Before I talk about Crimson Keep, I think it will be helpful to talk about a different game first. I’ve talked many times about a VR game called Vanishing Realms, a dungeon crawler for the Vive that I both previewed and covered on one of the earliest episodes of the Vivestream. These two games are very similar; they’re fantasy dungeon crawlers, played in a first person perspective, and they keep things pretty simple. So why is Vanishing Realms a classic, while Crimson Keep seems destined to be forgotten?
What makes Vanishing Realms so good is that it’s extremely immersive in VR. All of the combat is in real time, you can interact with almost anything you see, and the environments are beautiful. It’s a short experience, and there’s not much in the way of equipment customization, but it still manages to draw you in. But what if you took out the VR? Without the immersion, Vanishing Realms is just another basic dungeon crawler. It’s well made, but it would be too simple and repetitive by itself. So a similar non-VR game like Crimson Keep needs to add something significant to be worth your time.
Crimson Keep’s most prominent addition to the formula is that it’s a roguelike. In my experience, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. And unfortunately, here it’s a bad thing. Vanishing Realms only has a few locations, but they’re well laid out and beautiful.The environments in Crimson Keep are dull and repetitive. You’ll often find yourself in a narrow passage with more enemies than you can reasonably handle, and there’s not much you can do about it. Beyond that, it just isn’t a well made game.You can’t step back when you’re attacking; instead, dodging is a special action that you can only use a limited number of times. While you do unlock new abilities as you go on, they do little to break up the monotony of the gameplay, no matter what class you choose to play. The inventory system also needs a redesign; items are not organized by type, and instead must be moved over to the appropriate slot from an overall list. These are things one might be able to forgive in another game, but there’s little reason to do so here.
And finally, let’s talk about the visuals. I think my boyfriend Alex summed it up well when he called the graphics “bush league.” We also questioned the use of floating hands; there’s a reason that most first person games either show arms, or only show the weapon being used; floating hands just look weird. The enemy designs are interesting, I suppose, but they’re nothing particularly original or creative. A good visual style can be a game’s saving grace, and I always appreciate when something unique is used, but everything in Crimson Keep is run-of-the-mill.
Crimson Keep isn’t the worst game of its genre that I’ve played, nor is it the worst game I’ve reviewed for the site (I haven’t forgotten Pumped BMX +), but it still isn’t worth your time. There are plenty of well crafted dungeon crawlers out there, VR and otherwise. This title’s brand of ARPG can be fun, but the first person view isn’t enough to make it stand out from the crowd.