Crypt of the Serpent King Remastered 4K Edition. That’s a pretty long title. The original Crypt of the Serpent King had a pretty turbulent life. Beginning as an Xbox Live Indie Games title for Xbox 360, it eventually got ported to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch back in 2015. Now, Crypt of the Serpent King has been given a polish and brought to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. Thus it has been given a suitably extended title. However, as this Crypt of the Serpent King review will show, a visual polish isn’t exactly what this game was looking for.
Crypt of the Serpent King is an old school, with a dash of old school charm. It’s a dungeon crawler with some very light roguelite elements, and that’s about it. Levels are randomly generated, and in each the player has to find a set amount of keys before challenging a boss. They can earn XP and gold in each level, which can be spent on skill points or new weapons before starting the next. Imagine a real-time, single-player adaptation of Hero Quest and you’d be on the right path.
The combat in the game is very basic. There’s one enemy type per level (plus the boss) so there’s only one attack pattern to get used to. It’s simply a case of approach the enemy, move away as they begin their animation, then in for the kill. However, until you’ve spent quite a lot of XP the enemies are very damaging, so even a split-second mistake can cost you your run. Less can be said of the bosses who, for the most part, aren’t as challenging as the basic enemies.
Along the randomly generated levels you’ll find treasure chests containing gold or health potions. Gold is going to help you out in the long run, as buying better weaponry makes a huge different. Aside from this, there is no other within interaction in the levels. No breakable objects, no searchable enemies. It’s a very simple gameplay loop, yet one which can become compelling.
During the process of writing this Crypt of the Serpent King review, we encountered many times in which we’d spend well over an hour scouring the corridors of each level without realising how much time we’d invested. It’s a very basic game, and yet it’s designed to be that way. The simple repetitive process of felling enemies to power-up and take on stronger enemies is addictive. There’s no denying Crypt of the Serpent King is a game of attrition. Defeat the same enemy over again enough times and you’ll be able to take on anything the game can throw at you. But the nature of the game pulls you forward regardless. Even though it’s an obvious numbers game, it remains an entertaining one.
Sadly, there are some issues. Enemies will often spawn out of thin air just inches in front of you. They can also spawn behind you, with no indication until they land a blow. Also, there is no block manoeuvre. This means that your first few runs, even on ‘casual’ difficulty, will likely end within a couple of minutes until you’ve earned enough XP to purchase an upgrade or two. Or eight. This may very well put off more casual roguelite players.
And that is most certainly the crux of Crypt of the Serpent King. This is not The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s closer to a high fantasy Tower of Guns, and even that suggests significantly more depth. Crypt of the Serpent King delivers an enjoyable experience for those who are attuned to it’s simple processes and the routine-for-win gameplay. However, it’s certainly going to struggle to find an audience amongst younger players, for whom remastering in 4K has become the norm.