Death Crown is a 1-bit real-time strategy/tower defense game that acts as a call-back to two-tone gaming, a cry for simpler times where video games cost an arm and a leg and their difficulty would cause the destruction of controllers the world around. Unfortunately for Death Crown it wasn’t made in the 1970s however, and no matter what angle you look at it from, a more modern standpoint looks poorly upon it, proving that sometimes simple isn’t best, with an inefficient map design and overly simple gameplay mechanics that fail to achieve even its most basic goals.
Like any strategy/ tower defense game, you attempt to gain territory and create an army with mined resources while protecting yourself from the enemy. It’s the basic premise of the well-trodden genre, but sadly for the player, the game’s ambitions begin and end there with a gameplay loop and game length sufficient enough for a modern-day free demo.
Sending your units on the attack places lines on the map to indicate their route and the movement of circles along those lines show the speed and number of units attacking, but it’s far from an effective representation of attacks as the tiles are – ironically – overly detailed within the game’s small maps and there is far too much happening in such a small area with the two-tone design helping very little to discern between the details. You also can’t tell if your units are causing any damage to the enemy, which is always frustrating as conquering the enemy is supposed to be the best part of the game, but instead, it barely registers visually. Even extra effort has to be made to figure out whether you or the enemy control the tiles you are attempting to places units on, playing needlessly into the enemy’s hands.
It’s odd that the developer couldn’t make the map bigger to ease this problem, but these interface and functionality issues are far from an island on their lonesome and are accompanied by few attacking options and strategies that the tower defense genre is known for, largely due to their only being one enemy.
What could be considered an admission of fault is the inclusion of different colour schemes, which begs the question – Why was the standard black and white design chosen when it causes so many issues? After you’ve changed the scheme and have gotten used to the crowded map, some satisfaction can be had in the campaign mode but it does little to encourage repeat playthroughs.
Addictive gameplay loops don’t always require a great deal of variety, but what is essential is that the game provides a satisfying and rewarding interaction for the player. Death Crown has so little interactivity that you’d think it would be possible to make it enjoyable, but with the visuals already causing issues, repetitive and redundant actions add to the player’s woes. After defeating an enemy that you assigned numerous units to defeat, your units simply become idle instead of automatically shifting focus to another unit. This then requires you to individually assign orders to each of them over and over again, when surely a shortcut key could assign attacking units to one enemy unit, or at least the enemy’s base. It is, after all, one of only two actions the game provides you – attack route plotting and unit creation/destruction – and it still trips itself up over it.
The laundry list of issues continues with a story that provides more questions than answers and a looped soundtrack that attempts to build tension and drama only for it to be a victim of my mute button. All of this is to say that Death Crown is about as bland as a mouth of crackers without anything to wash it down with.
While it’s debatable whether greater functionality and larger maps would’ve saved the day – or your patience – what is certain is that the poor interface and the overly simplistic gameplay loop provide no substance or reason to return other than to complete its short campaign. The question then is whether or not it’s even worth one playthrough. Unless you’ve never played a tower defense game, I’d say it’s not, but the stylish design – its only redeeming feature apart from functioning gameplay – could attract those looking for something nostalgic.