The protagonists of The Cursed Crusade are damned to hell, trying to escape death and seek redemption by fighting in the French holy war. Unfortunately, they’re trapped in a game with few redeeming qualities, a dull, pretentious hack-and-slash that fails in almost every way.
The story follows Denz, a young knight trying to find his father, who never returned from the last crusade. He and his Spanish sidekick, Esteban, must carve their way through hugely repetitive, unchallenging battles, learning to call upon the power of their curse to find weaknesses in castle walls, and burn down obstacles and enemies with unholy fireballs.
The concept had promise, but the execution is abysmal. The game is packed with unimpressive-looking cutscenes that do little beyond show how seriously The Cursed Crusade takes itself. Combat is meant to be combo-driven, but sluggish controls means actually executing moves is a matter of luck, not skill. Fortunately, the fights are never tricky enough to require combos. You can get through most battles simply by smashing X over and over again, occasionally varying things by catching opponents’ blades, or bashing them to stop them from parrying. Enemies will occasionally just stand around waiting to be killed, which evens the playing field, since your AI companion is nearly useless. Esteban is good at picking off the occasional archer that impotently shoots at your characters from higher ground, but is otherwise prone to just executing non-damaging moves over and over, or getting into tight spots where you must bail him out or lose. He’s required to team up with Denz to open gates and give you a leg up to higher areas, while you watch the tasks carried out through boring, overlong animations. The camera typically follows your character, but will randomly pan outward, making it hard to see what’s going on. Often, the objectives are unclear, forcing you to just meander around ugly castles looking for a glowing object you can blow up to move to the next mission.
The weapons system is one of the game’s only good features. Your equipment breaks after a few uses, forcing you to pick gear off your fallen foes. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, with maces being excellent at chipping armor off knights, while swords are better at mowing down unarmored thugs. This might work well in another hack-and-slash, but the rest of the game is so flawed and lazy, there’s no reason to go on this crusade.