iPhone Game Review: Ravensword: The Fallen King
Reviewed by Mike 'Todwurst' Wagner
If you're a fan of RPGs and an iPhone/Touch owner, Ravensword is a game that should be on your radar. The third-person RPG, developed by Crescent Moon Games and Human Powered Games and published by Chillingo, spent recent weeks turning heads with media previews and impressive screenshots. Driven by the Unity Engine, Ravensword is an action RPG reminiscent of Oblivion and scaled down for portability. Set in a fantasy realm with an absent king and an amnesiac hero, it doesn't bring anything new to the table story-wise, but it does bring it to your iPhone.
The controls are surprisingly intuitive and easy to master. If you've played a First Person Shooter or RPG with a mouse and keyboard you'll find the controls come naturally in minutes. The D-Pad in the lower left corner of the screen controls forward, backward, and side to side movement while the viewpoint is controlled by touching the screen and dragging the view around like a mouse - a control scheme which should feel natural to any PC gamer from the post-Doom era. But if it's your first time with a game of this type, fret not. The responsiveness of the controls and the ability to select and track your targets by tapping on them will have you slaughtering the forest denizens in no time.
Weapon switching (from melee to ranged, and vice versa) is done through a quickbar on the left side of the HUD. It works well, but the buttons are somewhat small for those of us with large hands. Effective use of weapon switching will save you many long trips back to your objective after a beatdown.
The quests are generic RPG missions, which begin with killing a set number of rats and graduate to killing specific NPCs/monsters. Unfortunately, other than basic stats and weapon inventory there is no real character development and no missions which contribute to fleshing out the character with abilities beyond "hitting things with other things".
While the gameplay is smooth, I experienced two crashes during my adventures. Fortunately, upon returning to the world of Ravensword it was evident that no XP or items were sacrificed to the evil bug gods, and I was able to continue with my quest.
Visually the game is a feast, pulling off smooth framerates and a beautiful environment that is impressive considering that you can carry the hardware it runs on around in your pocket. Environmental textures are somewhat muddy and not exceptionally detailed on close inspection, but as you look around the world it becomes obvious that this trade-off lets you see far into world of Ravensword. With load times between zones typically lasting only 5 seconds on a second generation Touch, this attention to optimization is appreciated.
The "talking heads" of NPCs could certainly be prettier, but you spend relatively little time talking to them as you charge about the countryside ruining the typical villain's day.
The HUD and other UI elements are well designed and easy to navigate, and the most commonly used items are automatically added to the four-item quickbar.
Enemies run the gamut from killer rats that look like mangy chihuahuas, wolves, and polar bears to monstrous humanoid beasts such as ogres and Bigfoot's aggressive cousin.
The ambient sound effects ring with the trills and chirps of birds, taking me back to the woods I wandered in my childhood which, happily, were not populated with various creatures bent on feasting on my marrow.
The soundtrack shifts between zones, soothing you as you wander through town and picking up the tempo as you set out into dangerous territories. When the drums overtake the pan flute, be prepared to shed some blood. There is no option for accessing your own music, but this hardly detracts from the quality of the game's own sound.
Ravensword is a technically ambitious and visually stunning title saddled with an anemic storyline and quests. If that description reminds you of Oblivion, and you found yourself happily engaging the fauna of Cyrodiil at every turn, then this is certainly a game worthy of investment. At 4 hours to complete the main storyline, and the ability to go out and hunt down some rather large monsters post-game it's comparable in gameplay and cost to downloadable content from your favorite RPGs.
Crescent Moon Games and Human Powered Games have a title with great potential on their hands. I'll certainly be watching to see where they take it.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Graphics are a mixed bag, but overall I'm very impressed with what they've done with the platform.
Sound: - 4.5 - An excellent score and ambient tracks, marred only by the repetitive squeak of the obligatory RPG rat.
Controls: - 4.5 - The controls are surprisingly easy to grasp, taking only minutes to master. Ravensword gets controls right where other first and third person games have faltered.
Gameplay: - 3.5 - A few generic quests and simple grinding missions, and then you save the world. A deeper storyline and more involving missions would go a long way toward improving the experience.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Pick up any magic crystals you find out in the forest and hold on to them. It will save time later.
- You can return to an area to milk it for coins and XP a second time, but after that the monsters and loot decrease substantially.
- Once you target an enemy it will stay targeted as long as you face it. Use this to your advantage when strafing around large enemies to avoid being incapacitated.
Developer: Crescent Moon Games Human Powered Games
Release Date: November 17th, 2009
Buy App: iTunes App Store
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