Cross of the Dutchman is an adventure role-playing game based around legendary Frisian hero Pier Gerlofs Donia (Pier the Great), who lived from 1480 to 1520. As Columbus was busy discovering the New World, Pier had problems of his own back home in The Netherlands (formerly Holland…formerly Frisia). His town was ransacked and razed by invading Saxons, and his beloved wife Rintsje was killed in the destruction. Vowing justice, Pier organized a group of humble farmers and townsfolk to fight off the Saxon warriors and rebuild the town!
The game begins humbly enough, with only your fists for weapons. Movement and combat work the same as in many top-down RPGs and MOBAs. Fully explore each map, as hordes of gold coins are scattered generously about. If you see barrels or crates, smash them. If you see a chest, kick it open! Along your journey, you’ll also encounter shopkeepers and traders, and you can use your coins to buy what you need.
The most powerful items are accompanied by a gold medal and are the most expensive. Items with a silver medal are of medium quality and price, while the copper medal ranks lowest in both respects. Healing potions are an exception to the medal rule, opting instead for “large, medium, and small” vials.
Managing your weapon inventory couldn’t be simpler. You either use your fists or your sword. The equipped item is shown as the larger medal in the top left corner of the screen; the unequipped item is the smaller. The long red bar is your health and the shorter green bar is your stamina…easy and intuitive!
As you probe the countryside, friendly NPCs will introduce themselves and join your effort. They assist in combat, as well as provide important information regarding the quest at hand. One of my favorites is a kind-hearted clergyman who feels no remorse in sending you out on dangerous missions, while he stays safe in his comfy cloister.
Although important points in the story are marked by cut scenes, the game doesn’t “hide” behind them. These scenes are short, to the point and don’t monopolize the player’s time. This is much appreciated; many so-called “triple-A” titles are becoming more like playable movies these days! Overall, the game delivers a balance of exciting play and rich story-telling that’ll keep you riveted until its conclusion. After all, how can Pier single-handedly accomplish all this with only a skeleton crew for support? Well, legend says he was strong enough to lift and carry a horse…those Saxons have no idea what they’re in for!
So when deciding on your next action RPG, is Cross of the Dutchman worth it? A resounding “Yes” from me. With intuitive controls and stunning graphics, you’ll easily lose track of time as you assist Pier on his quest. There are also two dozen Steam achievements to keep you coming back. But due to the linear nature of the story and gameplay, the achievements may be the only return attraction once the ending is reached. Nevertheless, the $9 (USD) price tag is reasonable for a thrilling pass through this highly cultural adventure.
Incidentally, the town that Pier helped to rebuild still stands, and with this game, we can all stand (and march) in the boots of one of western Europe’s “Great” sons.
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