Crimson Shroud review

  • Fanciful visuals and settings
  • Great soundtrack
  • Extensive loot system
  • Tiresome and repetitive battles
  • Lack of explanation and directions at critical parts
  • Lack of animation and voice-overs

Japanese director Yasumi Matsuno is best known for his work on big RPG titles like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics, so when it was announced that he was working on his first new IP in years, gamers were understandably excited. And when it was revealed that the game would be designed around the concept of a traditional tabletop RPG, gamers were understandably intrigued. It’s quite disheartening, then, to find out that Crimson Shroud is actually one of Matsuno’s weaker titles. Frankly, it’s quite boring.

Traditional tabletop RPGs involve players acting out roles and sitting around a table rolling dice to decide their fate. It’s an interactive social experience, but in video game form, it simply becomes a solitary adventure. Crimson Shroud has no voice-overs, so you’re the one reading through the text-heavy cutscenes, and you’re the one rolling dice to decide how successful certain actions will be. It's one thing for an RPG to emulate the feel of a board game, but it’s another for it to actually succeed in translating that feeling into a video game. The game is not a graceful marriage, and its tabletop-inspired motifs actually hurt it from being a fun roleplaying game.

Crimson Shroud follows three adventurers in their search for the eponymous source of the world’s magic. The game lasts about eight hours, but due to issues with its pacing, progression feels like it takes much longer. Those pacing issues are largely due to an overabundance of back-tracking, where you must return to areas previously visited to find switches and keys to unlock doors. Revisiting past areas also means you might run into enemy encounters, which consist of the same groups of enemies in the same exact spots.

Unfortunately, you’re given no explanation as to where to go or what to look for to advance the story. Halfway through the game, you are bound to go in circles for over an hour trying to solve a particular problem. The game never tells you what you need to do, and introduces a new mechanic it never again bothers to implement.

Crimson Shroud has no shops nor do your characters ever level up. Instead, their strengths and even attacks rely solely on equipment, so battles are necessary for the valuable weapons and items they reward you with. The loot system works as a good substitute for leveling up, but because you’ll always be fighting the same goblin or Minotaur in an effort to get better items, the whole process soon feels repetitive.

Battles also suffer from being too drawn-out, simply because of how they are designed. Your three characters consist of a mage, a warrior, and an archer, and can use a wide variety of attacks, spells, and support skills. Some attacks require you to roll dice to see how much health you’ll recover, or whether the chosen effect will be successful. But relying on luck, especially during critical moments when you only 3 health points and only one party member alive, only adds frustration to a battle. And while at first it feels good using your stylus or Circle Pad to shake the dice, having to do so each turn to recover MP makes battles more tedious than they should be. Making matters worse, the battle interface makes it difficult to keep track of an enemy’s actions, so you’ll need to pause and read through battle logs in case you missed the quick-scrolling text telling you of an important buff an enemy just used.

Although these references to tabletop RPGs may hurt the battle system, they add a distinct charm to the game’s visual presentation. Characters and enemies all resemble figurines or playing pieces, and though they lack any animation, will occasionally topple over or bounce during battle. Some cutscenes will also give you the choice between different lines of dialogue, while others will throw in a friendly roll of the dice to determine their outcome. These are nice touches and manage to spice up the monotonous task of reading through pages of text. Likewise, its emphatic soundtrack by acclaimed composer Hitoshi Sakimoto is perhaps its saving grace and might be the only thing that keeps you going through some of the lengthier 30-minute battles.

Crimson Shroud is clearly Matsuno’s labor of love, but it’s a shame so many of its features failed in execution and proved more annoying in practice. Its redeeming qualities lie in its presentation, but that barely makes coping with repetitive and tiresome battles any better. If you want to experience something close to what Crimson Shroud should have been, you’re better off playing Vagrant Story and a tabletop RPG at the same time. It’s bound to be far more exciting.

More Info

Release date: Dec 13 2012 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Level-5
Developed by: Level-5
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence


  • joseph-holyknight-victory - July 5, 2014 2:10 p.m.

    I just saw the final battle on youtube and all the characters do is shake like if they were shackled and wanted to move. What kind of bs is this. if you are going to make a 3d game you have to have movable characters, specially for rpgs. This is like looking at final fantasy 7 without any animation. If i wanted to play dungeons and dragons i would go play it on a board it would at least have more action since ill be doing the dice rolling LOL The story line would have to be academy award for me to even touch this game without any animation. I doubt its that. Waste of time its sad the Master from FF made this. Stick to animation its what you do best leave d and d to board games or 2d.
  • robert-quade - December 22, 2012 12:49 a.m.

    I don't agree with this review at all.
  • SmellyButter - December 15, 2012 7:40 a.m.

    I don't agree with this review at all, I'm loving every minute of Crimson Shroud. The music is excellent, the story is extremely well written & the writing has so much attention to detail. Why do you care so much about animated characters? The writing itself literally brings these characters to life. Plus, they're supposed to represent miniatures. You don't sit around a game of D&D & think "This board game sucks! My miniatures won't animate!". Loving the presentation of Crimson Shroud too, it's really polished. I love the battling, the dice-rolling is so addictive. I'm thinking whoever wrote this review has recently played too many dance games, watched too many chick flicks, listened to too much Nickelback & ate too much chocolate that it's chipped away at their attention span. The game is fantastic.
  • minneyar - December 16, 2012 9:19 a.m.

    I think the fact that he uses the phrase "monotonous task of reading through pages of text" is pretty telling. If the author thinks that reading pages of text is "monotonous"... Maybe RPGs are the wrong genre for him? I'm in the middle of playing Crimson Shroud, and one of my favorite things is how detailed the text is. It's still a far cry from an actual visual novel, though; something like 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors would probably put the author to sleep...
  • clementine - June 21, 2013 4:50 a.m.

    I don't know about the author, but I loved 999, it's one of the best games I've ever played. On contrast, I don't remember the last time I've played (=read) something as bland, cliché and boring as when I began playing Crimson Shroud. So.. I really don't think that 'lots of text' has anything to do with it as I do love reading; it just has to be of high quality. Also, I would like comment that no RPG needs to be filled with useless fluff to be great.
  • RonnyLive19881 - December 12, 2012 9:13 a.m.

    I... I just can't take this seriously. I've seen a few good great reviews and from what I have seen and read about, this looks like an RPG any old school RPG fan could appreciate. Just because it doesn't have all the bells and whistles you demand(VO/Character animation... do you understand what the creators were aiming for? Lol)doesn't make it a 4/10 game. At the price and for what the developers were trying to get across(this is a table top RPG) I think it looks like they did a great job! Has the artistic charm of Paper Mario and Epic Yarn in it's simple yet creative design. Maybe... you should have gotten the staffs retro RPG fan to review this because yes... we know it isn't Mass Effect or Borderlands when it comes to production costs and gameplay Lol
  • 2weekrental - December 12, 2012 12:53 a.m.

    too bad it isn't anything spectacular. my only system at the moment is 3ds and I'd kill for a nice RPG game to pull me away from Pokemon for a bit.
  • RonnyLive19881 - December 12, 2012 9:18 a.m.

    Check out the DS's vast amount of great RPG's! Radiant Historia, Disgaea DS, Valkyrie Profile Covenant of the Plum, Advanced Wars, FFTA, Nostalgia, all of the Remakes, The Mario and Luigi games and the few 3DS rpgs like Paper Mario Sticker Star, Tales of Abyss and many others are plenty of great titles to be getting along with!
  • BladedFalcon - December 11, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    This makes me really sad ): As a big fan of matsuno's work, I was really excited for this game, and it's disappointing to hear it didn't work >.< All i can hope for, is that he can get another go at it, hopefully with the help of someone that can advice him on making the gameplay varied and fun.
  • DarksideBlues - December 15, 2012 5:12 a.m.

    This game was fantastic! I'm not sure where the disappointment came from, as this game was superb. The storytelling was damn near perfect, the battle system was fresh and fun, and I personally loved the presentation on the whole. There was only one point in the game that irritated me, but once I got past it, the rest was like butter. If you like Matsuno's other works, give this a try. I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed.
  • BladedFalcon - December 15, 2012 11:38 a.m.

    I really do love his work, specially FFT. And yes, reading reviews on other sites, I'm starting to think that this particular review was an anomaly. Was planning to sit this one out, but after checking all these extra second opinions, I think I'm going to give it a go after all.
  • AlexKidd - December 11, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    It looks promising at a glance (especially with that picture of the pleasantly familiar Minotaur slug-fest) so a useful review as it actually now seems pretty aweful.

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