Death Crown has one of the most unique graphical styles I’ve seen for a real time strategy game for some time. Utilising a 1-bit graphical style – on its default colour palette, it looks like a biro drawing come to life. Its obscure look masks an easy to understand RTS game that is great for beginners and for quickfire battles.
Every battle is 1v1 – either locally with another human or against AI of three difficulty levels. There is a fun story mode where you play as a few different clans where each boss has a special ability but these abilities do not carry over to the quickfire single match mode that will largely be where you spend your time. It is a strange omission since all the hard work of creating these factions has been made already but Death Crown prides itself on staying simple.
Each player starts with a tower that generates some coins very slowly. Coins allow you to buy three different buildings that can be placed within tiles inside your boundary walls. A mine can mine for more coins. A barracks can produce soldiers for you to send into battle. A cannon tower can fire projectiles at the soldiers. The latter two towers also allow your boundary walls to be expanded too so you’ll be placing them tactically to expand your reach, thus taking over more of the game board. More space means more tiles to place more buildings down but you’ll also be aiming for the final twist – black crystals. Each map has 2-4 of them and they act as power boosters for your buildings. This means soldiers are tougher, coins are mined faster and so on.
Battles live and die based on three things. Firstly, who owns the most black crystals as they have an advantage. Secondly, who is mining the most coins as they can lay down buildings quicker. Thirdly, where you tell your soldiers to go. You need to click and drag on each barrack tower to tell them where the soldiers will go and they’ll attempt to destroy anything on that path. Soldiers are initially one-hit kills until you level up via the black crystals and then they can take and do more damage. Drawing the lines of attack to navigate or overwhelm the opponents’ defences gets you the win. Each home tower has 5 HP and when they are gone – it’s game over.
A match can be over in one to five minutes at most. It is a real quickfire and reactionary tactics game. This is especially true when you butt up against each other – usually trying to take a crystal – as your boundary walls will shift all over the place. It also takes a while to get used to the fact that only the cannon towers can kill soldiers. This means you can draw marching orders across each other and they just waddle past their enemies as if they aren’t there. There are a variety of maps to enjoy with a few twists. There are mountains you cannot cross and deadland which the undead can build on cheaply.
I must also mention the DLC which adds a weird 50/50 coin toss mechanic though. It adds nothing to the game except frustrating luck. It doesn’t fit in with the simple, skill-based but minimalist approach that Death Crown brings and so I wasn’t a fan. The only other negative I have is that the striking visual style sometimes means that on a large, busy map – I struggled to see some of the towers and what they were doing. Some of the spites are detailed but then when zoomed out, look messy.
It is a small issue in the grand scheme of things though. Great for a few quickfire blasts to scratch your RTS itch, Death Crown is a good game for beginners to get into or for those of you who enjoy RTS games but have no time for huge scaled battles. It is a little like Mushroom Wars in scope and speed but much more gothic. Enjoy.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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