E3 2011: The Cursed Crusade preview

The Crusades were a brutal time. They're even worse if you've been handed down a horrible family curse that causes you to pass between the real world and a hellish alternate dimension. Denz and Estaban, the two warrior protagonists of publisher Atlus' The Cursed Crusade know these facts firsthand. Their co-op adventures through various European cities are brutally violent, difficult, and occasionally fairly demonic.

While trekking across the world and killing everyone in your path could potentially get a little tiring, the two Crusaders do as much as they can to keep things varied. They can pick up any weapons that their enemies drop, and can dual-wield any of the one-handed killing implements. Whacking a dude across the head with a mace in your right hand and then chopping said head off with a sword in the left is a regular occurrence, and a damned empowering one too. Executions are weapon combination specific, and are incredibly varied in their brutality.

By pulling off kills, you earn skill points that you can spend on upgrading the way you fight with various combinations. Like fighting with a dagger and a longsword? Go ahead and get new combos and special moves with those two. Just want to carry around one gigantic maul? That's an option as well.

But what if dual wielding swords doesn't save your skin? If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can hop into an alternate dimension where you're significantly more powerful. Staying in there too long is dangerous, though, as it drains your health rather quickly. It's all about finding the balance between stopping yourself from being overtaken and not using the painful power too much.

As it takes a lot of cues from Demon's Souls, The Cursed Crusade isn't exactly easy. We died on several different occasions in our demo, and our co-op partner had to struggle his way over to us for a revival. But even being near-dead doesn't score you a reprieve. Death literally bears down on you, and you have to make sure he doesn't get to you before your buddy does. It's an interesting and challenging take on the revival system that's become so pervasive in co-op titles since the original Gears of War.

With a deep skill tree, quick combo-based combat, and a huge world to explore in the often ignored 12th century Europe, The Cursed Crusade promises to be a solid co-op title for the hack 'n' slash aficionados.

Jun 15, 2011

Taylor Cocke is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer who spends too much time watching numbers go up in MMOs and ARPGs. You name it, he's written and/or produced for them, which is shocking considering the aforementioned MMO playing.