Saturday, September 19, 2009

PS2 Look: Crimson Tears

From the makers of Way of the Samurai and The Bouncer comes Capcom's Crimson Tears. In a future where android women wear hardly anything while punching the heads off mutant zombies two teams got together with a bunch of ideas to make something terribly uninteresting. This game is a combination of two genres. It has random levels and loot to collect like various roguelikes and a battle system more akin to beatemups than RPGs. Like with most games that attempt multiple genres rarely do they ever succeed. In fact not only does the game fail on a conceptual level but the execution is not any good as well. It's best to avoid this game entirely.

Still here? Well good because I blew seven hours on this game and I'll be danged if I'm going to devote only a single paragraph to discussing it. Anyway Crimson Tears takes place in the year 2049 and features three androids looking for Abel. I'm not sure what'll happen when they find him but chances are people will die and things will explode. This is accomplished by traversing through 8 areas with 4 or more levels each. 

At the start of the game and in-between areas the heroes lounge around their garage. It's here they can upgrade their combo abilities, swap characters, and store items they've bought or found. Outside the garage is a town of sorts where people whine about everything and a few shops offer various goods. Inside the garage there's also an interdimensional teleporter that sends the players's mech of choice to one of the 8 areas of their choosing.

The game uses randomized levels but really it doesn't matter too much. Each level is broken up into a series of rooms. The typical room may contain enemies, traps, treasure, or the portal to go to the next level. After clearing enough portals a boss will be fought and that's the end of that. You know how the story goes: cue the dull cutscene, introduce the next area, and repeat until the game ends. The game more or less sums up everything you need to know in the first area. Though the enemies hit harder and the areas get larger it's more a test of endurance as the player will go on until their supplies deplete.

Combat is a very simple affair. Like most every other action game of its time problems are solved by a repeated presses of the square and X buttons. The player can mix up the sequence these buttons are pressed to do combos though most of the time it hardly matters. There's a decent variety of weapons to work with at least. Most of the time the player will rely on close-range weapons like gloves, swords, and knives but guns can also be used(which annoyingly is necessary for a few enemies). There's a special attack which is handy for doing great damage but most of the time I didn't find a use for it. Every move that is made(even running around) causes the android to build heat. When heat builds up the android goes into a frenzy, moving very quickly while doing & taking double damage. This is something I try to avoid because it uses up a lot of health. Items can be used to counter the build-up of heat but it can be used to the player's advantage if handled properly.

Course as much as the game likes to emphasize combat the developers did a poor job of making it work. When it comes down to it the mechanics are competent if rather dull. Problem is of course is that like a lot of early beatemups the enemy doesn't telegraph their moves. While stronger attacks require a bit of charge time most enemies can smack the player out of anything as soon as they get close. Maybe this is supposed to be this way so the player will make liberal use of the block. The bigger problem however is the camera. Quite honestly it's terrible. Now I'm well aware I don't discuss the camera often enough when I talk about 3D games and that's maybe because I hardly notice it. In Crimson Tears however the camera is noticeable and it's godawful. The camera doesn't track enemies and there's certainly no lock-on button to keep dangerous foes within sight. The camera instead chooses to lazily shift around and what you see is what you get. This is especially aggravating with guns because you pretty much have to guesstimate what directions the enemies are coming from in order to kill them. Needless to say the combat isn't just boring but it's also badly handled. 

So with that out of the way let's talk about the RPG elements. This game allows the player to level up, find special items that raise their stats, equip and level weapons through repeated use, and buy goods. There's at least one problem with each feature. Leveling is handy but it's also rather slow. At first the curve is nice but before long enemies start to give little to no experience per kill. This is rectified by moving on to the next area. It's an easy game so this isn't too much of a hassle. Still it is very annoying because some later areas actually have less enemies than earlier ones, so the exp gain doesn't feel like enough. Some of these later areas have very large rooms with hardly anything in them, which just makes them a chore to wander through. The stat-raising items are almost exclusively in one area. Convenient sure but the experience is so lousy that it seems hardly worth the trouble(not to mention the possibility of not finding any stat-boosting items at all). So in the end after spending 30 minutes or more in a single area the player might get one levelup and possibly a stat-boosting item or two. Needless to say this is terrible. The weapon-system is kind of interesting as when the player uses a weapon for a long time it levels up. There's a crafting system as well to further strengthen weapons by building new ones out of them. This is all well and good but not all weapons can be crafted into better ones. It helps to carry numerous weapons at all times since some enemies have elemental affinities and the like. It's also important because weapons can be damaged and even broken. If the player gets hit often their weapons are more likely to degrade. This is a very bad thing because the game does a poor job of warning the player when weapons are close to breaking(a little easy-to-miss status box pops up). Weapons can be repaired at the shop but it gets expensive, leaving little money for buying new weapons or even supplies.

So not only does Crimson Tears fail at the combat that represents the bulk of the game, their RPG elements aren't exactly good either. Why in the name of everything did I bother playing this game for so long? Well it's pretty easy to explain as I am a sucker. I am a sucker for everything that has to do with random loot, gaining levels, and watching numbers rise. I'm the kind of guy who puts thousands of hours into Diablo 2, Phantasy Star Online, and a variety of MMOs. I'm also the kind of guy who falls for all of these action games with RPG elements. Typically they all devolve into finding fancier weapons that behave the same way but look extra cool and do maybe a bit more damage. In the long run none of it means anything but all the same it feels like I'm making progress when I finish leveling a sword I'll never use again. I finally had an epiphany after reading about someone describing their "completed" game of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams. I thought it was disgusting to see somebody blow nearly 300 hours into a game just to max all of the character levels, all of the weapons, all of everything else and then some. Then I look at myself and I realize that I've been doing pretty much the same thing thanks to games like the Dynasty Warriors series. Sure they might be competent games but the only reason I was playing them was to see numbers rise and watch my guys get really powerful.

I swore I'd never get into that sort of thing again and yet here I am talking about Crimson Tears. I could have just as easily dropped this game at the first or second hour and have learned enough to put together a solid opinion because really there is nothing worthy of merit to this game. Instead I put a handful of additional hours into it just because I haven't been able to kick the habit. I have failed myself by wasting time on this failure of a game and to be honest I'm a little depressed about it. 

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