I have developed a bit of a love affair with Rogue-Likes in recent years. Their difficulty and skill curves, the amount on the line every playthrough and their almost godlike ability to induce that ‘one more run’ mentality. And I have enjoyed a fair amount on the switch, which lends itself perfectly to the genre. So when I was handed Crown Trick on the Switch, with no more information other than it was a rogue-like developed by NExT Studios and published by the legendary Team17 of my childhood, my interest was piqued. What I’m not so keen on, mind you, is turn-based games. Games like XCOM for example have never been able to get their hooks into me so I tend to veer away from them. And now I’m reviewing Crown Trick, which also falls into this category.
‘Well that’s a short review’ you may be thinking, and in truth if I wasn’t reviewing the game I probably would have dropped it early. This would have been a mistake.
Crown Trick may be a turn-based game but it has managed to still carry a lot of the speed of a more action-focused rogue-like. Don’t expect Gungeon or Dead Cells levels of dynamism, but Crown Trick can portray the feeling of real-time playing so well that you can often forget to slow down and pick your moves. This will punish you brutally. This does get easier to adapt to once established, but I still find myself trying to move diagonally when hunting for gold or avoiding attacks.
The conversion to the Switch, however, is not without issues. You constantly get the feeling that this is a PC port. Many times I have found myself carrying out a run ending mistake due to the controls. As one example, you’ll often need to skip a move and allow the enemy to move into range. This function is carried out by pressing the right thumbstick, however any movement of the thumbstick brings up a targeting reticle that prevents the skip. It’s frustrating, clumsy and can’t be changed. And there’s more. Touchscreen is not incorporated at all, the game randomly freezes for a couple of seconds frequently and the load times are lengthy.
These issues don’t destroy the experience but they certainly detract from it. The graphics are lovingly animated and the overall story and writing is interesting. The musical score is whimsical and fitting, carrying the air of foreboding one would expect from a magical, dreamlike dungeon romp. The sounds are crisp, with sounds of melee weapons and firearms echoing through the dungeon. There’s no voice acting to speak of, instead the game delivers its narrative through text based coversations.
You take on the role of Elle, who is transported to the Nightmare Realm. Guided by her ‘friendly’ crown she must overcome the evil Vlad. The game plays like a board game of sorts, where each turn the player goes then the enemies go. The key is to anticipate mob movement patterns and find holes that can be exploited to deliver a hit from safety. I found that sometimes the sheer number of enemies had you moving constantly with no time time to counter as they all had area of effect attacks. This can drag out simple room clears as you attempt to navigate the attack minefield, only getting to attack back in sparse windows. This game will reward the cautious player who likes drawn out confrontations, all guns blazing won’t work here.
The enemies are imaginative and varied, with unique attack patterns to learn and equip against. The Blink mechanic makes for some tactical teleports and sneak attacks whilst the items add an extra way out when you think all is lost. The complex system of elemental damage and stacking will provide plenty to learn for the dedicated player, with status effects turning the tide of battle regularly. There are the usual rogue-like staples of shrines, chests, level bosses and all are varied and unpredictable, plus with the upgrade of familiars come the permanent stat upgrades all rogue-like players crave for.
One issue that will hold some players back is the difficulty curve and the overbearing feeling of luck playing it’s hand on your good runs. Crown Trick is hard. It expects you to die, as with any other rogue-like, but the grind is real. The progress, aside from the earliest of unlocks, is slow and you’ll find yourself wanting to quit runs regularly as every weapon or Familiar the games drops being not what you need. Speaking of Familiars, the game has a skill system, where you will encounter miniboss type Familiar enemies, that once defeated will allow you to use their powers as your magic attacks. You’ll quickly have favourites of these and on those unlucky runs – you just won’t see them. Later into the game you’ll find yourself loading into the first floor, being disappointed by the loadout choices the game offers you, resetting back to the overworld and repeat. All whilst being hindered by the previously mentioned long loading times. It can get frustrating.
Whilst skill might be able to overcome some bad starting loadouts, this wasn’t my experience. Getting lucky and snagging great gear almost guaranteed me my best runs and that kind of weighting on luck over skill is something that I’m not overly enthused about. I’m sure many proficient tactical game veterans would scoff at this and see this more of a challenge to prove me wrong, to which I encourage as Crown Trick is a good game. But it won’t be for everyone.
If you like both Tactical Games and Rogue-likes, Crown Trick is an easy recommendation. I can even recommend it to pick up and play gamers looking for their next addictive title, although once complete it will offer limited replayability draw compared to it’s peers. For its many flaws, Crown Trick is still a fun challenge and I give it a 7/10.
For transparency the code reviewed was supplied by the publisher.
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Crown Trick - Nintendo Switch Review
- Overall - 7/107/10
- Engaging combat
- Varied items and enemies
- Well animated presentation
- Long Playthrough
- Awkward controls
- Technical Issues
- Slow progress vs grind
- Learning curve too steep for some