It seems that every other indie release is a roguelike or a roguelite nowadays, and it’s reached a point where we see a new one drop onto the Xbox Store almost every other week. Point is, there are too many of what was once a very niche and obscure subgenre of gaming, and yet very few actually embody the true depth and fundamentals of the sheer randomness that the genre has become so notorious for. Crown Trick is the latest to release on Xbox, available for Game Pass at launch, having been available on other platforms for quite some time. Unlike its many, many contemporaries, the latest by publisher Team17 and developer NEXT Studios embodies the true depth and essence of roguelike role playing games.
The idea of a rogue style game really first made its mark as a spin on RPGs, with the aptly titled 1980 release of Rogue, the template of which subsequently became more mainstream thanks to the Mystery Dungeon series from Japan. It’s easy to mistake roguelike RPGs for action RPGs, since you’re able to move around in real time and engage with enemies without entering a separate battle. The thing is these games are fully turn-based, but rather than turns being confined to self-contained battles, they occur organically throughout the battle map. When fully executed with all the ins and outs, there’s really nothing quite like a roguelike RPG.
Crown Trick is one that encapsulates the depth and richness of a true roguelike RPG. Unlike the countless indie releases, this is a game which emulates the sound fundamentals of Mystery Dungeon and yet introduces its own layered nuances. It is also, for this reason, a tough game, tougher than most of its contemporaries for sure. There is a madness to the sheer randomness of it all, and yet the intricacies of the game systems and mechanics enable even these procedurally generated maps to exhibit a measure of sound level design rarely seen in the genre nowadays.
Crown Trick opens up with perhaps one of the most impressive of animated sequences, which almost feels like a pilot pitch for a Disney Plus series. While the game itself isn’t heavy on dialogue or narrative, it does present a rich and fantastically charged world, one filled with memorable character designs. The character models animate fine, and the visuals are simple although practical given the style of gameplay. The visual effects aren’t too dominating though, but things do get busy in a hurry, and the music kicks in at opportune moments to create atmosphere.
Our hero finds herself in a mysterious dream (or nightmare to be exact) realm which she must battle out of with the help of a sentient crown who grants her combat abilities. The game doesn’t waste any time as you are immediately thrust into the gameplay. Crown Trick is deceptively simple on the surface, because it may seem that all you need to do is walk up to hammer enemies and then gather loot. Yet there is far more than meets the eye here.
Crown Trick has players navigate a procedurally generated dungeon labyrinth, filled with enemies, traps, and plenty of treasure. Each run is going to be different than the last, and some runs are just plain unlucky as you’re bombarded with stronger enemies right out of the gate. With its tile-based structure, the game takes a synchronous turn-based approach where the entire map feels alive and involving. This means every step you take counts as a move, and each time you make any move so are the various enemies scattered across the map. If you rush through the map like it was a Diablo styled action RPG, then you’re not going to last very long here, but if you appreciate the intricacies of planning your route and navigating the optimal placement from which to attack your foes from, then it will go a long way to help you navigate even the toughest encountered.
The game’s encyclopedia is massive, and it’s worth diving into and reading up on the various systems and gameplay quirks. There are various primary weapons to collect, and there’s a great emphasis on elemental attacks especially, as you defeat powerful creatures who then go on to be your familiars, allowing you to draw upon their power to unleash powerful spells. These familiars make up the core substance of the combat, as you go about equipping multiple familiars to really spice up your offensive flurry. There are other upgrades too, such as improving the effectiveness of healing elixirs and the like. There is a lot of equipment and weapons to experiment with here, and so it’s worth taking the time to read up and understand what they are, and what is the best combination to use to strategically plan your next move.
This game is tough and not particularly kind to the impatient, which is almost contradictory given how fast the action moves. Yet Crown Trick wants players to appreciate the paramount importance of each tile, not to make any wasted turns, and knowing when to pause and take turns. In a way, the strategic depth and richness here is a touch above what Mystery Dungeon had to offer, and for that reason Crown Trick can be both daunting and rewarding. That’s not a fault of the game in the slightest, but it certainly helps to know what to expect, if only so you can be prepared for it.
Dying and retrying is part of the roguelike charm, and upon each defeat players are sent back to their main hub chamber. Although players lose a great deal of progress upon defeat, all isn’t for nothing as they are able to retain some materials to upgrade certain abilities and are also able to keep the familiars they’ve tamed.
Roguelike purists will likely enjoy what is offered here, especially with all the different stats and strategic elements. The game’s user interface alone is quite busy, putting everything you need from hot keys to maps all on the one screen. This can feel a little cluttered at first, but then having everything in front of you proves to be invaluable given the strategic depth and challenge of Crown Trick.
Crown Trick on Xbox is one that encapsulates the true depth and intricacies of the random chaos in roguelike RPGs. The gameplay systems and mechanics are both rich and daunting, and they lend themselves to an organic turn-based experience which is deceptively simple on the surface, yet imbued with strategy. This is certainly not for those looking for a quick roguelike romp, rather, this is one for the real thinker. As far true roguelike RPGs go, Crown Trick is certainly above its competition.
Head to the Xbox Store for a bit of Crown Trick