Game Reviews

Crimson Gem Saga

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| Crimson Gem Saga
Crimson Gem Saga
| Crimson Gem Saga

You can see right through Crimson Gem Saga. It may have the precision crafting of a beautiful stone, but its plain gameplay and predictable plot are transparent.

There's every reason to think that this former PSP adventure is encrusted with the elements of a fine role-playing game: it has a familiar visual style that hints at the games of yesteryear, characters are voiced through much of the game, and fanciful battle screenshots tease engrossing combat.

But a thorough appraisal reveals a plain role-playing game with inadequate controls and a frequently confusing interface.

Diamond in the rough

Crimson Gem Saga doesn't begin in such a sorry state. In fact, the opening moments allude to something far more entertaining. As military academy graduate Killian von Rohcoff, you're swept up in a plot involving the fabled crimson gem that bestows its possessor with untold powers.

The enigma of the gem and the introduction of one endearing character after another has a way of drawing you in during the first two hours.

As the introduction segues to the core adventure, that intrigue dissipates as the bland nature of the battle system and limited character development become apparent. What initially appears to be a mindful attempt at easing you into the game is revealed to be generally shallow design.

Unprepared for combat

Most disappointing is the battle system, which reduces turn-based combat to its most basic form. Characters and enemies take turns dishing out attacks, special abilities, and using items according to a rigid turn order.

Unlike other turn-based games that allow you to toy with the turn order by swapping in characters, casting spells, or using items, the game remains fixed in its back-and-forth turn order.

While this predictability enables you to plan ahead during a battle, it's also incredibly boring. Without unexpected changes in the turn order, battles are humdrum affairs that play out according to plan.

Special skills such as limit breaks or joint party attacks could liven things up, as could quickening the pace - battles progress slowly with slight delays between commands and actions.

It doesn't help that poor balancing forces grinding. Levelling up enhances your characters' core attributes and affords skill points for unlocking new abilities on a branching tree, yet these are less important than equipment in determining your party's strength in battle.

The steep cost of weapons and armour requires sinking time seeking out extra battles in order to amass the funds necessary for equipment that will prepare you for boss battles and tough sections ahead.

Get a grip

Control problems bring Crimson Gem Saga down even further, transforming a plain game into an irksome experience.

The iffy D-pad isn't even the most pressing issue - bad menus make simple tasks like unlocking new skills and using items a pain. Even the manner by which menus have been laid out is questionable. Accessing the skill tree is like playing a hidden object game.

Unintuitive controls require flicking up and down through menus rather than tapping to move vertically through a list. This results in frustrating situations in which you unintentionally scroll through an entire menu when you only wanted to scroll down one entry.

The same can be said of the radial battle menu. It's common for the wrong action to be taken due to the game reading a tap or flick incorrectly. In order to combat this effect, the pace of battles is slowed even further as you make deliberate your gestures to avoid error.

The ill-suited controls alone are enough to recommend avoiding Crimson Gem Saga, but its plain gameplay deserves a warning. There was little reason to get excited about it when it debuted on PSP due to its uninspired role-playing and there is even less reason to consider it with poorer controls on iPhone and iPod touch.

Crimson Gem Saga

Crimson Gem Saga only looks the part of a classic role-playing game and is actually a synthetic reproduction that lacks the glittering quality of the real thing