The Cursed Crusade is an action adventure that falls right into the hack-and-slash genre. Demon's Souls? Not quite, but close in some ways. Think of it as a hack-and-slash with real weight, and with full co-op play. You're not so much slashing as you are swinging. Less cutting and more killing. And you feel it. And it feels good.
French developer Kylotonn has done plenty of historical research to put you back in the 12th and 13th centuries in Cursed Crusade, playing as cursed protagonist Denz or his buddy Esteban. As you'd guess from the screens and details, a great deal of the settings and weapons are straight from medeval times. Still, there's a bit of a supernatural edge that gives this game a twist.
Like Demon's Souls, those hacks and slashes have to count in Cursed Crusade. Yes, your sword is massive and powerful, but you can't just go blindly swinging and expect to survive. I found that out the hard way when I first got my hands on the controller. That said, Cursed Crusade isn't as brutal. The combat is really weighty, and correctly time swings and parries are key, but you are allowed to miss, and you're not dying every 10 seconds.
The combat system in Cursed Crusade looked and felt good from what I saw. Timed button presses will bring out combos. Well-timed combos will let you perform a finishing move that's usually quite brutal. I saw arms lopped off and heads rolling. Atlus says that these finishing moves are also weapon specific. Beyond the sword there's a mace and a crossbow, and I'm sure there are other weapons of the time to swing around.
Being able to parry (right trigger) is key to surviving. Stunning the enemy also helps. Going on the offensive to time attacks so that armor breaks is rewarding when it happens, but you'll be more focused on how to survive when a wave of enemies swarms down on you.
The supernatural twist comes with a curse that literally opens up the underworld and gives you power -- that part wasn't in my history books! As the game progresses, the curse powers grow. With this power you'll gain extra abilities in combat, and you'll be able to do cool things like burn your enemies, but it all comes witha price. While in curse mode, your life meter will slowly decrease. Take it too far and you'll die.
All of Cursed Crusade can be played cooperatively, either online or via split screen. I didn't get to try co-op out, but I could already see the possibilities. When the action gets hairy playing as the protagonist, your partner Esteban can dig you out of trouble. And there's always the obstacle that requires the strength of two men. The partner becomes key when you're playing as Denz and you die. You won't instantly die; have to work to fight death off until Esteban can come and save you.
The Cursed Crusade is still really early (Atlus says alpha), but it already looks great. It looks like it's going to be a big, meaty co-op romp that will provide a stiff challenge and tell a good story at the same time. It's some 30 levels of co-op supernatural fantasy with heavy medeval combat. Do you need more of a pitch than that?
Look for The Cursed Crusade this fall on PS3 and Xbox 360.