Crimson Shroud

Crimson Shroud review

Crimson Shroud review

Rock and roll.

Amidst the bluster, high drama and expensive spectacle of many a Japanese role-playing game it's easy to forget about the dice rolls that power them - that little cascade of chance that dictates every sword thrust and every spell cast. Crimson Shroud, the third and likely final part of Level 5's Guild01 anthology (split into a series of releases on Nintendo's eShop in the West), is an explicit remembrance of all that. Here is an RPG that's more in thrall to Dungeons & Dragons than it is to Final Fantasy, and one that exposes every roll of the dice. It's a tribute to the genre's roots, and a largely triumphant return to a slower, more considered style of play.

Crimson Shroud draws a strong, thick line between console RPGs and table-top gaming, and it's this knowing, self-reflexive veneer that lends it so much charm. You're in charge of a trio of customary characters: there's Giaque the noble leader, flanked by mysterious mage Frea and cocky archer Lippi. Their tale isn't told through lavish animations and overbearing voice-overs, though - it's played out by inanimate die-cast models and passage upon passage of dense text.

Combat's turn-based and traditional, though it's punctuated by dice rolls carried out on the 3DS's lower screen, deciding the success of a status effect or tallying up how many health points your spell will recover. There's a nicely overstated element of craft here, and it helps make fighting about more than just negotiating menus, as well as allowing for some imaginative flourishes: kill an enemy model and it's upended, revealing a small Level 5 imprint on the underside of its base.

Read more