I do love a good roguelike/lite game and it’s a sub-genre that is massively popular in the indie game scene right now. I’ve actually lost count of how many I have played and reviewed this year already and yet, I still have a major weakness for the sub-genre. Here’s another one too, Crown Trick from developer NExT Studios and publisher Team 17.
The first thing that struck me about Crown Trick was its bold and vibrant art style. The opening animation really was a joy to watch and one that perfectly sets up the rich and beautiful world the game takes place in. A lot of the charm and personality of the intro finds its way into the game itself too. But I don’t want to bore you with the animation and graphics of the game, I need to look at how it plays.
As already mentioned, Crown Trick is a roguelite game, a sub-genre born from 1980’s Rogue. A very quick history lesson for you here. Rogue was a (what we now call) dungeon crawler where the main gameplay mechanic was that you die (a lot) but when you restart, the dungeon is randomly generated, so you get to experience a new game every time. Rogue was also turn-based and in that regard, Crown Trick is a wonderful homage to those roots. Yup, Crown Trick uses the old turn-based mechanic here too. Thinking about it, Crown Trick is probably the most Rogue-like roguelite that I have played in a long while.
You play as Elle who finds herself trapped in a dream/nightmare. Early in the game, Elle finds a talking crown (stay with me) and this crown becomes her guide and helper. Right from the off, you are thrown into the action, exploring the dungeon-like dream you find yourself in and killing enemies and finding loot. At first, this all seems very button-mashy and rather shallow. However, there’s much more going on than just wandering around a dungeon and smacking enemies in the face.
Just going back to the whole turn-based thing for a second. Every step you make, the enemies move. This leads to some rather interesting strategy opportunities as you can lead enemies into traps and lure them to their doom. You could just pick up the controller and run around like a fool, bashing the attack button until the bad guys are dead. Yet, this would be a terrible idea for two reasons. First, you’ll end up dying a lot more than necessary. Second, you’re really going to miss out on a lot of the intricacies that Crown Trick’s gameplay has to offer. Everything is played on a grid, so you can move one square at a time. As it’s turn-based, you can really stop and think about your next move before you make it. It almost becomes a game of chess between you and whatever the dungeon has to throw at you, the game feels very tactical over action-based gameplay.
Like any roguelite game, you will die, die, die and die again. Upon your many deaths, you will be transported to the ‘Hall of Reincarnation’. This is your main hub and as you further explore the dungeon, you’ll find and recruit NPCs. These NPCs really work as upgrade shops for you various skills and items. As you kill enemies, you’ll earn Soul Shards, which act as your main currency in the game to unlock and buy upgrades. Kill more enemies, get more Soul Shards, die, upgrade, get further in the game, earn more Soul Shards, die, upgrade and repeat.
Weapons and items come in a wide range of varieties too. Do you go for a long-range gun weapon to kill bad guys from a distance? If so, you need to remember that they need reloading and that’ll take up one of your precious turns. Or do you go for a melee weapon, you’ll have to get in closer to the enemy and risk taking a hit or seven. I think what separates Crown Trick from a lot of other roguelites is that element of strategy and thought. You enter a room and instead of just rushing in, you try to read the room, look at what enemies are about and keeping in mind what you have learned from previous runs, you try to anticipate their moves. This is where the whole turn-based gameplay really comes into strength. You seriously do need to just slow things down and make a plan of attack before you do actually attack.
I have to admit that at first, Crown Trick really rubbed me up the wrong way. It all felt rather cumbersome and stiff to play, I was dying a lot more than I usually would with a roguelite. But that was all my own fault because I was playing it like your average dungeon crawler, like Diablo or something similar. I’d just rush in and start attacking enemies without even thinking… and that was the main issue, I wasn’t thinking. Once I slowed myself down and played the game correctly, once I got to grasps with the turn-based gameplay and more strategic elements that Crown Trick has to offer, everything just fell into place and clicked with me. Suddenly, I found myself really enjoying the game more and more.
Playing the Xbox version (it is available on Game Pass), I learned to really love and appreciate Crown Trick once I understood how to play it. This is not a game you put on for a quick blast, to kill half an hour. This is a game you really do need to invest some time and effort into. A game that is far more rewarding the more you stop and think. Most definitely a recommendation from me and as I said, it is on Game Pass for Xbox owners, so you can try it out for ‘free’ (so to speak). For everyone else, you’re looking at spending around £16 and at that price, you get plenty of game for your money. A real gem of a roguelite and one that is deeply rewarding… if you play it correctly.