Ahhhh Crusader. One of the best old PC games from one of the best old PC game companies…Origin! Hey, yeah, remember when Origin was a division of EA that made fucking amazing games like the Wing Commander series, Bioforge, Cybermage, and etc. etc., and not the name of their shitty Steam knock off service for some reason? Of course you don’t, because I am fucking old. Anyway, Crusader was a crazy sci-fi action adventure game. One of the biggest things that set it apart from other such games was how destructible everything was.
On top of the already furious firefights, most objects in the environment could be destroyed, often with very explosive effects. This is standard stuff these days, but it was pretty groundbreaking back in 1995.
On top of the seemingly endless waves of soldiers rushing towards your myriad future-murder weapons, there was also an alarm system, complete with cameras you had to destroy before they spotted you, deadly robots, and traps, traps, traps! You could deal with these by just destroying the fuck out of everything in sight or sometimes look for sneakier ways to progress like finding ways to disable the traps or taking over enemy robots to turn the tables on those filthy evil-future-corporation types.
It’s surprisingly long for a game like this too. 15 stages of increasingly difficult combat, up to the maddening last two areas full of enemies that all fire the deadliest weapon in the game at you, which melts you into a pile of goo after it takes out your shields in 2-3 hits. Oh, the destruction is so fun though.
The story is pretty standard “resistance vs. evil future corporation” business, all told through delightfully 90s fmv cutscenes, mostly during your visit to your base between missions. Your base where you can buy weapons from this fucking guy
Holy shit, I forgot all about that guy. How much more 90s can you get?
Anyway…man this game is fun, even today. Origin sure knew how to make em back then. The only downside was the controls. Man, they really liked to try to pack every damn button all into the same number pad area back in the day. A little tricky trying to cycle through your weapons and inventory and interact with objects with the same fingers you’re using for movement, but you get used to it. Interesting to note, I recognized some of the sound effects and even a couple art designs were straight out of Bioforge, which they released that same year. Makes me want to play that again too. Makes me want to play like every classic Origin game ever again actually, but let’s just stick to Crusader for now. Next up is the sequel Crusader: No Regret, which for some reason I never had or played. Let’s close this one out by wondering why the hell they programmed this stupid bartender in here…
No Regret is really not much different than No Remorse in most ways. The gameplay is pretty much identical. Most of the enemies and weapons are ones you’ve already seen before. The FMV acting seems a bit worse somehow too.
What sets it apart from its predecessor though is its devious and unforgiving difficulty. Instead of taking the usual sequel route where you basically start over from scratch and progress from easy to hard all over again, you just pick up exactly where you left off in No Remorse, fighting against the same tough elite troops and mechs that you were facing in the later parts of the game. You’ll immediately be facing enemies with heavy firepower and a huge increase in the number and complexity of the traps and puzzles. Also there are strange men in the bathrooms…
While there aren’t very many new enemies, the ones that did make it in were pretty interesting and tricky, like these stealth mechs that can disguise themselves as anything from a vending machine to important looking security consoles.
So…you’re going to die. A lot. It wasn’t so frustrating that it stopped being fun though and the good old ability to save and load at any time keeps you from losing much, if any, progress. It was actually pretty refreshing to see that the devs took mostly just the same assets from the original and re-implemented them in inventive enough ways that it felt like a fun new challenge instead of just a rehash.
Overall, other than the weird controls, these games both hold up really well and provide quite a lot of entertaining content if you’re into challenging, action packed sci-fi adventures.