Reverse Crawl – Xbox One Review
Our Xbox One Review of Reverse Crawl
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the idea of being the bad guys in a game from time to time? I know that I certainly do! What Reverse Crawl does quite well is give you the opportunity to play said villains, undead army and all, on a more morally ambiguous quest for revenge! Truth be told, I am still not sure after finishing the game if I was the good guys or bad…
In a nut shell, Reverse Crawl is a turn-based Hex RPG in which the ‘protagonists’ are the Princess (who also happens to be a Necromancer…) and her father, the resurrected Revenant King. It turns out the King was a bit of a douchebag in life, but in death seems to begin to realise the error of his ways… Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a douchebag but he’s trying! Some of the optional chapters in the game certainly remind you of his questionable rule, one instance being a mission to recruit the wizards that he banished for no apparent reason, but the central stem of the story very much angles towards taking down the ‘antagonist’ the Red Queen.
I mentioned optional chapters, now they are optional to a point. The game (whilst slow to get going) actually has a fun way of bulking out the gameplay, by offering you 3 different choices with 3 different rewards in a lot of the chapters. These can be new squads of allies, new upgrades or new dark powers, all of which will help later in the game. I’d recommend recruiting the Wizards, as well as any hero squad buffs. You don’t have to play as the King and Princess every round but I preferred using them when I could to keep connected to the characters.
That connection to the principal characters through gameplay was important for me, because unfortunately what this game does lack is strong character and narrative depth. Everything is just a bit on the surface and you are never really given a real insight into the world, the backstory or the characters aims and desires (other than revenge!) that you expect from an RPG. Some of the dialogue is a little cliché and I completed the game feeling no real sense of anything to the characters. That being said it was fun!
One thing that can kill the fun, particularly in early game, is getting used to the controls and battling. It’s a hex-based board every round which is fine, however the controls are very sensitive and you will click the wrong hex from time to time, just accept it. You will also encounter issues with larger characters that you can’t actually see past them… this remains frustrating throughout as you cannot change the camera angles to see positioning etc. behind those larger creatures. A table-top style camera option would be very handy for these moments, but again it’s not a game-breaker. If you can get past the early game-rage that these little problems induce (and the strangely difficult early 2 or 3 rounds!?), you’ll soon get used to the gameplay and find yourself enjoying the game more than you thought you would!
You will also learn very quickly which your favourite battle squads are to use, and you need to learn quickly because mastering squad battle mechanics is very important to prevent you getting too frustrated with the trickier levels in the late game. Simply put, every mission gives you a number of lives in the form of Squads, the enemy also has a number of squads. The thing to note is that every mission gives you a different number of Squads, so don’t assume you have the usual 3 every time… There may be times you have more squads than the enemy and vice versa. Trust me, not paying attention to this will lead to you losing the mission and having to start again!
Knowing your individual squads is also important, each squad will be strong against a certain enemy but weak to another so be mindful that the squad you complete one wave with, is the same squad you begin the next wave with, same health and skills to boot. This will lead to some disastrous next waves but fear not, it’s not perma-death so don’t worry too much if a group gets wiped out from time to time. Make sure to utilise the 3x re-rolls for squad selection too, the game implements a help/hinder trait for every squad in every round, so you never want to go into a fight with a negative trait for the fight, you’ll be surprised how much difference it makes! (2 snippets of advice, buff the Flesh & Bones squad in particular every chance you get, it’s the most versatile generic squad, and get that Spider Queen into your ranks at the first available opportunity! Just protect your eggs!)
Now we’ve looked a lot at gameplay and mechanics but not spoken much about the graphics and sound… that’s because honestly, it’s what lets the game down a bit. Graphics are basic but ok in-game, but the cut-scenes and dialogue pages where you want to see a little more, you are left feeling underwhelmed as there is just no finesse or detailing. Again, the sounds are basic at best, there’s no voice acting to comment on, and the music gets quite repetitive after a while. Putting on my own music really didn’t detract from the game, which is something I always like to test when it comes to audio.
Look, whilst the graphics and audio are not the best you’ll see or hear, and the controls take a bit of getting used to, these are as I said earlier not necessarily game breakers. I quickly accepted these and found that I took a lot of enjoyment from the game, and went on to enjoy the game again in NewGame+ mode afterwards. Is there room for improvement? Of course! But it’s a game that subtly becomes addictive, and when you find your stride you are reminded of how much fun it is to be bad now and again!
Review written by Matt Rushton