Crimson Keep is a rogue-like. That summarises most aspects of the game as it sticks to what you would expect from a rogue-like and does not veer too into originality. This is not a bad thing; in fact, I enjoy playing the game. It’s fun, frustrating and funny at times. However, I can’t see myself sinking a solid thousand hours into it as I did with The Binding of Isaac. The game drops you into a dungeon after a curse destroys the village above and it is your mission is to find this Crimson Keep thus escaping.
The game’s progression is interesting since it combines RPG aspects – a leveling system, hunger and three different classes (Berserker, Witch and Drifter). The Berserker, a melee-focused tanky character, is a ‘rage-filled warrior’ the game states, and potentially the easiest one for beginners. Whilst the Witch is a spellcaster and more difficult as scrolls are necessary to cast spells. Therefore, when they have run out it is up to melee to save you. This feature is really enjoyable and adds just a little bit of edge. Finally, the Drifter is hard-mode. They start with 35 health and just their fists so good luck.
This helps the replayability factor as so far, no run has been too similar, and the hunger aspect puts you on edge throughout. There is a nice tension between taking your time to avoid damage and having to explore for food. But the actual narrative progression is a bit janky because, unless it’s just me, I’m constantly lost. You are exploring a labyrinth, so it does make sense. However, I have often exited out of frustration because I could not find where to go and it was easier for my mental health to just restart. So, the game would benefit from having a map section that develops as you explore.
Although, the key here is that despite this I keep going back. The enemies stand out to me and are genuinely creepy. The designs are solid, and I think this is the true winning point for Crimson Keep. It helps that the combat is not too hard or too easy. Admittedly, it takes a bit to get used to the style of combat as there is no aggressive block; instead, a dash. Another thing that irked me was that the shield did not block magic attacks which made it a bit redundant. But I cannot say for certain there is not an item that does as I have still got more to explore. However, after a bit, it comes naturally and like any game you learn the ways.
For £14.99 Crimson Keep is a catch and an extremely fun short-term time-kill albeit accompanied by a few problems. Yet, I would wholeheartedly recommend it as it combines the best aspects of the rogue-like and RPG genre into one game – the ultimate dream for me. Also, upon coming back to the game a month after its release it shows a promising team of developers in listening to feedback. They have already fixed a lot of the initial issues such as more healing options and unfair enemy attack patterns. This can only mean the game will get better as more feedback from fans comes in which is an exciting revelation.