their health. The more you use it, the more health you lose. One interesting thing is that it has no outward visual representation, so while the unlucky character sees the world around them turn to hell, everyone else, including his co-op partner, just sees the character become faster and more powerful.
Death in The Cursed Crusade isn't exactly straightforward. When one of the Crusaders goes down, he's instantly pulled into the cursed state, and death begins. The hero can attempt to fight it off for as long as he can, but he will eventually succumb unless his pal can revive him. As long as one of the two heroes is standing, he can dart over and save his ailing friend. It feels very Resident Evil 5-like in that regard. You can be revived, but that only applies if your partner hasn't also already been taken down.
A lot of details are still up in the air, but some aspects of it can be confirmed. There will be a leveling system that allows you to learn new moves. Some moves for your melee weapons, such as brutal new finishing moves to kill enemies in various ways, or extended combos so you can kill enemies faster. Others are new curse powers, which further boost the effectiveness of your supernatural abilities. Regardless of what you get, leveling is going to be useful. Finishing moves — and moves in general — are somewhat dependent on the weapon you're using. Using two swords tends to make you a whirling dervish of pain and misery, quickly and brutally dispatching your foes with rapid thrusts. Two maces, on the other hand, are slow but almost cruelly methodical, allowing you to crush enemies and their armor in a single swing. Where it gets interesting is when you open up more weapon combinations. A mace and sword can be used for more unusual attacks, such as using the mace to stun an enemy and then quickly following it up with a lethal sword stab. With breakable weapons involved, you won't be able to use your favorite weapon all the time, but leveling up makes it more effective.
The game is designed around co-op, but a single-player campaign is also available. If you play solo, then the other crusader will be an AI-controlled ally who you can order around. This is helpful for combat, but there are also some puzzles that need your crusader ally. Not unlike Resident Evil 5, you'll occasionally find objects blocking your way that you can't move by yourself. Denz can summon Esteban with the B button so he can help out. We didn't see a demo of the ally AI, but considering the game's play style, it will hopefully avoid the various frustrations that players had with RE5's Sheva.
The Cursed Crusade is shaping up to be an interesting game. It's not quite the usual Atlus fare and looked surprising sandwiched between Catherine and King of Fighters, but that didn't stop it from looking like a lot of fun. The co-op combat looks deeply enjoyable, and while the art style wasn't as bright and vivid as the games around it, it the "always burning" world of the curse is a distinctive visual. A lot about The Cursed Crusade is still waiting to be revealed, but the game is currently scheduled for a fall release on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
More articles about The Cursed Crusade