Crimson Spires Review (PS5): Transvision Vamp

Locate missing residents when a serial killer and vampires may or may not roam the town, where if you attempt to leave, spells instant death... Crimson Spires out now.

A hasty Crimson Spires review – I’ve just finished it and am keen to share my thoughts on the day of release. As part of the Eastasiasoft Summer showcase, the promise of a serial killer and vampires in this visual novel sounded great. No, I’m not one of those morbid types, nor have I read or seen any of the Twilight series – I’m all about The Lost Boys.

On the way to St Louis, you receive a call from one of your superiors informing you that the serial killer ‘The Heartbreaker’ has been caught. This is big news, so Special Agent Erika Wright, you, feel compelled to take a detour for a meet and greet, only to find disaster has struck, and all agents are seemingly dead with the killer, August, nowhere to be seen.

Crimson Spires PS5 Review - Erect
Erect. Source: Eastasiasoft

After a brief confrontation, the scene escalates even further when a series of spires rise from the ground, forming a perimeter around the town, Bataille. It becomes brutally clear that anyone who attempts to go near them will have their head removed. Fast-forward six months later, our hero Erika is now the sheriff in town, conceding that nobody can leave or enter the town, as verified by the body count.

Crimson Spires Review

There are a fair amount of strange occurrences in Crimson Spires, a game by Woodsy Studio, but taking up residence as the town’s law enforcer with the suspected murderer behind bars in the same room is pretty pedestrian in comparison. Still, six months is a fair amount of time to pass without meeting all the 700 ish residents. But then everything kicks off when a mother comes to Erika for help in locating her teenage daughter that has eloped with the local scallywag. Time for an investigation, and the first steps into a tale full of deceit, suspense and a little bit of romance too. Bow-chika-wow-wow!

It’s hardly a spoiler that there are vampires in the game, considering that was part of the marketing, but what their purpose is, how you deal with them, and your relationship is entirely down to your actions. Crimson Spires is a visual novel with a few choices scattered along the way – mostly whether you agree with a character or not, and a few questions here and there, but they don’t actively change how the game plays out. Without giving too much away, you will need to pick one of the main characters as your companion for almost half the game, meaning that there are multiple endings.

Crimson Spires PS5 Review - Good hair
Good hair. Source: Eastasiasoft

Again, no spoilers, but I was happy with my first choice, though the ending was quite abrupt, only countered by a little MCU-like post-credits scene. Chapter six, of ten chapters, is the key point to save your game as this is when you choose your path, though after completing the game, you can shift to one of the characters you haven’t finished it with. A quick note on saving: I initially started Crimson Spires on PS5, then retired to the PS4 when in another room, and both had constant errors with the autosave. This will likely be fixed, but if you’re going to buy this after reading this review (I’m flattered), make sure to save it manually. You can’t get a game over, but just in case you have to leave the game because the sun is rising…

Lucius Christ!

It was a pleasant surprise to see 3D animation in the game. While it won’t blow you away, it’s a welcome addition to the visual novel style. You can move around and investigate a handful of 3D areas, but the bulk of the game is represented by 2D illustrations, which were very good – slightly similar to Perseverance. They were neither anime-like nor this new ‘Netflix Castlevania revolution’, but their own style. 

While we’re on presentation, the sound design was a highlight. The eerie score often created some unbalance, and a couple of repeated tracks stood out in some of the scenes. Crimson Spires is text-based, so you will be reading a lot, but there’s a hell of a lot of voice acting here, albeit none for Erika. While not entirely performed – having those odd “Huh?” and what-not, they weren’t that cliche overacted stereotype I’ve found common in the genre. Maddie and August were the standouts for me; the latter had a slight Chris Parnell charm.

Crimson Spires PS5 Review - Maddy
Maddy. Source: Eastasiasoft

I’m not entirely sure who the intended audience is. As mentioned, there’s a bit of romance here (which I happily indulged in) and a few naive exchanges, but it doesn’t feel like a teenage yarn. Yes, it can be a little predictable, but I was delighted to see that mix up a bit more towards the end, and it kept me guessing. Additional playthroughs with the other characters will offer some insight. It is mildly annoying early on how stubborn Erika is, though. For someone who focuses on facts, she refuses to accept what’s going on. There’s a bit of wasted time – on her development, rather than the gameplay experience. If she listened to those around her, well…

Without recalling how many chapters were in the game at the time of the first playthrough, it was assumed that choosing a companion signalled the end, but there were times where it dragged a little, and a few scenes could have been chopped. That said, Crimson Spires has been a positive experience and one that I can confidently say is worth repeat plays if you are lured into the narrative. Sure, there are a few unanswered questions, but explaining everything takes the mystery away.