While many people play RPGs for depth of story, heavy customization, and enthralling scenarios, I’m sure there are also folks who don’t. There have to be at least a few players who (at least every once in a while) want to play an action RPG where you basically just run around and hit things with a sword for a couple of hours.
For those people, I give you Ravensword: The Fallen King.
Ravensword is a straightforward action RPG for the iOS, clocking in at about five hours of play time and about three dollars to purchase. Produced by
shovelware casual game developer Chillingo, it certainly takes its look and feel from the Elder Scrolls franchise, but is only a pale shade of the best western RPGs.
As far as story goes, you play as… actually, you know what? It doesn’t even matter who you play as. You wake up in a town with amnesia. Naturally, you’re given a club and some food and told to go make some money by running errands for people in the village – the kind of errands that are inherently fatal. You know, things like gathering crystals in the treacherous forest and slaying beasts.
Oh, and just as an aside to all you RPG developers out there: amnesia is over. I’m serious. It’s done, no more amnesia in RPGs for at least five years. Someone really needs to do something about this.
Anyways, complete a few of the aforementioned quests and you’ll get a little more involved in saving the town. But don’t plan on making much sense out of the grand scheme of things. The king hasn’t been seen for years! There’s a Demon Lord in the volcano! At the end, you may learn something out of left-field about your history! A word of advice: do not play this game looking for a compelling narrative. Play it for a few hours of mildly amusing gameplay, and keep story expectations really low. You may still be disappointed.
Combat is extremely straightforward; there’s an attack button, and that’s basically it. Press it over and over again until you or your opponent keels over. Oh, there’s also a ranged weapon that the game forces you to use in a couple of fights, as well as a pair of magical items that have no real important combat use, but primarily you just try to bludgeon woodland creatures and agents of evil with whatever is at hand.
A big turn-off for me was that, while you can buy a couple of pieces of armor or weapons, there was no clear way to determine which of these items would be most effective. At the blacksmith’s shop, there are several items available, but I chose the warhammer simply because it was the most expensive. Beyond that, I had no way of knowing which weapon was most powerful aside from trial and error.
One other thing on the subject of weapons. Perhaps the developer could explain to me why the titular Ravensword, a legendary weapon said to possess extraordinary power, cannot slay a weak goblin in one blow? My head hurts.
Control is not terribly sophisticated, with the dreaded iOS virtual D-pad in the lower left corner. Generally speaking, the button presses work fine. When you press your jump button, you jump (not that you need to jump in this game), and you attack when you hit the attack button. Sometimes I ran into a little trouble clicking on an enemy in order to target them, but largely, the controls were effective, if simple. Walking around isn’t a terrible chore, but it does take some getting used to using the movement stick effectively.
Aside from the main quest, there are a few sidequests scattered about, as well as the ability to continue playing after the credits roll. In fact, there are one or two areas on the world map that could be completely ignored during the main game. To the developer’s credit, there was obviously some effort made to try and make sidequests something beyond simple fetch quests; there’s shepherding, archery, and beehive-destroying. Yet, none of these sidequests are very rewarding at all, as the rewards are usually gold, which you will probably have plenty of anyways. With no benefit to partaking in side missions and the rather clumsy controls, I felt like I would have been better off not exploring these aspects of gameplay.
What you won’t find in this game is variation. There are perhaps twelve types of enemies in the game, and that includes “boss” characters. Nearly all the NPCs repeat the same information. There are only a couple of different equipment options (would you like leather or steel?) and yes, you will find yourself backtracking every now and then through an area you’ve already been to.
Graphically, Ravensword is no great shakes. Obviously being a take on Oblivion and the like, it certainly goes for a dull-color-palette western RPG atmosphere. The areas of the world map have their polygon bugs and slight blockiness, but they are all graphically distinct and hold up relatively well. The characters, though? Ick. By the end of 2010, even iPhone and iPad users expect something a bit more robust and professional in regards to graphics on iOS games. Everything doesn’t have to be Chaos Rings, but come on, at least make character faces look reasonable.
Sound and sound design seemed to be an afterthought in Ravensword. There’s not a lot of variation in the score; it is primarily one theme that you’ll get very, very used to. Sound effects are not plentiful. The term “utilitarian” comes to mind. No one will ever care about this OST.
Ravensword is light on content, to be sure. And for three dollars, I’m certain that your expectations aren’t set sky-high. If you’re a fan of Elder-Scrolls-style combat and mild exploration (and you aren’t put off by clunky controls and only the thinnest patina of depth and story) then go for it. Otherwise, this seems like four or so hours that you’ll likely forget.