Rampaging invaders, the transformation of a humble farmer into a fearsome rebel leader, the timeless tale of an enemy force seeking to exert its will on an unwilling citizenry. This is the fundamental composition of Cross of the Dutchman, the latest release Triangle Studios.
As the story goes, it’s like the original Red Dawn, minus the 80s Brat Pack, Soviet paratroopers and the right-wing extremism of John Milius. Set in in the Netherlands in the early 1500s, the biggest difference between Cross of the Dutchman and other fictional games and media telling a similar story is that Cross of the Dutchman is firmly rooted in the real-life adventures of Pier Gerloff Donia, a humble farmer transformed into a national hero through the forge of war.
If you haven’t heard the tale of Pier Donia, you’re probably not native to the Netherlands. It’s a story worth knowing, and the greatest strength and foundation of the Cross of the Dutchman is the retelling Pier’s origin story. Known as Pier the Great or Grutte Pier (Great Pier), Donia’s story is one that seems to leap from the pages of a comic book or adventure novel. Pier seems larger than life, both due to his legendary physical prowess and size and for the actions he took as a rebel leader aligned against the the Saxon force occupying his homeland.
His out-sized reputation and presence is well-illustrated through bold, graphic-novel style cutscenes used to advance the story as the game moves from chapter to chapter. These cutscenes are used to break up the rest of the game’s narrative elements, which rely heavily on dialogue and the small quests that make up the majority of the game’s playtime. It’s presented in a simple, over-head style. The setting is attractive, with villages, homesteads and their inhabitants rendered in a bright, stylistic graphics. The soundtrack is well-done, accentuating the different elements and moods of the game as they occur.
Mechanically, Cross of the Dutchman isn’t breaking any new ground. Outside of the dialogue and quests, the two main elements of the game revolve around personal combat with the pillaging Saxons and several stealth segments. The combat is hack-n-slash, ARPG style, with a very limited upgrade path for attacks, health and “stamina,” which powers special attacks. The enemies are about as varied as the upgrades, consisting of melee troops and archers with stronger variants as the game progresses. The difficulty comes in fighting large groups at once, but this can be offset through NPC followers that charge after Pier into the fray. The stealth segments are limited and take place during the night. Some are time-based, all involve avoiding the the lantern-aided vision radius of patrolling Saxons while navigating from point A to point B.
The game elements are basic, but the lure of the story, the short chapters and above-average full controller support make it a great couch experience for those looking to enjoy an afternoon or evening playing a fun, if short, story-driven adventure. Cross of the Dutchman focuses on documenting Pier’s change from a farmer minding his own business to a his role as a revenge-driven national hero. As such, elements from his role as a pirate (yes, really) marauder are not featured, but hopefully Triangle Studios will continue Pier’s story with a sequel in the near future. For fans of Pier’s story and the efforts Triangle Studios has made in sharing it, the deluxe edition is only two more dollars at full price and includes “a copy of the game, a digital art-book, all the soundtracks of the game, timeline of the entire project and a papercraft item of the main character.”On Steam Website