Crown Trick, by NEXT Studios, is a turn-based tactical rogue-like, where you play a young girl named Elle who is trapped in a realm of nightmares. Teaming up with a sentient crown that might just rule this world, you face off against enemies who threaten both the real world and this, which translates to battling through regions of the nightmare realm, fighting a series of bosses of various levels until you fight the final boss of the region. The game is a turn-based roguelite with meta progression between runs that allows you to increase your character’s power, but otherwise largely adheres to the boundaries of the genre
Crown Trick features various themed levels, ranging from ocean depths through steampunk to witches and wizards, each with its own set of procedurally generated rooms. These rooms vary in what they offer. The bulk of them features combat encounters with a mixture of enemies and environmental hazards and the usual array of risks and rewards. The rest of the rooms are a mixture of event rooms that provide opportunities to gain various buffs through choices or puzzles, familiar crystals which let you choose ability sets, and both visible and hidden treasure rooms.
Finally, each dungeon floor has a single boss room which gives you a great deal of treasure and locks you out from continuing to explore the current floor. On the 9th and final floor of every dungeon you will face the main boss at the end of your run, which resets your gear but lets you spend your accumulated soul shards and progress to the next dungeon. There are five dungeons in total, and dying in one allows you to reattempt it without forcing you to retread the ones you already beat.
If this sounds familiar it should, as this overall structure is very reminiscent of Slay the Spire and its imitators. The parallels don’t stop there either. Healing is generally rare and hard to come by, but a character’s healing capabilities and HPs are completely refreshed between stages. Elites and bosses usually drop power relics, each of which provides some sort of situational bonus. It even presents a bit of the general “build your character from what you find in the dungeon” idea, with Elle being given a choice of weapons, familiars, and maybe a single relic at the start of a run: everything else is based on what you encounter.
Combat is set up in a traditional you take a turn, they take a turn style. Elle generally has the choice of one of four different actions during her turn: take a move, attack with her weapon, use a familiar ability, use an item, or pass. Movement is pretty standard and simple. There is no movement stat in the game, and Elle can move a single space on her turn. Elle does have access to boots of teleportation which give her the ability to move to space within range without using up a turn, and managing her uses of these boots is one of the keys to success in Crown Trick.
Different weapon types have their own attack patterns, with each having its own area of effect, and some of them, namely the pistol, shotgun, and rifle, requiring a reload round after a certain number of attacks are made. Additionally, each class of weapons has a number of different subclasses, each with their own special ability and a number of slots that can be randomized at specific locations. Much like making a move, using a weapon takes up your sole action for the turn.
Skills are gained in batches of two, with each one being associated with a particular “Familiar” which are encountered in the dungeon as Elite monsters. Beating a specific Elite for the first time gives you access to that Elite as a familiar, from that point further, with familiars usually being presented in batches of three from which you are able to pick one. Skills vary wildly in their usage, ranging from long-lasting buffs, to damage effects, to shield generators. Using each one requires a certain amount of magic points, which are regenerated each time you enter a combat room or reach a specific hit point breakpoint for bosses or elite monsters.
Items largely mimic skills, with a variety of defensive or offensive capabilities. Some even automatically trigger to cancel out inflicted status effects. These are generally much more limited in their usefulness compared to weapons or skills, but that can easily change with the right relics or choices in meta-game development.
Enemies are about what you would expect. Enemy capabilities are fairly diverse, particularly as you move up in the enemy tier. Elites and Bosses are each very distinct both from each other and from regular enemies.
Between dreamscape dungeons, you will end up visiting the Hall of Reincarnation. This gives you access to the metagame development system that increases your overall strength for future runs. These bonuses are purchased from four different trees, with increasing cost and power as you progress down them, and a set of freeform abilities associated with the various familiars. These abilities have various levels of power, but all of them have a real cost, and it is unlikely you are going to get everything without spending a lot of time grinding, so you have real and significant choices to make when purchasing these upgrades.
Limitations and Failures
Overall Crown Trick is a tight, lean game that knows what it wants from its core game experience and implements that effectively. Despite this, there are a few things that are holding it back from being at the top of its genre.
The first of these is the relative imbalance between weapons. While perfect balance is impossible, some weapon types are so clearly better than the alternatives it makes it difficult to justify using them. Similarly, outcomes can be greatly impacted by the rarity of your weapons to the point where holding a high rarity weapon in one of the best weapon categories usually means a better outcome than if you do not.
The second of these is the game horizon. While individual levels and dungeons are pretty snappy, and I consider this a strength, the amount of time you are going to be spending playing the game is pretty short. Even with the newly implemented “nightmare” mode, you are not going to be able to go into this game as deeply as you would a game like Slay the Spire or Monster Train, and after 15-25 hours there is a good chance you will be done.
The last is simply that the game feels too tight and smooth. Crown Trick offers a very streamlined and focused gameplay experience that offers very few opportunities to take part in the sort of emergent gameplay that makes some of the best roguelikes great. Some will actually find this preferable to the potential chaos of more open games, but to those who don’t, Crown Trick will be a letdown.
Crown trick very effectively combines a Slay the Spire-like gameplay loop with a roguelike core. Most games have maintained a card game structure when iterating off of this loop, and even those which add some sort of map or tactical element usually maintain this focus on cards. Crown Trick has effectively innovated on this formula, taking what was already a popular and effective structure and combining it with a genre that had never previously featured this sort of formula.
Crown Trick is meaty and offers you lots of interesting decisions. In addition to handling the tactical aspects of navigating combat rooms, you are always being given build choices. You pick from one of three relics from one of two stat scroll bonuses, are presented with new weapons you could potentially swap to, and given one of three familiars you can select for one of two familiar slots. Early on these decisions are very interesting with profound impacts on how the rest of the dungeon will play out. While some of these decisions become more trivial as the game progresses and you get a better idea of what your build is going to be, it is still exciting to see what you might get and whether a new discovery will make your build even sharper than it is. Additionally, as your build decisions narrow your tactical options are typically expanding so the game is able to maintain a heavy density of decisions through the entirety of your playtime.
Crown Trick packs a lot of fun into short time periods. It is easy to knock out a level in 30 minutes or so, making it a good way to get a fulfilling game experience when you don’t have the time to go into something deeper. I often find myself taking a brief break during work or doing some chores to knock out a quick level and it always feels fun and rewarding to do so.
Crown Trick is very good. The game is puchy and fun, filled with meaningful and interesting decisions throughout its playtime. It is not the sort of game I absolutely love, as over the last few years I have found myself preferring games with more emergent gameplay, but I still found myself completely enjoying my time with Crown Trick. There is little more that I can ask for, and if the idea of a roguelike build in the style of Slay the Spire interests you at all, this game is definitely worth checking out.