Dragon’s Crown was gorgeous when it came out in 2013, and now somehow looks even more striking with a 4K compatibility upgrade in Dragon’s Crown Pro.
It’s a beautiful game to wander through, taking in the sights of its beautiful ruins, captivating castles, and enchanted hellscapes. It offers some solid action to back up that nice artwork, too, but within its pretty details also lie the combat’s biggest flaw.
Dragon’s Crown Pro’s painted landscapes make me want to just sit and stare, taking in its locales. Everything is filled with fine detail and pretty places, with towering castles rising in the distance, ghost ships drifting on reflective seas, and golden sunsets drenching woodlands in a warm glow. The art seems to breathe in its attention to color and tone, giving a real sense of hot and cold, or exuding menace and comfort at a glance. The added crispness of the visual upgrade makes every detail razor sharp, letting players lose themselves in the game’s medieval, magical setting alone.
The characters show a similar detail, but also lean into a form of a caricature of Dungeons and Dragons classes and the art of Frazetta. The knight is a huge mass of muscle behind steel, shoulders swaying back and forth as he lumbers around. His build is almost comedic in how it plays up the musclebound warrior trope, and this same kind of teasing goes into many of the other characters, with the Amazon and Sorceress making fun of the typical female characterization in these games. Their sexualization seems a little one-sided though, which begs the question of where my giant wizard dingaling is at (If Dante’s Inferno can pull off a foot-long package, so can Dragon’s Crown Pro).
It seems a little one-sided for the entire game, honestly. Dragon’s Crown Pro is no less thirsty than its previous version, with monks lounging with their legs splayed open, mermaids somehow showing off their behinds (mermaids have butts?), and even a lone, jug-carrying woman bouncing through the game’s hub city as if she’s slipped out of DOA: Xtreme 2. This is how pretty much all of the women are portrayed in the game, which feels a little unfair. Come on, surely we can have the wizard Lucain in a speedo or have the Warrior take his shirt off or something.
Don’t let the mermaid caboose distract you for long, because Dragon’s Crown Pro offers some challenging, chaotic combat. Players will go through a variety of locales beating the resident monsters senseless with their array of melee and ranged abilities. These characters don’t just have a handful of moves, though, but whole arrays of special powers and attacks they can use in combat.
Each character has many different powers to allow for different play styles or just experimentation in each stage, giving them a great deal of depth and keeping players from getting bored with their chosen character. Even if they do find them dull, they can easily make a new character in moments and start trying one of the other of the six classes.
These powers will be highly important in getting through Dragon’s Crown Pro’s nine areas, as each is filled with deadly creatures and dangerous bosses (all of whom also look amazing). Each level has many different encounters within, offering challenging fights for one to four players (with the game offering to fill in the missing slots with AI partners unless the player shuts those off). This ensures every stage offers some colossal battles with tons of foes and heroes clashing, giving this sense of a grand melee in every fight.
While that scope is impressive, it’s also where the game’s pretty art becomes a hindrance. Everything in the game is so detailed, and their attacks so bright and explosive, that when you get four heroes, a handful of monsters and a striking castle corridor mixed together, it becomes very difficult to have any idea what is going on. Adding multiple characters using the same class, with only minor color variants to tell them apart, and the fights turn into these messes that make it impossible to know if you’re hitting someone or getting hit.
The game does show a colored ring around your character and colored numbers to show you are hitting things, but battles are constantly so tangled that you will almost always be losing track of yourself, making it hard to fight properly and causing constant dumb deaths.
Dragon’s Crown Pro does work to make this loose, chaotic style work in its favor, though. Players may find themselves dying fast, but each character starts with a stock of two lives, and they can also eat food pickups in the dungeon that let them extend their health past the maximum. They can also gain extra lives through play or cheap purchases in town, and if they run out of lives in the dungeon, they can spend gold they’ve earned to revive again. This means players are rarely completely out of the fight and losing progress despite the chaos, but that they’ll want to live so they don’t lose money.
Money is tied to weapon appraisals, as all equipment found in the dungeon has to be paid to be examined before it can be used, as well as for transportation to levels and other handy things. Players earn just enough to feel rich, but also to need to be cautious to keep from running out, encouraging players to work carefully while fighting and spending. The result is combat which is quite varied due to its characters, and despite feeling loose and almost sloppy, still feels fair due to the revival abilities and their attached costs.
Dragon’s Crown Pro is filled with endlessly captivating art, but those same visuals also trip up its deep, intricate action (and maybe a bit too risqué for some players’ tastes). Still, with the steps it takes to make death more palatable, it provides satisfying brawler action alongside its wonderful visuals.