Genres of video games generally follow a set path in terms of gameplay mechanics, features, etc. For example, if you sit down to play a Soulsborne game, you know full well you are not going to be relaxing while tending to a farm. If you settle in for some FPS fun, you will know pretty much all the mechanics from the start. It is not a bad thing at all that genres follow this pattern. It creates familiarity for the players and allows developers to concentrate on creating an incredible experience without having to worry about creating a long and detailed tutorial. Sometimes though, a title will come along and shake a genre by the scruff of its neck and change the game, pun most definitely intended. That is what Crown Trick has done to the rogue-like genre, and it is glorious.
The story is as bonkers as you can imagine it being. We are dealing with a rogue-like game, after all. You will be playing as Elle, a young girl who somehow finds herself in the aptly named Realm of Nightmares. Thankfully, Elle is not alone during her adventure, she is joined by a sentient crown called…Crown. Unoriginal name aside, Crown is an absolutely brilliant companion, not only in the powers he gifts Elle but with his quips and a general disdain for humans. Together they journey through the procedurally generated dungeons that are within the Nightmare Realm while trying to stop an evil human who has caused the Realm to become a real nightmare…pun also intended.
So, what makes Crown Trick so different from other rogue-like titles you’ll find throughout the Nintendo Store? Well, with other rogue-likes, you are thrown into the action pretty much straightaway after a short tutorial and have to hack, slash and dash your way through countless enemies. In Crown Trick, you are thrown into the action pretty much straightaway after a short tutorial and have to think a few moves ahead as you have to tactically take out countless enemies. Don’t worry, you did indeed read that correctly. Crown Trick’s combat is far from the mania found in, say, Hades. This is rogue-like turn-based combat-lite!
And this works superbly. It feels slightly strange at first, especially if you switch to playing Crown Trick from Hades, which I did, but even before you finish the tutorial, it becomes second nature. You’ll start your journey in the Nightmare Realm with the choice of two weapons. These will vary in attack: length, power, magic, etc. After choosing which weapon you think will fit your play-style the best, it’s time to go tactically kill some monsters!
The turn-based combat is perfectly integrated into Crown Trick‘s gameplay. What I mean is, there is no loading to a “battlefield” like what would be the case in, say, Pokemon or Octopath Traveler. Each time you enter a new area within the dungeon, the battle is already set. It is highly advisable that you scout the room ahead before you go charging in because each time you move Elle, this counts as a “move” like on a TBC battle grid, meaning the enemies in the room also move. During some early playthroughs, Elle kept meeting an early demise due to just ploughing headfirst into rooms and bumping into some particularly difficult enemies. When you learn to scout ahead when entering a new room/area, then Crown Trick’s combat truly shines.
This is in thanks to the slightly different approach that Crown Trick takes to implementing a turn-based combat system. As mentioned above, you do not get teleported to a battlefield when combat is initiated. The turn-based combat is in real-time, so even though you do have to think about how to attack an enemy, you do not have the luxury of pausing the game and dishing out orders. When Elle moves/attacks/heals, that counts as a “move”, so the enemies in the room will move as well. All the rooms still have tiles just like in a turn-based battle arena, and this works well with Elle’s attacks and additional powers.
The enemies can be tough in Crown Trick, but thankfully, Elle does a have a few tricks up her sleeves…well, not sleeves as she doesn’t have arms. Elle can do a basic attack with her weapon of choice, each one having a different attack radius, so for example, a spear can attack two tiles ahead while an axe can only attack one tile ahead, but it can also attack all tiles in the area surrounding Elle. Weapons can be changed regularly during your adventure as drops and chests are frequent, so if you found yourself choosing a sword, but you really are not coming to grips with it (not because of the lack of arms), then it won’t be long until you can swap it out.
Elle also has the power to transport within a certain area in the room thanks to her “blink” ability. Using blink correctly could be the difference between dying or being able to carry on the journey, it is that vital at times. What makes it so useful? When you use blink, it does not count as one of your moves, so you are free to blink behind an enemy and attack them all in one swoop. This is a vital tool if you want to “break” an enemy. This is another common theme found in turn-based combat games; simply, it is attacking an enemy until they are stunned. Each enemy has the number of attacks needed to break them above their heads, and if you manage to chain breaks, you’ll be rewarded with more blinks.
Along with blink, Elle will be able to use the special attacks of mini-bosses she has fought and defeated. You can equip two fallen enemies’ attacks, and each of them has two attacks within them. You can also swap them regularly throughout the journey when visiting rooms that allow you to do so, and it is important to do this as the attacks will be more effective against certain types of enemies than others. These attacks will drain your magic bar, but one feature of Crown Trick that will be divisive is that with each room you enter, your blink and magic bar restore to full. For someone just wanting a casual experience, this is great, but for veteran turn-based combat players, this will seem like the game is set to easy mode.
Being a rogue-like game, Crown Trick‘s levels are procedurally generated, meaning that each playthrough will feel different each time. The problem is that most of the rooms you’ll find throughout Crown Trick are rather samey. Not ideal for a game where the main attraction is to play it again and again. But with its varied and tough enemies, as well as the brilliant Crown keeping you on your toes, Crown Trick should be a game added to your Switch library, especially as the animated visuals are absolutely gorgeous, with enemies, characters and environments all looking wonderful.
Developer: NEXT Studios
Publisher: Team 17 Digital/NEXT Studios
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: 16th October 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Crown Trick was provided by the publisher.