The Knights Templar have been given a bit of a bad rep in video games lately, thanks to the success of the Assassin?s Creed games. But in The Cursed Crusade you get to actually play as one - a hero of the land and everything.
But protagonist Denz is no ordinary warrior. As you can guess from the game?s title, you?ll be battling many opposing forces with a serious disadvantage - Death himself is knocking on Denz?s metaphorical door. That?s because, like his predecessors before him, Denz bears the Templar?s Curse, which guarantees the wielder a passage to hell when they pass on.
The upshot to this (hey, you?ve got to look at these things positively) is that Denz can activate the curse at will during battle, almost as if it?s a power up. Killing enemies, opposed to the holy crusade started by Pope Innocent III, will fill up a red ?curse bar? that will deplete when activated.
Here?s where it gets cool - the world around Denz transforms from a faithful recreation of medieval times to a raging inferno, with burning flame surrounding you and Denz himself sporting a new demonic look. Enemies have no armour and are pretty much defenceless, making your attacks much more brutal and swift. The trick is to balance the use of the Curse and not use it too frivolously, as it depleted sharply and if you?re still in Curse mode when the red bar?s gone, it eats into your health quite rapidly.
The combat and level design feels very much like a fusion of Assassin?s Creed
and Dante?s Inferno
. Denz automatically focuses on an enemy and you can choose to attack using the X button or block oncoming blows using the right trigger. Pressing the trigger as the enemy is glowing (it means he?s about to attack) will allow Denz to perform a counter move.
You can use a selection of swords, maces and crossbows to get through each enemy-ridden section of a given stage, but you can also use the environment to your advantage. In the introduction sequence - where you?re taught the basics of combat and told of the quest for Denz?s lost father that makes him don the Templar?s tunic in the first place - you could grab an enemy and burn his face right off in a nearby torch. Nice.
It?s all a bit brutal actually - as I suppose you should expect from a game set in the middle ages. Various finishing moves result in limbs and heads being lopped right off with an effortless swing of Denz?s tasty blade, while Quick Time Event sequences in the middle of combat result in some satisfying conclusions. Even if I absolutely hate QTEs.
The action is kept interesting by set pieces that really take advantage of the era. At the start of one stage you attack a huge castle from invasion to infiltration and eventual conquest. You?ll be pushing wooden shields towards the castle, ducking every so often to avoid a hail of arrows, before taking out the archers and using a ram to batter down the castle gates and storm inside.
The Cursed Crusade
seems like an engaging, faithful medieval hack and slasher, with events and presentation that will interest those with a soft spot for the Crusades. It?ll be hitting the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this Autumn.