A relatively unknown gem with an over ten-year legacy, Crimsonland seemed to be most popular in Europe over the years of updating the PC title. It’s a top-down shooter with a premise and graphics resembling games popular in the 90s – violent, enjoyable shooters, with visuals leaving almost nothing to the imagination. Now, Crimsonland has been rebirthed on Steam, giving it a second chance for worldwide renown. For many, the questions remain: What is the game about, and how much has changed in this re-release?
The gameplay is fairly straightforward: You’re a marine on some alien land, and a variety of monsters spawn; spiders, humanoid-like aliens, zombies, and lizards. There’s a Quest mode with six acts (all acts have the same missions as the original, with one brand new act), in which you’re placed on a short mission. Starting out almost always with a pistol, the hero is controlled with WASD and aimed with the mouse. Monsters start spawning, and your goal each time is to simply eliminate them all, filling up a progress bar. Along the way, the creatures drop goodies, like weapons and power ups. Clearing stages unlocks more guns and perks, which are special abilities that enhance the marine.
Guns are entertaining to use, and there’s a great variety of them – over 30. They range from typical ones, like Uzis, assault rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers, but there are also ion and plasma weapons that use different ammo (ammunition is infinite, weapons are balanced by reload time). So, there are also ion and plasma shotguns, miniguns, and awesome cannons that blast monsters with a huge area of effect. Other than those, the Gauss gun is akin to a sniper rifle, and pierces columns of monsters with a single shot. But wait, there’s also a Gauss shotgun and minigun, so you can shoot a spread of insanely fast, piercing bullets. Such joy, much blood. One of my favorites includes the Jackhammer, an insanely fast shotgun that guns down monsters with a beautiful sound.
There’s some monster variety, and while most of them are just cannon fodder that make a bloody wallpaper, some need more strategy: There are spiders that split into two every time you kill them, some monsters shoot, others are much faster, so the game requires some adaptation and smart kiting. All the monster models are updated and redone, and their body parts splatter with gusto on the new backdrops. While there’s never anything on the stages other than spawning monsters, the stages are comparatively larger than before. The monster AI seems slightly tweaked, so they don’t track you as well as before, but that’s only to adjust for multiplayer. The UI of the game is completely updated, and the only things I’m missing are bars on the side that show how long powerups last. Granted, part of the display is now wherever the mouse is, so many specials like Fire Bullets countdown by the cursor. However, I miss the old UI where I could see exactly how long the shield and freeze powerups would last.
Still, if you’re lucky, you can waste an army with just two buffs, like Fire Bullets and Weapon Upgrade, but that doesn’t take away any feeling of satisfaction from the game. On the contrary, it enhances the arcade feeling of Crimsonland, which is geared to be the perfect shooter to relax with, and maybe let a little anger out.
There are some themed rounds like the infamous “Ghost Patrols” or “Land of the Lizards,” that make you think. Contrary to what it seems, there are moments when AI is subtly programmed to make the player think more tactically; sometimes a (chmara) of minions won’t throw themselves at you until you kill a specific monster or spawner. Although usually you just kite stupid monsters that endlessly chase you, it’s definitely not a bad thing, and Crimsonland exercises skilled running and aiming. A lot of stages turn out like this, and they’re programmed creatively. Another great one is “Hidden Evil” with transparent monsters that are barely visible. In the original game, this could easily be solved by picking the “Monster Vision” perk that highlights monsters. Kills per single quest can easily break 800.
Perks have always been a standout yet integral part of Crimsonland. Unfortunately, this time around the Quest mode is only for unlocking them, and you don’t level in the mode anymore, so you don’t get to use them. While I’m sad about that, almost all the stages in the original game came down to just getting the Telekinesis perk as soon as possible, which allowed picking up powerups from any distance. A Nuke drops in the middle of the monsters? Pick it up and kill them all!. This time, the Quest mode takes more basic gunning and running skill, but that doesn’t really take away from the fun of the game. The perks can be used in Survival mode, which features five gameplay variations. The perks are really original and creative, like Angry Reloader, that makes you explode bullets whenever you reload, or Plaguebearer, that sends a disease among all the monsters, then there’s Death Clock, which doubles your score and makes you invincible for the next 30 seconds, but then kills you.
Crimsonland doesn’t complicate its premise, which is good. It keeps its mechanics and features polished, focusing on a tight, enjoyable experience. It may not go very far out outside the box of its precursor, but it doesn’t need to. It shows great design in an out, mixing the RPG elements just right with enjoyable amounts of carnage that piles up and explodes with delicious satisfaction. It may not stray too far out of its venerable but excellent formula, but this modern release gives a renewed opportunity for fans worldwide to get in on the action, competing on the global leaderboards. I highly recommend Crimsonland, especially to those who enjoy shooting, and don’t mind a little blood. It’s time for more people to find out about this gem.
Crimsonland is 40% until June 18th. Go get it now!
Crimsonland features up to four-player co-op gameplay, which sounds especially awesome for the upcoming PlayStation 4 version. I haven’t been able to test it, but all the quest modes are balanced for multiplayer. I am certain it will be a blast, especially on the console.