Title: Crown Trick
Developer: Next Studio
Release Date: October 16, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
It’s rare for me to become obsessed with roguelike dungeon-crawlers. While I appreciate the numerous ways that they allow players to invest their time, I feel like my standards are kept high by the few that seem to do it so well. When I first booted up Crown Trick, I didn’t expect to spend 10 hours of my day glued to the screen, but there I was. And now, almost 30 hours later, I’m still just as excited to jump in and play more.
Crown Trick gives us a narrative about nightmares through a dimension that isn’t completely explained until very late in the game. Players assume the role of Elle, a young girl who has been thrust into a mission to defeat these nightmares by a talking crown. Their agreement to work together is symbiotic and not completely friendly. There are moments when Elle attempts to open up to the Crown, but there’s some push back there, and we witness their relationship evolve over the course of the game.
Much of the other narrative is found in notes after defeating bosses. These clues of nightmares give you an idea of what is going on, but the delivery of these notes is prolonged. However, this isn’t a bad thing because the world itself is fun to exist in, and throughout the journey, you’ll meet others who are trapped in this world with you. These characters each have personalities and random tidbits of advice, but mostly they are used to take you Soulstones and upgrade your character.
As players enter dungeons, you’ll be given a choice of two random weapons. When you clear levels, more weapon types become available, and each of them has their pros-and-cons. For instance, the attack range, stats, active and passive abilities, and even reload timing have to be considered when choosing your weapon. You’ll have plenty of chances to find rare and more powerful gear during gameplay, but for the most part, the weapons are each well balanced.
What sets runs apart are items, summons, and Relics, with Relics being the star of the show. Relics are stackable equipment that adds passive abilities to your character. There’s a minimal downside to them, so doing whatever you can to equip them will only make your run easier. Sometimes you’ll have to choose between three relics, but the game makes their rarity and description straightforward and easy to understand. You can have some runs where you feel like a dungeon-crawling god as you clear rooms with ease, but even then, elements factor into a quick death at the heads of a group of enemies.
Items are consumables that can do things such as power you up for a few turns or unleash some magical ability without using MP. They are essential to remember when you feel like you are destined for death but then realize that you have an item that can change an encounter’s tide. Summons are basically magic and are also mini-bosses. Facing them for the first time will allow you to equip them with two slots available. They’re each fun to mess around with and should play into any strategy that you may have. Furthermore, these can be upgraded later on in the game.
Dungeons are turn-based, which I feel is one of its best features. Each step you take will grant the enemy a turn. This means that you can take all the time to strategize your approach, whether it be planning when to execute an ability or utilizing the environment to add some additional damage. The gameloop is sound, and as I become comfortable with the systems, the entire game became far more approachable.
Crown Trick is a difficult game, especially early on. You’re limited on item space and only have 1 space for a health potion. Enemies can be brutal at times as they do their best to surround you in every room. Taking them down will give you Gold, Soulstones, or Equipment. While Soulstones aren’t removed after death, Gold is, well, without the proper character upgrades. Luckily, there’s plenty of ways to spend your Gold in a dungeon, whether it be in the gacha machine, slot machine, end-of-dungeon dealer, or even some text-based dialogue choices that are based on pure chance.
Sprinkled through the dungeons are gimmicks and hazards that will weave into your strategy. You can spill poison onto enemies, burn them, and so on. The only downside is that you are also affected by the elements, so you’ll have to make sure that you’re not on the receiving end of the destruction. It’s just so satisfying to get through a room untouched as you use each of the abilities to take out enemies. I should also mention the dash skill known as Blink, which regenerates as you break enemy defenses. It’s essential to use this, but exhausting it is always a bitter pill as you scramble to do things that will replenish your Blink, especially during a boss.
Crown Trick’s dungeon themes become a bit repetitive after making your way through them so often. It becomes a bit too recognizable and predictable during the late game hours. Furthermore, I always seemed to get a weapon when I first enter and never change it because it’s the strongest weapon that I found. I just wish there was a better way to signal if weapons you see on the ground are better at a glance than have to read through their descriptions. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked how additional stages just made the enemies harder instead of introducing a batch of new ones.
For the most part, however, Crown Trick is the most user-friendly dungeon-crawler I have ever played. Everything I could have wanted was in view and accessible. From equipment descriptions to which squares can be affected by my magic and even the silly things that genre fans love like skipping your turn, secret areas, and many unlockables are all here and more. This game is just oozing with a love of the genre and includes all the systems one could want. Late game changes by putting Soulstones in the inhabitants of your HUB, any odds you’d wish to tip in your favor can be done here to make the late dungeon enemies more manageable.
Crown Trick is a roguelike that isn’t afraid to make you feel overpowered through its systems. However, it’s also not afraid to test your skills by introducing powerful enemies and traps. No matter what, though, there are plenty of ways for the player to take on the challenge. It’s this design that makes Crown Trick a must-play for both dungeon-crawler and roguelike fans. Even as I’m writing this, I just want to play more, which is the first time I’ve ever wanted to be in a nightmare.
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