Crimson Keep is a first person action RPG. Descend into an ever-changing labyrinth full of monsters, traps, treasure, repetition, missing content, broken achievements, and terrible RNG.
Genre: RPG, Action
Developer: Ian Atherton,
Publisher: Merge Games
Release date: 29 Nov, 2018
Crimson Keep is a first person action RPG, that has you delving into randomly generated areas to fight monsters, defeat bosses, and find legendary loot. On paper this sounds like a game with countless hours of fun, but sadly falls short in many places whether it be to RNG, or just design flaws. Let us pray to the RNG gods and jump into the rabbit hole to explore Crimson Keep, before I change my mind yet again on how I feel about this game!
Down the Rabbit Hole.
The story of Crimson Keep is fairly simple. Thirty years ago the village of Larckstead was cursed with death, as the demon witch Mara killed the Queen and sent the entire village into a blood frenzy killing each other. Mara sank the keep into the ground where she now claims it and is now the Queen. This is all described in a cut-scene when you open the game. This cut-scene has some issues though, at least for me. There was some insane screen tearing and images being chopping when the screen moved fairly fast. The audio was also extremely choppy and static. Not that you would want to hear it cause the voice acting is terrible. It’s here that you are just, well thrown into this world for some reason? It’s never explained how and why you are here. There is only 2 NPCs that I’ve encountered, and they basically just repeat what you already know from the intro video.
Before we jump into the game though, I just want to take a quick moment to talk about the options menu. It has your basics like Controls, Keybinds, Graphics, and Audio. Graphics and Audio are perfectly fine and have everything you need to change, including FOV. It’s the controls and keybinds that have some glaring issues. The controls screen only changes look sensitivity and invert settings, OK that’s fine I guess, but the keybinds is even worse. There is NO options to change movement controls… At least it was, but right before I wrote this they updated the game to fix this problem. The only keybinds you were able to change before this update was the attacks, skills, items, and menu buttons. This was the biggest issue tons of people had, as if you are left handed, you couldn’t really play this game.
Choose Your Destiny.
Before your adventure starts you get the choice of 3 different classes, each with their own starting weapons and different skills. Depending on how you want to play, there is actually not a huge difference between them.
The Berserker who is more melee combat focused, which starts with slightly more health, an axe, and has affinity for slashing weapons. The Berserker as you would guess does the best with fighting in melee combat as using weapons will do the most damage with him, and his skills also reflect upon that as well. His skills range from throwing an elemental axe, a charging attack that stuns enemies, a buff that gives more defense or attack faster for a short time, to gaining the blessing of the gods for health or consuming corpses for health. Sadly most skills the Berserker has are fairly useless or very under powered, so you will tend to stick with the same set of skills with each run.
The Witch who is your spell caster class that does more ranged spells, which starts with a wand, and has affinity for magic weapons and spells. The Witch’s spells range from an ice spike, fireballs, a poison mushroom, curse enemies, buff yourself, put enemies to sleep, and so on. The Witch definitely has the better set of skills as most of them are very useful depending on how you wanna play. I’ve done 4 complete runs with the Witch with different powers each time, and was able to use all them very often and make it far into the game.
As you level up, you can select 1 skill or ability for your character. When you reach level 2 (which you get after only killing 1 enemy in the games “tutorial”) you can select your first ability for your class. Your second ability is at level 4, and your final ability is at level 7. One thing to remember is you can’t change these abilities until you die and start over. However, there is also one annoying issue with the skill system. All the other perks that you can choose as you level up are completely random and not class based! Not only are you stuck with RNG and hoping to get a perk that is useful, but the perks also REPEAT! You can get the same perks but with a different percentage in what it does, so you can end up with a 15% then a 10% then a 13% of the same skill! From what I can tell they do stack, but what if it’s for a perk you don’t want? Well you are shit out of luck if that happens! Most of these are just so basic they hardly do much in changing the game. They range from increase the amount of health you have, how much more you would heal, your abilities doing more damage, or increase damage for a certain weapon type (which the game never makes clear what weapons are what type, you just kind of have to guess what is considered a slashing, blunt, and piercing.) Sometimes you will get lucky and get special ones like “Not suffering from Starving,” even though that doesn’t exactly state the correct thing. I’ll explain later.
The third and final class is The Drifter, which is the weakest and most useless class in the game. This is the only class that does not start with any items other than 1 health potion, and does not have ANY skills or abilities. The Drifter does not gain any XP, so you are completely left up to player skill and the pure RNG bullshit when it comes to getting items and gear. There is literally no purpose to play as the Drifter other than bragging rights. Trust me I suffered through almost one complete playthrough and it doesn’t offer anything different, just that the game is harder with no skills or perks.
It’s Dangerous To Go Alone.
As with the nature of these games, you will be finding gear and treasure to help you progress in the game. The issue though? Everything is tied to RNG. This can be a good thing, but in this case it’s a blessing and a curse. Now I’ve done about 40 runs through this game, and can say my luck with getting items is vastly different for each run, for good or bad. As you play you can find items in crates and barrels that you can destroy, and it might contain an item. Now previously the drop rate from these was extremely low! In my many early attempts I’d always end up dying as I was never able to get any items like food and suffer from starvation. They have however fixed this in the latest patch to give you a better chance of earning items from barrels/crates… but yet it’s still terrible! The last run I did I walked into the final boss fight with 20 health potions and 12 scrolls that recharged my wand! Yet again I didn’t get much food and just managed to scrap by, though I did not explore every room and just went to the next level when I found the exit. Almost all enemies have the ability to drop items and gear, though it all falls down to RNG once again.
The best chance of getting items is in chests, and there is a few different kinds of chests in this game. They range from a simple wooden chest, all the way to a golden chest! However! What you get is complete RNG. The amount of times I’ve gotten complete shit from a golden chest is sad. You would expect to get an amazing item from it, but you can get the most basic weapons out of it. I’ve also got the best crossbow in the game in the very first level from a basic chest!
There is a great selection of gear to wear on your character. You can equip armor that will increase your total health, footwear that increase your health and movement speed, and rings that give you more health or let you carry more. There might be more kinds of rings, but I was never able to find any more. There is also amulets that you can find and equip. These range from increase the healing you get, to movement speed, to debuff/curse skill increase, to skill damage increases. There is also earrings, but I have never seen a single one in any of my 40 attempts.
The game does offer a good selection of weapons. The weapons range from daggers to swords, axes, clubs, maces, shields, wands, and crossbows. Each have their own damage, speed, range, and even have a secondary ability. Most secondary abilities aren’t that great though, most of the time you will stick to one kind of weapon as they are better than others. I found one handed weapons to be more effective than two handed. The secondary ability for two handed weapons I found to be too slow and leave you wide open to attacks, and don’t deal enough damage. Shields are nice to increase health and try to block some damage, but then they remove your secondary ability for your weapon. Wands have a set number of charges for the spell it has, and you replenish them with recharge scrolls… Or with a current exploit, you can drop the wand on the ground (remove from inventory,) pick it up again and it will have it’s full charges again. The Dev does know about this, so it’s more than likely will be patched. With wands your secondary ability is just a basic attack, which is handy as you won’t be wasting your spells on everything.
Last but not least, the most over powered weapon in the game, the Crossbows! The crossbows are by far, the best weapons in the game. These require arrows to use, which you can pick up from loot drops from enemies or boxes, and once you have 20 or more you are set for the entire game! How so? Well if you hit an enemy with an arrow, the arrow will just drop to the ground for you to pick back up! So in theory you have infinite arrows! As you will be attacking at range, most enemies can’t hurt you! Every time I would get one, I’d be set for the whole run. But as stated it’s all down to RNG to what you would actually get. There have been runs I never got a single new weapon and was stuck using my starter weapon through the entire run, which resulted to me dying later to the tons of bosses.
Resist Hunger, Traps, and Curses!
Now you are still probably wondering when I said about a Hunger and starving? Well there is a “Hunger” status in the inventory. As you would guess, you have to eat food to stay off the hunger. What does this bar do? Well the Hunger meter effects your total health. If you are full, you will have more health, and when you get closer to starving, you lose some of your maximum health. Once you hit starving though, you will start to take damage. Now when I said there was a skill that stops you from starving, this only prevents you from taking starving damage. You will still starve and lose your maximum health, you just won’t be taking the extra health damage. Now regarding the hunger I have a small gripe about it with a resent patch. Originally when you were to eat some food there would be an animation of the player eating it (even if it was a model of an apple every time.) Now after the resent patch they REMOVED this animation! I honestly have no idea why they thought it was a good idea to remove it! This little animation made it feel more important, and you couldn’t spam food by accident and eat all your food at once. You had to take a small Dark Souls approach and have to time it well in combat or a small break out side of combat. They still kept the animation for drinking a health potion though.
You will also see a “Faith” status as well just underneath the Hunger meter. Well this is to state which god you will “follow” to earn a special effect/cures. The issue? Out of my 40 runs, I’ve only encountered ONE SHRINE!! The one I got took away max health to make me deal more damage, which didn’t do much as on that playthrough I was a Witch. I honestly could not tell you what other kind of shrines there are. There is Health Shrines that will fully heal you when you use it, but don’t alter your Faith. These health shrines are the more common shrine you will ever find.
How about traps? There is hardly any. There will be playthroughs where you don’t see ANY traps! (Not counting the tutorial start area.) Usually these traps (at least that I’ve encountered) is just a spike trap, and they are placed in such spots that you would never have to walk over them. They are placed in such stupid spots that I have never actually hurt myself by them unless I deliberately walking into them! Is there any other kind of traps in this game? I have no idea, never seen any other kind.
Each map is randomly generated. This can be a good thing as it could enable tons of replay value, but it’s at a cost. I’m gonna reference STRAFE, as that is a game I’ve played and completed to the maximum, that also has the same issue with it’s maps as well. The issue I have is that after awhile, all the maps start to feel the same. There is some unique room designs, but any of those kinds of rooms are VERY limited and will hardly ever show up. I remember I stumbled upon a room that had a book in it and frozen enemies, and upon inspecting the book would unfreeze the enemies. Defeating the enemies would unlock the chest in the room. It was something different, and out of 40 runs I only seen it once! Well actually I seen it twice, but both were in the same map! The screenshot above that had a pit of spikes, I only saw it twice! The game gets stuck and will always be placing the same rooms over and over and over, and really kills the games fun factor real fast. Further into the game you will also be finding rooms with just nothing in them! There is even big areas in the later levels that also just have nothing in them!
Through out the maps, you will find decorations that serve no purpose other than to be in the way. You will find coffins or books or such that you would think you could interact with, but you can’t. You will find decorations just floating in the air. Don’t even think about touching the lava as that’s an instant death! Even though one of the boss fights has lava that rises from the ground that damages you but doesn’t one shot you. At one point you will be in the Grotto area that has water. The only thing water does is slow you down slightly, and there is NO water physics! You just clip through it and walk on the ground like normal. You just sink to the bottom like it’s nothing.
My biggest issue though is that all the levels are extremely crapped! Most of the game is in narrow caves or hallways. The only real open level is the floating rock pathways (which I’m guessing is called “Fields of Despair”) and it gets old real fast. Otherwise every other map is just a series of hallways and a maze you just mindlessly go through until you find the exit to the next area. Thankfully there is a little feature to help you navigate these confusing mazes. You have the ability to place down a chalk “X” anywhere on the level with the click of the middle mouse button. The best way to use this is to cross out the paths that you have gone down and cleared through, so if you had to back track you know you’ve gone down there. I also used this so if I found the exit before I finished clearing the map, I’d have a straight forward path back to the exit. As there is no map feature, you will be wanting to use this as much as possible.
Now the monsters in the world for the most part are unique to each level/area, with very few being in multiple areas. This is a nice change of pace and gives you a nice variety to fight. Each monster also offers a different way to fight and deal with. They could charge at you, or shoot a missile at you, or just slowly crawl their way towards you. Most enemies even have multiple attacks with their own animations, so you can figure out what attacks they are doing, and deal with it accordingly. You have a doge ability for a reason, as some of these attacks require it to avoid it. There are some monster attacks however, that they are just too quick and are almost impossible to doge, or have such a big range that you will suffer from it. The combat is very risk/reward and is fun to do if you can take the time to learn, unless you want to cheap out and stick with ranged combat.
One issue I have though was in some rare cases, your attacks would go through the monster. Its more annoying, but I did find it to happen more than it should of. I’m not sure if it’s because of the hitboxes or what, but the amount of times my attack would just go through them and deal no damage was infuriating. Also in a recent patch, they made easy monsters, even easier! Like was that even necessary? Example is that they made the ghost girl attack slower making it not require you to use doge to avoid her attacks, where as before you could easily avoid her attacks with the doge. It’s a lot of little things like this that end up bringing the game back a few steps.
Boss after Boss after Boss…
Near the end of the game you start going to less areas, and are stuck fighting boss after boss. It’s not just one, or two, but three bosses AND the final boss all one after another. So if you had ran out of items after the first boss, you would be screwed for the rest. Thankfully the Dev has added health shrines for each boss room, but they added the health shrine in the boss room! This doesn’t help when all the boss rooms are small and cramped, and I mean SMALL! Much like the rest of the games levels, the boss rooms also suffer from being small, which can make some boss fights a little unfair and not fun. Some boss fights even have cheap environmental hazards like raising lava or poison, or have a bunch of minions to deal with at the same time. A big issue with most of these bosses even is that they are extremely unbalanced. Most are able to kill you in 1 or 2 hits! I’ve had a Berserker with almost 400 points of health go to near death in a single hit! Most of the later boss fights are almost impossible to fight in melee combat for these reasons, and which is why I would stick with a crossbow as that was the only real way to avoid taking that kind of damge.
Now if you looked at the store page, you would see things that aren’t even in the game! First thing that’s missing is the inclusion of the map. This map shows you what areas you will be going though, and it’s not present in the game. When I first played I didn’t know how many areas should be going through. On top of that it also appears that the keep level 2 and 3 are not in the game (unless they are considered boss levels but I doubt it,) and the bleeding halls are also not in the game! Looking at the store screenshots you can see the area that has bright green acid and a skeleton spider thing, that is also not in the game! This is also why the last 4 bosses are one after another, as the levels in between them are just gone. From the store page there also looks like a giant Ogre boss fight was also removed. This Ogre appears as a normal enemy in the Keep levels, but looks smaller than the one shown in the store page, and is very easy to kill.
Forcing To End
One of the gimmicks of Crimson Keep is the “Soul Door.” These are special doors placed through out the game that will only open if you sacrifice your character. The game never tells you about this until you happen to come up to the first one right after the first boss, and go to open the door. You are required to do this NINE times according to the achievements… However! I only encountered THREE Soul Doors! Add this with the missing levels, this might be the reason why I’m missing six of the nice Soul Doors. Either way this makes getting all the achievements impossible!
There is no reward.
Having been lucky with RNG, I have made it to the final boss Mara, FOUR TIMES! Let me just say the final boss is a joke. Mara only has 2 attacks, both which are range only. She has no melee attacks so regardless of what play style you have, you will have no problem. Having beat her, and entering the final portal to see the end screen, you get… Nothing! None of the achievements for beating Mara unlock, or the achievements for beating the game! I’ve reported this problem and I’ve been ignored by the Devs about it, cause from my understanding, I was the only person to have beat the game! Thankfully though after I gave a few pointers out, there have been a few other people that have managed to beat the game as well. They also did not get any achievements, and also did not see all the Soul Doors. This is where I was saying before that there is parts of the game that have been removed, cause it certainly feels like it, and with that impossible to complete the game achievement wise.
For the full price, the game is NOT worth it. If you are a completionist that wants that nice 100% achievement score, well sadly this game is impossible to do so. If you wanted it just to play, be warned that this game is flawed. Terrible maps, terrible RNG, terrible balance, just terrible in every form. Not to mention the lack of some content. If the Devs can fix these issues and make the game more enjoyable, then I’d recommend it, but in it’s current state, I can’t recommend this. This game needs serious work, and has pissed me off more than it should have. Especially when now I’m stuck with a game I can’t “Complete” in any legit form.