Crimsonland is described as an intense, addictive and immensely gratifying top down shooter where your screen is filled with hundreds of aliens, spiders, mutants, lizards and more. That is a very apt description though it is missing a few words, well one word actually, though it would need to be repeated many times to fairly represent the game.
That word? Fun. Crimsonland is great fun to play. It is simple in it’s make up but clever in its execution and throughout most of my time playing it, I just kept thinking how much fun this was.
Crimsonland was developed by 10tons Ltd, and released on the Xbox One in October 2015. You may remember that 10tons Ltd were also the developer behind the recently reviewed Sparkle 2 which you can read here – Game Review – Sparkle 2 (Xbox One)
Having played two games by these guys in quick succession, it is very apparent that their modus operandi is simple, intuitive, and easy to play games that are well made, fun and satisfying. In fact, you could argue they are quite refreshingly old school in their thinking by making games that work, and work well with loads of readily available content while sacrificing looks a little bit. Not that either of these games look bad, they don’t, but gameplay seems to be the focus with 10tons Ltd and, for me, the games are all the better for it.
So, in Crimsonland, you aren’t really blessed with a coherent story of any depth. You play a soldier of some description and are attacked by huge hordes of very different enemies. There are two different modes, Quest and Survival. Survival has a collection of sub modes to play and to mix it up a little, some of these are really good and some not so good but you will first need to play through the Quest mode to unlock access to all the other available modes.
There are 3 difficulty levels and 7 chapters within Quest mode and each chapter has 10 different levels too. Completing Chapter 1 will unlock Chapter 2 and completing all 7 Chapters will unlock the next difficulty level. Quest mode is a good introduction to the game with many of the early levels being simpler and containing less enemies that build up to harder amounts as you progress. The early chapters also give you a good introduction into the strengths and weaknesses of the different enemy types, different weapons available and different available perks and it is the selection of perks and weapons that really turn this game into the fun game it is.
So, in regards to weapons and perks, there are absolutely loads and loads of each though nearly all of them will need unlocking. This is done by progressing through Quest mode. There is a lot of variation in the weapons and perks system. Weapons range from a blowtorch to a shotgun to a flame thrower to a cluster missile launcher and everything in between and while most people will find a favourite, to stand a chance of posting good scores, you are going to want to progress far enough into the game to get your hands on some of the later weapons.
You don’t select what weapon you are going to use in the game, instead they are dropped throughout the levels relatively randomly, though probably tied to score/kill amounts. This can definitely make the game feel a little luck based but that works both ways. There are plenty of times when, as I am getting swarmed by enemies and my single shot gun isn’t enough that a rocket launcher has suddenly appeared on the screen and just as many times where instead of a rocket launcher, I get a blowtorch.
The perks though are the game changer. There are a ton of them, well 10tons may be more apt, and they are stackable. There are a load of variation between the different perks and some of them are more like curses than perks so you really need to select carefully. Depending on what you are trying to achieve in the game, you can select perks one after the other that can help you achieve your goals.
Like weapons, the perks are not selected at the start of the game and instead appear as you gain experience throughout each game. Once you gather a certain amount of experience, the game will pause and you will get a choice of four perks to select one from. That perk is instantly applied to strengthen your character or weapon or even add abilities that you didn’t have before so, in theory you can perform better, gain more experience and get a chance to select another perk to stack onto your character. A good selection of perks can leave you smashing your way through enemies as a proper killing machine whereas a poor selection can leave you surrounded with no health.
Some examples of perks are a health boost, slow health regeneration, fireballs shooting out from your body, speedy reloading or even one where you give up 99% of your health in return for the chance to select 3 different perks at once. There are perks that make you toxic to enemies, that make you run faster and even a perk that makes you immune to enemy attacks but with a twist, while your health isn’t consumed there is a 5% chance that a strike will kill you instantly. The first time I used this, I died from the very next attack so definitely one to avoid.
If all those weapons and perks weren’t enough, killing enemies also leaves behind a wealth of power ups to help you through. There are explosions of fireballs, a spiral of fireballs, a nuclear bomb which explodes a huge area around you, power ups that slow down time and the supremely useful power up that freezes all enemies for a few seconds.
With all these perks, weapons and power ups, you would think that it would be simple to rack up huge scores but it really isn’t. There is a lot of luck involved in what power up, perk or weapon appears and, even when they do appear, you have to get to it. The amount of times I have been near death, desperately trying to reach a nuclear bomb or a health pack while shooting wildly at the hundreds of monsters trying to descend on me only to reach it too late and for the power up to disappear just as I get there leaving me trapped in a corner and facing certain death. Again that works both ways though and there have been plenty of times where a freeze power up has appeared right beside me saving me from being devoured at the last second.
Musically, there isn’t much too talk about as while it is present and atmospheric, it is almost always drowned out by gunfire and the noises coming from the attackers. The guns sound great and have oomph to them and the roar from the monsters works well in building up tension when there are loads of them on the screen. There is a very odd dying noise from your character that sounds forced and a little like a painful orgasm but that is a minor gripe.
There is very little variation to the maps you battle on, they are all flat and have no discerning landmarks other than being different shades of greens, greys and yellows. The real variation comes in the different modes with the Survival side of the game where there are a collection of modes to switch things up such as Nukefism where you try to set a high score but have no gun. Instead you must battle monsters using only the randomly spawning power ups that appear on the field of play. While fun for a bit, Nukefism isn’t the best mode to play. Another of the weaker ones is Rush where you have just an AK47 against the world though sounds good in theory, the AK is one of the weaker weapons in the game so I tended to avoid this mode. One mode I loved though was Weapon Picker which limits you to one magazine per gun so you quickly have to grab another gun to continue firing. It is very hard but I like it however the crown jewel is really the straight up survival mode. You get all the weapons and perks of the quests and try to survive as long as you can while getting the highest possible score. Simple but brilliant fun.
On top of all this the game supports up to 4 people multi player though this is local multiplayer only.
Crimsonland is packed to the brim with content, most of which is great though some that is not as great as others. It is such a simple idea but it works really well but it is the excellent perk system that turns this from being an average to good game into a gem. It is difficult to master though sometimes a little too luck based but it is pick up and play at its finest. I’ll never be good enough to complete it all but I am going to have a blast trying. After all, have I mentioned that it is fun?