My brothers and I have always been hardcore gamers. Growing up in the same household meant we shared consoles for pretty much all of our childhood. We played as much co-op as we did competitively, we could be playing in the same team or in opposite teams, and things got pretty heated when our cousins joined our skirmishes. Fast forward to 2017, we are now all grown-up adults with more things to deal with that just video games, but getting together still means a couch gaming galore and with more and more couch games being released each month, we started getting very picky with which games we are going to play. Out of all the games we tried, I can confidently say that Crawl is among our favorite games and one that will be played for a very long time.
Developer: Powerhoof Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: December 19th
Crawl is a multiplayer dungeon… crawler game created by Powerhoof games. You play as a hero who must delve deeper into the dungeon, slay monsters and finally defeat the boss, all while leveling up and getting better and better gear for your hero, but there is a catch! The monsters in the dungeon are controlled by your friends and all their desperate attempts carry a chance at redemption, because slaying the hero will restore your humanity and give you a chance to be the hero. You can control more than monsters though, as every room is filled with traps and objects that you can possess to deal the most damage to the hero. From flinging barrels to activating enormous buzz-saws, every corner is filled with dangers.
As you can imagine, the game plays much better if you can gather 3 other friends to play with, but if you are having trouble making friends, then don’t worry! You can add from 1 to 3 AI controlled players to join the match. The bots can be set to easy, medium or hard difficulty to ensure that there is a challenge and believe me, those bots are pretty good at killing the hero! The games don’t have to be 4 player games either, you can play with as little as 2 players if you are feeling extra competitive with a friend or just want a quick test of skill vs the AI. While Crawl might not be the best single player game, it is still fun if you are feeling up for some rounds of dungeon crawling.
The dungeon goes deeper and the monsters get stronger
In some rooms you will find pentagrams on the ground which will allow the non-hero players (the ghosts) to summon one of up to 3 different monsters. Before each game begins you have to choose a deity to worship (or taunt) and this deities determine which 3 monsters will be available to you. The different deities also give you different perks like starting the game with a vampiric ring or having stronger slime summons. Which god you choose will play a big role in deciding which style of play will benefit you the most. Try different deity combinations and decide which monsters are your favorites.
Monsters can also go for a branch-styled evolution path to get stronger. Each time the hero levels up, the other 3 players are awarded wrath. At the end of each floor, players are given the choice to upgrade their monsters using wrath, having to decide from 1 or 2 evolution choices until each monster reaches its “peak”. These peak evolutions are the stronger monsters available and will definitely leave a dent on the hero if not outright kill them. The wrath system helps players who aren’t doing so well to gain stronger evolutions first, so that they can kill the hero more easily and regain their humanity. This back and forth between good players vs strong monsters help the game stay competitive and encourage skillful play.
If you are looking for progression, then crawl has it! At the beginning the number of hazards, monsters available, weapons and deities is limited, but as you keep playing the game they are gradually unlocked, keeping the game fresh. The greatest feeling in the world is when you just played an intense match, but unlocked something meaningful like advanced traps or new deities and you just gotta play again to toy around with these new unlocks. Although I will admit that an unlock system like this does have its downsides, as the game is considerably more fun with more unlocks, meaning the experience might be inferior if you haven’t played crawl that much or just play it casually at gatherings. The ultimate experience is playing with friends frequently with whom you can work your way towards all the unlocks and then play some more, otherwise I would recommend to play some solo rounds just to get more unlocks for those multiplayer outings.
Achievements and merits
One of the better practices I’ve seen with some games is to incorporate achievements despite the Switch lacking such a system as opposed to the PS4, XB1 or even steam. I’m glad to say that crawl has its own built-in achievement system and features all the achievements from the steam version. One of the advantages of having its own built-in system is that the pop-up notifications can be designed to match the games aesthetics, which is something that looks pretty good on Crawl.
If you aren’t the achievement hunter but still like challenges, or just want some quick hero slaying action, then the challenges are for you! Hidden within the vault, there are challenges for each monster you have possessed at least once. These challenges are score attack kind of challenges where the objective is to kill the hero a set number of times before he finally kills you. Different monsters have different target kill scores with the peaks requiring the most hero kills to pass the challenges. The hero isn’t a pushover either, as each round the hero returns bigger, badder and stronger too with better weapons and abilities. These challenges are sure to keep you busy for some time and make you master the ups and downs of each monster.
May the odds be ever in your favor
One of the biggest gripes I have with competitive casual multiplayer games is that most of the time if you own the game, then you will be beating all other players badly. Games like Mario Kart and Smash Brothers are fun to play with friends and family, but unless they are players themselves, then you will probably be the winner every time. Enter the god taunting! At the deity selection screen you can opt to taunt one of the gods instead of worshiping them. Doing so will penalize you the entire game with penalties ranging from having weaker monsters and heroes, to being forced to use a sling for the entirety of the game. Taunting the gods makes the game much harder, but on those casual multiplayer encounters it is the perfect handicap to ensure a fun and balanced match.
Attention to the details
You can usually tell when a game is a product of passion by the details which are included in the game. Crawl has some pretty amazing details which can’t help but make you fall in love with the game. One such detail that you probably won’t be able to experience for some time is the christmas mode. During christmas, the dungeon will feature presents which can give you money, health or even give the ghost players ectoplasm. You also encounter a christmas tree in some of the rooms. Nothing beats luring a hero into unwrapping one of the present, just to hit ’em with a giant blade. Another detail and probably my favorite in the game is related to the bosses and the user profiles. Bosses can only be challenged 3 times, with a defeat on the third marking the end of the game with the boss winning the match. Being the third player defeated by the boss means that the boss is unleashed and that this time, HE stole your humanity, but trying to get revenge on the boss will only show you that your profile has been destroyed. That’s right! If the boss defeats you and steals your humanity, then your profile is gone for good with the win count being lost forever. Progression is global, so nothing of value is lost, except your dignity, because the boss took it. My first time experiencing this was met with initial confussion because my profile was seemingly gone, followed by a heartfelt “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” when I figured out I had died for good. Maybe this seems like a minor feature, but I think it adds a lot of flavor to an already flavorful game.
For the completionists and those willing to keep track of the many weapons and monsters features at the game, you can check the vault which acts as an encyclopedia of sorts. You can also track your progression towards certain achievements which is also nice.
Overall Crawl is a must-buy if you are into dungeon crawling and have friends that like to play. Even if your friends aren’t that much into gaming, then it still is a great buy because crawl is a game whose concept sells itself and you only need to showcase the first floor of a match before they are immediately hooked and desperately trying to reach a joy-con to play. For the solo players, I would still say this game is a great buy. The dungeon crawling experience is solid and there is a lot of fun to be had unlocking everything in the game, attempting the challenges and even earning those achievements that require you to beat 3 hard bots while taunting a god. Buy this game! And if the game is on sale, then wait the sale out and then buy it at full price! Powerhoof Games have done such an amazing game that it is worth every penny!