Crawl out of the dungeon while murdering your friends


This review is coming later than it should, because Crawl has been around for quite a while already. If you're reading this and you're surfing Twitter often, there is a great chance you have heard of Crawl already, or at least you've seen some of it's wonderful pixel art and GIFs all over Twitter.

Crawl is that game you might remember having played a few months or years ago, with your friends, at some party or on some random night out. The game has been around in a pre-release state since 2014, but its "full release" version has been around for less than a week.

Crawl is a local multiplayer dungeon-crawler where you and your friends take turns playing as either the hero or the monsters. Not in a pass-the-controller-to-the-next-one kind of way, but in a kill-the-hero-and-become-him-and-then-try-not-to-get-killed-yourself kind of way.

The atmosphere in Crawl is filled with murder, betrayal and madness. After the narrator finishes his speech during the intro, the four human players are left to fight each other with knifes and clubs until only one emerges glorious from the fight. He will be the hero who will wander the dungeon alone.

As the hero, you do the same dungeon-crawler things you do in other games of this genre: explore rooms, dodge traps, loot gold which you can use to buy new equipment, spells, and items. You level up as you gain experience by defeating monsters, you can drink strange potions to get stronger, and you can do many other things that you can also find in other games of this genre.

But wait a bit. I said "four human players" earlier, but there is only one hero. Something is strange here. What happens to your three friends if you manage to beat them ? What happens to you if one of them beats you ? Well, you become a ghost.

Yes, you've read it well. You become a ghost. That's where Crawl overtakes the other games of this genre: while one of you and your friends becomes a hero, the others have to stop him from becoming stronger and from going deeper in the dungeon.

Ghosts can not directly harm the hero, as in hitting him, but they can do other things to do so. They can possess any random trap and trigger it at the right moment to harm the hero. Or they can haunt some random chair or pot to hurl at him. If you're the fighter kind, ghosts can possess summoning sigils found throughout the dungeon and reincarnate as a random monster predetermined by whatever deity you selected at the beginning. From a slimy slug to a fiery dragon, there are lots of creatures you can reincarnate as. Kill the hero and you will have your humanity restored. But, only if you deal the last hit.

This is what makes Crawl one of the best games to stay up late yelling at your friends. The constant rotation of your teammates as the monsters working together to bring the hero down and the competition to get that last hit, and then the mad hunt for the new hero.

In addition to the gold you gain while being a hero, there is a secondary currency in the game, called Wrath. You gain Wrath while playing as a monster, according to how much damage you dealt to the hero on every floor. You then use it to upgrade your monsters after the current floor ends. This way, the person who played as the hero the least will always have access to the strongest monsters, and the player who got an early lead as the hero will face hard times after the other players catch up and upgrade their monsters.

Each monster has two defining moves. They are usually some kind of direct attack combined with either a dodge move (bat demons will fly away, retreating, while slugs will dive into the earth and reappear elsewhere), or some kind of obstacle or hazard (pools of acid vomit, walls of flame, etc.).

The balance doesn't always seem right between the monsters, though, and that's something you might expect from a cast of 60+ creatures with unique skills. There are some monsters that are just too powerful and easy to use that they completely overshadow the others.

However, heroes are not completely powerless. The variety of weapons and items you can find and use is insane. Ranged weapons such as bows and slings can help against the most annoying monsters, at the cost of damage. Spells like floating lasers or cursed blades that summon giant swords from the sky can ruin a monster's day immediately. Yet, even some items seem underpowered compared to others.

All this fighting leads to the final confrontation: the boss fight. When a hero reaches level 10 or higher, they can activate a portal and face the boss in order to escape victorious from the dungeon. Or not.

The bosses in Crawl are giant creatures that can be controlled by each of the three ghosts. Or at least parts of them. One player will take control of an arm, a head, a tentacle or a giant eye and use it to bite, crush or burn the hero. Survivors who make it out will unlock extra items and evolutions for their monsters. Losers who have the courage to challenge the boss three times and still fail will have their humanity removed from them and their three-initial name deleted from the recorded history.

Even if you are playing alone, without your friends trying to kill you, you can still choose to play with A.I. players. The game allows for A.I. players and they do a great job at trying to make your run as hard as possible. There are challenge modes to unlock and compete for every monster, achievements to undertake, a massive vault of items and Easter Eggs to search for. Have you found the Gaben statue ? If you have the bad luck to be the hero and one ghosts decides to possess it, you're gonna have a bad time. Good luck killing him.

Good things take time, and so Crawl's full version did. After spending a long time in pre-release state, the results speak for themselves. Crawl is probably the best dungeon-crawler game to play with your friends if you want a competitive atmosphere, defined by betrayal and murder.

Name: Crawl
Developer: Powerhoof
Publisher: Powerhoof
Released: April 11, 2017
MSRP: $14.99

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