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Cross of the Dutchman Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Supposedly based on a true story, Cross of the Dutchman sees Pier Gerlofs Donia protecting his village from invading forces. Unfortunately, he doesn't do much else. The combat is shallow, the graphics are dated and the story ends before it has a chance to begin. Pier is a memorable hero trapped in a disappointing game. Rating: 40%
Cross of the Dutchman
Cross of the Dutchman Cross of the Dutchman Cross of the Dutchman Cross of the Dutchman
  • Review Score:

  • C-
I'm always skeptical when a movie trumpets that it's "based on a true story." This is normally just marketing double-speak and what's actually depicted on the screen rarely mirrors real life. I have a hunch the same can be said about Cross of the Dutchman, the brand new Steam game that purports to be the true story of a 16th century freedom fighter named Pier Gerlofs Donia.

One look at this guy and it's clear that he's built to be an action hero. He towers above everybody else and has muscles larger than the nearby mountains. For a simple farmer, he's able to take on large groups of soldiers with his bare hands. And as it turns out, that's a talent his local community needs. With a threat of the Saxon army invading the peaceful village, Pier sets out to assemble a rebel force to mount a defense.

But before any of that can happen, our hero will have to run the usual assortment of odd jobs and fetch quests. This usually involves running into a large group of thieves and soldiers. But don't worry about Pier's safety, because he's more than capable of beating up even the most well-equipped enemies. His standard punch will knock a bad guy out in only one or two good smacks, while the more powerful uppercut can defeat multiple enemies at once.

Eventually our hero will realize that his bare fists won't be enough to win this war, and he upgrades to a sword. Just as before, the sword has a standard attack and a more powerful move that kills several people at once. This secondary attack will eat away at our hero's stamina bar, so players will be forced to use it sparingly.

Whether it's historically accurate or not, Cross of the Dutchman has a simple and effective set-up for a story. The problem is that it never does anything with the potential. From its two hour run time to the barebones combat, every element comes up short. This is an origin story that feels like it's missing an act.

Cross of the Dutchman (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Although it looks like a Zelda-style adventure game, Cross of the Dutchman sides more with action than exploration. Pier's world is small and isolated, so every section looks the same. He never raids castles or fights through dungeons, he's mostly just running around the outdoor environments looking for the Saxon soldiers.

Pier doesn't gain experience points or levels up, he just bounces from one mission to the next without thinking about how it's impacting his family. What few upgrades there are prove to be inconsequential, as Cross of the Dutchman is rarely difficult. Even when the battles escalate, you'll usually have a bunch of computer-controlled friends around, letting you sit back and watch them do the heavy lifting.

Sometimes the game will force our hero to be stealthy, making us sneak past guards with lanterns. I'm not sure if it's because I'm coming off of playing Metal Gear Solid V or not, but these stealth sections are wildly inadequate. For the most part, the guards will only see Pier if he steps inside the small circle of light. He can be inches away from a soldier's face and they won't notice a thing. However, there are times when the enemies will suddenly see you from across the level. It makes no sense.

Cross of the Dutchman (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

But before I even had a chance to figure out the inconsistencies, the game was over and credits were rolling. Cross of the Dutchman is short and anti-climactic. Much of the emotional impact is undermined by a short story that doesn't properly display Pier's struggles. As seeing how he eventually becomes a pirate, I can't help but feel like the game ends way too early. At the same time, with gameplay this shallow, I'm not sure I would want it to last much longer than two hours.

The dated presentation certainly doesn't help. Everything is displayed from a locked overhead perspective, so we're never able to move the camera or zoom in on the action. There's also no voice acting, which is desperately needed as Pier attempts to convince his local townspeople to take up arms against the Saxon army.

If Cross of the Dutchman succeeds at anything, it's at making me interested in the history of Pier Gerlofs Donia. The stories I read about the man are fascinating, and I can see why Triangle Studios was inspired to make him the star of their action game. But even with the historical context, this game is weighed down by shallow combat, repetitive missions and a short run time. Cross of the Dutchman convinces me that Pier can defeat an entire army, but it never gives me a reason to care.
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