This guy could really do with looting some moisturiser.
The boulder in front of me looks scalable. I take a step back to assess the height and distance from my current perch on the cliff face. Yeah. I can definitely do this. I run and I jump. The instant my polygonal feet hit rock I start sliding downwards as the cruel hands of gravity embarrassingly wrench down my metaphorical pants of optimism. No. Not this time. I will not submit. I sprint, I flail, I frantically swipe my dagger and I jump for dear life! I’m doing it! I’m ascending! Yes! I have made it. I stand atop the next ledge of the cliff face and look down at the new path that lies before me. “I bet I wasn’t supposed to uncover this yet” I chuckle to myself “this is probably for level 20 players, or maybe higher!” I drop down into the ravine, eager to explore this exciting new land. It only takes me a few steps before I realise this is a dead end, and sat in wait at the far end is a colossal beast, the kind of gargantuan behemoth usually reserved for epic end game boss fights. This is going to take all of my skill and cunning. I eat what food I have to replenish my health and I ready my fearsome dagger. Prepare to die detestable beast that has done nothing to antagonize me! The monster steps forward, raises a pair of fists each the size of a cow and brings them down on my head.
I didn’t know it then but what I fought is known as a Mega Troll and should not be taken on by mere rookies. Also, it turns out that I didn’t need to scale that cliff face; there is actually a path that leads right to it from the get go. Still, that doesn’t make for as good a story. A story which I hope conveys at least a modicum of the adventurous spirit that Ravensword: The Fallen King has imbued throughout its 6-8 hour story.
The game, for the few of you at the back who have no idea what’s going on, is a third person (or first person if you so choose) RPG very much in the style of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Through conversations with non player characters you take on quests and tasks, explore the world presented before you, battle various nefarious foes and upgrade your character's skills, stats and inventory. Ravensword certainly doesn’t seek to dabble with this classic formula other than to strip away some of the more complicated elements and what you’re left with is an extremely accessible westernised role playing game.
You take on the role of an unnamed hero who wakes up with amnesia and… wait come back! Okay, so the story starts off a little hokum but this isn’t THAT kind of RPG. No, this is a western RPG where the focus is on clubbing trolls and knifing undead skeletons and robbing their corpse’s blind. Anyway, the story sets you off as a chap with no memory, the king of the land is missing and a Demon Lord has enslaved the kingdom… although everyone seems to pretty much just go about their lives. That’s what this universe is doing and that’s all you need to know going in. It’s hardly Final Fantasy VII but again, it’s not that kind of RPG. Make your peace with this now or go and buy a novel.
As you are no doubt aware from a cursory glance at the screenshots Ravensword is an astonishingly attractive game. That it has been put together by a two man team is nothing short of incredible. The scale of the world you are given to explore is such that any shortcomings in the framerate or draw distance (or indeed the story!) are easily forgiven. In fact it is only the draw distance that we can really criticise with fog engulfing everything more than a few yards in front of you (note: This review is written based from experiences on an iPhone 3G). It is entirely possible to get completely lost thanks to the abundance of fog but thanks to a cunning piece of game design woven into the story you are equipped with a homing amulet. Just activate this no matter where you are and you will be magically whisked back to the safe town of Avon. Frankly we’re surprised the fog wasn’t also worked into the narrative, it would only have taken a single sentence from an NPC: “The Demon Lord has engulfed the land with evil…oh, and a mysterious fog”. Still, with everything else looking as sharp and detailed as you could expect from a game as ambitious as this the draw distance is but a stray hair on an otherwise disturbingly delicious cake.
As I mentioned earlier what Ravensword does so brilliantly is to offer a much more streamlined role playing experience. The eternally dangling carrot of experience points and reaching the next level is never out of sight, this keeps combat and dungeon crawling very compelling throughout your quest. Upon levelling up however you don’t get to allocate your experience points to various attributes, instead they are auto assigned. Similarly equipment and weaponry statistics are never revealed to you, instead it is just assumed that the sword will deal more damage than the dagger and so forth. While some may balk at having these classic RPG elements taken out of their control I found it extremely liberating. No longer must I concern myself with balancing my stats or managing my inventory. What’s left is the distilled liquid essence of adventuring and combat, and let me tell you friend, it goes down smooth.
I could talk at length about the quality of the audio, the wonderful controls (think Modern Combat but with swords) the variety of environments, the staggering potential for expansions or sequels and various other facets of this new and exciting IP but frankly I’m running out of space. Furthermore every second you spend reading this article is a second that could be spent bludgeoning a giant spider to a hairy Pâté with a particularly gnarled wooden club. In many ways Ravensword reaches beyond the limitations of its native hardware and you could argue that this is its one true downfall. If you can look past the poor draw distance, and you should, you will find an irresistible leviathan of a game.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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