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Cross of the Dutchman (PC) artwork

Cross of the Dutchman (PC) review

"A functional yet flat retelling of the bravery of Pier Donia."

Cross of the Dutchman (PC) image

Cross of the Dutchman possesses the infrastructure of an excellent action/adventure outing. It combines the simple mechanics and control scheme of Diablo with the concept of meeting swarms of villains, similar to what you'd expect to find in an old school brawler. Swift movements and mere clicks allow you to unleash a flurry of blows and purchased skills on numerous opponents with devastating results. The game's beastliness doesn't stop there, either. You command the historical figure Pier Gerlofs Donia, a Frisian who fought against the Saxon invasion of his homeland in the 16th century. Dutchman depicts him as the kind of character he ought to be: a burly, bearded hulk with a seven-foot-long sword who doesn't tolerate intruders on his property. Think of him as a European Mike Haggar, bent on pile driving every punk out of Frisia.

Dutchman's version of Old Europe is a colorful one, decked out with clothing and architecture relevant to the time period and locale. The game also eschews realistic visuals in favor of a more animated design. Although some might complain that such lighthearted graphics are not befitting of a violent piece of historical fiction, I find the style refreshing and thankfully not resource intensive. What matters, anyway, is that the game bogs you down with copious foes in the latter phases of the campaign with nary a snag, allowing you to dice up soldiers as quickly as you spot them without the looming threat of lag.

Cross of the Dutchman (PC) image

As you can imagine, Pier is more than a battle-starved behemoth. Prior to his career as a Saxon-slayer, he was an everyday man: he married his sweetheart, Rintsje, sired two children, and maintained a farm between the villages Arum and Kimswerrd. Throughout the title, we see that he's eager to aid his neighbors, particularly if their issues involve troops collecting unnecessary taxes or stealing their stock, and he is a wonderful provider. In combat, however, he's anything but a gentle giant. Those who have experienced either his skull-smashing fists or flesh-rending blade can attest to that...

I will say that if you're itching for a straightforward action title with some historic elements, then look no further than Cross of the Dutchman. The game's lenient learning curve allows anyone who's previously played a point-and-click RPG or action title to take to battle like a seasoned vet. There are only a few segments that don't consist of repeatedly bashing the opposition into dust, and even then the game isn't complex. In particular, you'll encounter a few stealth missions. Before you cringe, understand that these scenes don't present much undue hardship. They're fair and properly challenging, especially towards the end of the campaign when you must negotiate such events with a time limit.

...and yet, despite so many solid design choices, I wasn't all that impressed by Cross of the Dutchman. Yes, it sported all of the proper tropes, but the game lacked depth in several key areas.

Cross of the Dutchman (PC) image

For starters, the combat system is never anything more than chop-chop-chop. Soldiers appear and you click them to death. More arrive and the fight ends in a similar manner. Even three chapters later, it's the same story with a familiar conclusion. Honestly, I felt like I was waging the same war each time, except with additional troops popping up during subsequent confrontations. I seldom altered my strategy, and when I did it was only to incorporate regrouping to allow my health to replenish. This could be a result of the game's bestiary consisting of only two basic enemy types: foot soldiers and archers. Sure, there are tougher versions of both of them, but why feature only two enemy types instead of a variety of warriors to deal with? I mean, you could include some heavies, axe-wielders lancers, etc. Granted, they may not be historically accurate, but the tale the game tells isn't one hundred percent true to its source material, either. The game isn't lacking for action, to be sure, but its repetition leaves something to be desired.

The game also could have offered more content outside of combat to keep you busy, but it falters similarly on that count. Sure, there's a little exploration to undertake, but doing so only begets monetary rewards. You can then use those coins to purchase one of the paltry upgrades Dutchman supplies, thereby increasing your hit points or stamina up to three times apiece. Sadly, it shouldn't take you long to max those two stats out, and to acquire all six of his skills. Worse still is the fact that your adventure follows a mostly set path, with no side quests to speak of. You might expect one of the myriad NPCs to give you an optional task now and again, but the only townsfolk willing to chat are plot-relevant characters and merchants. If there are any spare adventures to be had, I couldn't find them.

Cross of the Dutchman (PC) image

To make matters worse, the game's narrative elements are also lacking. I won't go into some of the particulars regarding the story, since that would spoil the game for anyone not familiar with the story of Pier Gerlofs Donia. Basically, Pier incites a rebellion, gathers allies, and goes to war. You'd figure that the game would tug more aggressively at your heartstrings, especially since he has a family to worry about, but the story saves all of poignant material for the beginning and end of the tale. The plot in between those two heartrending events plays out like this:

"There are soldiers causing a ruckus in [insert location]. Let's get 'em!"

"We should gather [allies' names] first."

"Damn, there's an impediment. Let's go talk to [insert NPC here]."

"We win! Now let's head back to [our home/the tavern/the encampment]."

There aren't many twists or turns, and there are few sections that reveal the motives and personalities of the cast. In fact, the only member of the entourage we receive any background information on is Pier's nephew, Wyerd. Not surprisingly, he's also one of the more likable heroes in the story. Sadly, combatants like Jon and Wybe receive one-dimensional roles, with no significant elaboration or interactions that reveal the content of their characters.

But Cross of the Dutchman is not a terrible game, in spite of the areas in which it is lacking. It's mechanically solid and features wonderful rule systems without the bellyache of a learning curve. Unfortunately, its dearth of content, underwhelming storyline, and repetitive, ho-hum campaign left me feeling empty. I can't really give it a confident stamp of approval, not when the events sandwiched between its strong beginning and tear-jerking conclusion are so forgettable.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 15, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Great battles, interrupted by middling chatter.


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sashanan posted September 15, 2015:

Sounds pretty average. But I may have to get this after all, if only to support Dutch game development. Thanks for the heads up!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 17, 2015:

Well, I don't discourage people from trying it. It's not a terrible game, after all, and I'm sure there are plenty of folks who will enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

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