Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Experience With Mobile Games: Crusaders Quest

Why did I write this article? Click here

After learning of Puzzles and Dragons, my quest to discover more interesting mobile games that transcended the stereotype of being exploitative and/or unoriginal. Along the way I ran into some interesting ones, such as Terra Battle. However, they didn't catch my interest for long and I usually got bored of the game within a matter of weeks, if not days, hours, or minutes. While browsing the Google Play store for more titles to take a look at, I came across Crusaders Quest, which despite being a real-time action RPG, was "highly popular" with Puzzles and Dragons players. After skimming some reviews and checking other information, such as the download count, I decided to give it a try and have found myself a regular player since, often to the point of firing it up over Puzzles and Dragons.

Much like with my last review, this one will be from the perspective of a player who hasn't spent a single cent on the game, yet enjoys it to the point of playing daily.


Crusaders Quest, much like Puzzles and Dragons, has character collection and development, timed resource systems that determine when a player can play, and currencies with varied usage.

Like with Puzzles and Dragons, the player has access to a hub where they do standard management. For instance, one can check their currencies such as Gold, Honor, and Jewels. Gold is used to upgrade weapons and train heroes among other things, with hero training also requiring bread, a consumable acquired through normal play. Honor is used to promote heroes that are fully trained and at their maximum level, among other things, with the maximum tier of promotion at 6 stars. Jewels are a Premium currency that will be covered later. Players can also access a number of other features at their hub, such as hero management where one can train heroes and check their bread inventory, Goddess management where one can access some dialogue options, the bakery where one can make bread over time, the blacksmith where one can upgrade and sell their weapons, the skill lab where one can transfer special skills to their characters, and the shop where one can purchase Jewels or a number of Gem-related features. To access the meat of the gameplay, one has but to hit the Adventure button and choose a mode and stage.
The hub, despite the large amount of information displayed, is surprisingly easy to navigate and understand.
As mentioned above, the genre of this game is very different from the strategic match-3 puzzle game style of the compared title. One enters a stage in Crusaders Quest with (up to) three heroes, each of which can be one of six classes that determines their general stat distribution. Once in a stage, the heroes will progress forward, moving and firing normal attacks automatically. However, this is generally far from sufficient to complete a stage, so players have to use blocks that spawn periodically at the bottom of the screen, each of which corresponds to an action one of the heroes can take. These blocks can be accumulated and chained, with a 3-chain generally resulting in the greatest effect. Players can also give their higher tier heroes special skills and bring a Goddess with them into a stage, with both acting as limit break-style mechanics that become available as normal blocks are used.

Players initially start the game with access to Quests, which serves as the game's aforementioned story mode and spans 240 stages (half on Normal mode and half on Hard mode). Quests require Meat, which regenerate at a rate of once per 10 minutes and serve as the game's primary time-based resource, to enter, though initially stages are very cheap. In addition to the aforementioned benefits of unlocking game features by progressing through the story and various loot such as weapons and gold, experience can only be earned through this mode. While this will generally be used for increasing hero levels, it also increases the rank of the player up to a maximum of 60, with each rank increasing maximum Meat (up to 70) and eventually unlocking stronger weapon upgrade options. Most quests, of which a maximum of three can be had at any given time, also require playing through this game mode to finish.
One of the Tundra stages in Quest mode. The weather effect in the top half is a mechanic that needs to be dispelled with Goddess powers (Goddess power readiness is shown by the meter above the blocks). The bottom half shows the results with an indicator showing I have completed a quest.
The Colosseum can be accessed with Tickets, which cap out at 3 and regenerate at a rate of once every 2 hours. Tickets provide an hour-long window of time in which players can win up to 10 matches against AI controlled player teams. Each win awards Honor, Meat, and points based the number of wins in the session and the rank of the player. Losing ends the Colosseum session and results in a significant loss of points. Due to the Meat reward from Colosseum, which can get significant at the highest rank, Master (one can earn 21 Meat for winning 10 times at this rank as of this writing), one can extend the length of their play sessions by playing in this mode. This mode also features a leaderboard showing who the top 50 players are at any given time in addition to showing how one stacks up against their friends.
Once upon a time I actually tried to get a high rank in the Colosseum. It got me 55 Jewels but took a lot of time.
The Dungeon (also known as Ancient Dungeon) can be accessed with Dungeon Keys, which cap out at 10 and regenerate at a rate of once every 20 minutes. When a stage is beaten in a dungeon, it provides a first-time completion reward that is usually more significant than the repeat completion reward. Dungeons are time-sensitive, with some being on weekly rotations and others being available during specific intervals during the week. Dungeon stages often have gimmicks, such as restricting which of the six types of heroes can enter or having enemies that require a specific block chain number to harm.

Other available Adventure-based features include the World Boss, which is a difficult co-op mode that awards high-tier weapons at the cost of a lot of Meat, and the Fortress of Souls, a more recent implementation that allows a given hero to enter a stage only once per day and awards materials used to create legendary weapons.
An old screenshot showing a close shave against one of the World Bosses (the giant worm corpse in the background).
Overall, this game has quite a bit to do and while the sheer amount would normally be overwhelming, the pacing at which content unlocks helps to make the game more approachable to newer players.


Crusaders Quest features retro 16-bit graphics that work out pretty well. What I particularly liked is how heroes became more elaborately designed as they advance to their final rank of 6 stars, much like Puzzles and Dragons monsters. NPC design is also excellent, with surprisingly expressive characters that are easily recognizable even without having to see their mugshots, though those are pretty easy on the eyes as well. While combat has a good chance of looking like a massive riot of colors and visual effects due to the sheer number of attacks being unleashed at once, abilities look very distinct and match up well with blocks where applicable. For instance, a block showing a rain of fiery rocks works as advertised visually. Animations, while often reused in some cases, look pretty smooth all around. Finally, it's worth mentioning that the interface generally looks quite lively, especially the hub.
Several NPCs exchanging hearty banter in wonderful 16-bit glory.
Crusaders Quest, as mentioned above, features a story. While the storytelling isn't particularly inspiring, there are a few cinematics that provide just enough of a desire to progress through stages to see what happens next. While most of the storytelling is confined to the Quest mode, the Fortress of Souls and recently added Dungeons also have some story associated with them, which indicates that there may be more focus on presentation through dialogue. There are also several questlines that tell short stories, usually involving a hero or two that the player is capable of recruiting, that flesh out the game a bit more. The game also has an encyclopedia of sorts that provides information about every hero, with some having a set of descriptions that tell the character's story.
This isn't a fourth wall break, right?
Overall, the game, while not pristine in its presentation, clearly has a lot of effort behind it that, while simple, may engross players and make them feel more invested whether it's visually or through the textual tidbits.


The premium currency in Crusaders Quest is Jewels. Jewels are used for the following:
  • Jewels can be spent to replenish various time-based currency:
    • One gem replenishes all Meat.
    • Up to two Jewels replenishes all Dungeon Keys.
  • Jewels can be used to bypass time-based restrictions:
    • A varied amount of Jewels can be used to speed up the baking of bread.
    • One gem can be spent to reset a hero used in the Fortress of Souls, while five resets the area completely (the Fortress of Souls resets daily).
    • At the moment there's a restriction that prevents players from bypassing time-based restrictions too often, possibly to slow the monstrous progression whales (and/or very experienced players) can achieve.
  • Jewels can be used to dampen luck-based occurrences:
    • Two Jewels can be spent to reset the gold cost of upgrading a single weapon's upgrade slot when it begins to cost a lot.
    • Three Jewels can be spent to reroll the promotion of a 3 star hero into a 4 star hero. This is important since 4-star heroes follow a set promotion path and every promotion up until then is randomized.
    • Three Jewels can be spent to reroll the upgrade options of a legendary weapon.
  • Jewels can be spent at the shop:
    • Jewels can be used to purchase large amounts of gold (this is in my opinion the most practical usage of Jewels).
    • Jewels can be used to buy premium contracts that give various heroes of at least 3 stars or above (or 2 stars or above for specific class contracts, which are more expensive). Premium contracts can be purchased in bulk for better value.
    • Jewels can be used to buy milk, which provides a timed buff that doubles experience gains.
  • And more...
As one can see, Jewels have a large number of applications for usage. However, despite this, I found after a few weeks of playing Crusaders Quest that I would never need to spend a single cent on the game. This is because players can earn a generous amount of Jewels through normal gameplay. Players can acquire Jewels in at least the following ways without paying money:
  • Jewels are awarded by completing certain quests, particularly quest chains and Urgent or Epic quests.
  • Jewels can be earned as one-time rewards from some Dungeon stages.
  • Very rarely, TOAST sends in-game mail with Jewels.
  • Players can earn Jewels on a weekly basis (between 3 and 100) by participating in the Colosseum. The amount of Jewels earned is based on the rank earned. In general, players can earn as many as 40-55 Jewels per week once they've advanced enough in the game.
The in-game shop for gems.
Gem pricing also isn't too bad, especially since there's often limited time deals for more Jewels and other special goodies that usually cost Jewels or are time-consuming to acquire. While I personally think all of the in-app purchases aren't worth getting, one deal that might be of interest in particular is the one that provides 60 Jewels over 30 days at the cost of 18 Jewels. Ultimately, everyone wins with this premium currency system since players can earn so many Jewels normally, but there's also a lot of reasons to want to spend Jewels which may tempt players into making in-app purchases to provide themselves with more options.


This game is full of additional details, some of which I will cover in this section:
  • Crusaders Quest has quite a few loading screens, with a minimum of two whenever one chooses to play a stage. While they're not that long, it does ruin the pacing of gameplay, especially in the Colosseum mode.
    • The loading screens have a lot of informative tutorials. They're very helpful for newer players.
Expect to see a lot of this when playing Crusaders Quest.
  • There used to only have a few soundtracks but some recent updates added many more. In general, the music is pretty good, though the newer soundtracks seem to loop poorly. 
    • What I really like in particular is that soundtracks mesh well with the loading screen, which helps with the aforementioned pacing problem. 
  • This game is very demanding and seems to use a lot of power. It also has a tendency to crash. 
  • Gifts are sent out frequently. Aside from being rewarded for playing 28 days out of each month (days do not need to be consecutive), one might find extra goodies in their mailbox such as random premium contracts, currencies, time-based resources, and so on. 
    • When initially loading the game, the player will be met with a number of announcements often related to ongoing events. It is highly recommend that one restarts the game occasionally to view these announcements, since some involve the aforementioned gifts.
... No comment.
  • This game frequently downloads new files on top of generally needing an internet connection to play, meaning that a wireless connection is almost mandatory outside of having an unlimited data plan.
  • While the time-based resources are nice, it's inconvenient to try to track each of them. In order to see Tickets and Dungeon Keys, one has to specifically tap and bring up the menu of the mode associated with that resource.
  • The game does a good job at providing informative feedback related to performance. When doing any stage that isn't a World Boss, damage and healing numbers for each hero is shown on a chart.
    • In the case of World Bosses, damage and healing numbers are shown at the end, with the sum of the two used to determine the MVP if the World Boss was defeated. The MVP earns additional loot.
Tapping the "Detailed Info" button here shows the damage and healing values.
  • A little while ago, the main purpose of the chat system was to show when players acquired really high-tier heroes. However, a more recent change made it possible for players to chat in the public channels. This adds a nice social aspect to the game that strangely a lot of online mobile games lack.
    • However, the players get censored for using even the most mundane words, so a better censoring system would be nice.
Channel 1 after chatting features were added. Surprisingly, nothing was censored.

This FAQ serves as an excellent guide (in fact, the subreddit in general is a good source of information) to the point I almost don't need to provide any tips. Regardless, I advise the following:
  • Try to progress through the Dungeons as soon as possible. The rewards at or near the end of them are very great. In particular, I would focus on completing Disarm as soon as possible to farm D'artagnan.
  • Once you unlock World Bosses, I can help out by carrying through them for some decent weapons. Comment below if you wish to coordinate some World Boss attempts.
    • On a related note, Golden Weapon Boxes aren't really worth buying. Even if they didn't cost 5 Jewels it's generally better to just do the World Boss.
  • Once you reach later stages of the game, you'll be able to have lengthy play sessions that involve Colosseum to farm Meat, which can then be used to do the World Boss or story mode content.
    • Popo is a rare merchant that can appear on any story mode stage (also mentioned in the FAQ). She sells Tickets, allowing you to effectively play endlessly if you're very lucky.
  • Time-based resources will go beyond stated limits, meaning you can accumulate a specific resource if desired (like with Tickets in the FAQ). However, no resources will be generated normally while above the limit. As a general rule, I would recommend not accumulating resources.
  • Friends can do quite a bit early on since you can bring them with you in Quest mode and receive Honor from them. While it's not recommended to bring friends when progressing since it denies your heroes experience, it is advised to make many friends in order to receive a steady flow of Honor (and remember to send out Honor daily too).
  • Even if you know you're going to fail a stage in Quest mode, do not quit, since even if your entire party falls, all rewards earned up to that point are retained. This is especially useful if you find yourself failing later stages due to difficulty.
    • However, as a general rule of thumb, it's better to fully complete a stage since it awards more loot and experience. This means if you want to grind, it's best to do a stage you know you're capable of completing.
Final Thoughts

Crusaders Quest is a game I'd recommend to anyone, but especially those interested in some simplistic, though somewhat strategic real-time action and RPG-like character management. Due to the generous premium currency system, I would highly recommend this game to those skeptical of the exploitative nature of mobile gaming. This game is also quite appealing to hardcore players who want to play for hours on end, though the game can also be played casually since even a few minutes equates to some progress despite the overall (potential) grindiness of the game. However, regardless of what type of player you are, remember to bring your charger and utilize a wireless connection whenever possible.

On another note I apologize. This article was long overdue and I don't really have a good excuse for why. At least I managed to publish the article shortly after an update to the game. This also concludes this article series for now. There will be another article coming out shortly after this one regarding the experiment I discussed over a month ago (within two days or so, probably).

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