One hundred thousand years ago, the planet Ur was created. The gods fashioned this world to be their own personal playground. As time passed, a split developed, and the gods separated Ur into two warring factions: Good and Evil. This war waged on for countless millennia and left the planet scarred. Eventually, the gods grew tired of this game, and withdrew from the world. The people of Ur were now doomed to spend eternity in the underworld of Anserak with no god to judge when the souls had atoned for their sins. You, once a great warrior-mage, are one of these forsaken souls.
Flash forward to the present. You soul is being summoned from the pits of eternal damnation by a sorcerer who plans to force you to find the kidnapped daughter of Lord Tenrick and punish the cult responsible for the kidnapping. You are made into a mindless slave and given the name “Locke D’Averam”, or “Revenant of the House of Averam”. With no choice but to follow orders, the sorcerer sets you out on your quest to confront the armies of the mysterious cult, and maybe find clues about your previous existence before being summoned forth as The Revenant.
“I shalt rescueith thine fair princess!”…yeah right
On first glance, Revenant sounds a little like the typical “save the princess” story. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Locke is a bitter man and reacts to the quest thrust upon him with nothing short of utter disdain and anger. He views his resurrection to complete such a mundane task to be a waste of time, and never holds back his desire to tell everyone as such. Where the typical gamer has grown accustomed to the heroes who quest with pride and desire to fulfill the wishes of their lordship, Locke really could not care less. This refreshing twist provides for an interesting look into the mind of Locke. He reacts with sincere and very human emotions, something the boneheaded heroes with whom we have grown up simply cannot do.
Because revived souls cannot go against the will of their masters, Locke is forced to do a quest that he despises. Due to this fact, he takes his anger out on anyone and anything that gets in his way and refuses to give him total respect. He strikes and kills because he feels like it, not because it is honorable. “You want to know what it’s like to be dead? Allow me to show you.”
In many respects, Locke is more the antagonist than the happy-go-lucky protagonist typical of adventures such as this. Such an angle is incredibly refreshing and gives Revenant a much better overall feel than what is possessed by the typical, stale role-playing game.
Lost in a wake of corpses
Movement is made available using one of three different methods. The first is a point-and-click system, where you designate a location to which you wish to travel, and hold down the mouse button to have Locke move. The second method is by use of the keyboard’s arrow keys (however, this system is severely sluggish and presents a number of unique difficulties for the player). And lastly, through the use of a control pad. Though not available to everyone, the latter method is the most preferred as it is the only one that is really intuitive and works well. More on this fact in the control section.
Now just imagine getting lost where you spend three frustrating hours trying to get back to town with the aggravating movement system. Now, imagine having to endure this torture over and over again. The lack of a map in Revenant makes getting lost during exploration far too easy, and the movement system makes it all the more difficult to get back. I have spent countless hours in the middle of nowhere, frustrated to no end. This makes coming back to the game all the more difficult when you know that the time spent trying to find your way is so unnervingly unpleasant.
The combat system is a fresh addition to the role-playing scene. Rather than using a single ‘fight’ command, Revenant uses three: a thrust attack that is fast but weak, a swing that is moderately fast and moderately powerful, and a chop that carries a great amount of power but is slow. At later levels, you can even string together a series of attacks to form combos that can have devastating results on opponents. However, these combo attacks must be used wisely, as some of the more powerful attacks require a commitment. Thus, even if the first attack fails, you are forced to complete the entire combo before going defensive or using another attack. This leaves a reckless fighter vulnerable to devastating enemy combos.
Combined with speed ratings, the fatigue meter also makes fighting more strategic. Every attack requires a certain amount of energy to complete at full strength. Once this fatigue meter is depleted, Locke becomes tired, and his attacks are far slower and less powerful. The solution, then, is to flee until you recuperate and can continue fighting. A warrior who blindly swings and makes poor decisions quickly becomes a dead warrior.On top of these offensive moves, Locke can also perform an array of defensive blocks, parries, and rolls. Proper timing and quick reflexes will allow a skilled combatant to rush in, string up a few combos, and roll away before the opponent can retaliate.
Successful completion of the game requires mastering the arsenal of defensive tactics and counterattacking. With each enemy having his or her own fighting style (some slow powerhouses, some agile weaklings), the player must learn to read an upcoming attack and figure out the best way to avoid it and use his opponents’ vulnerability to his advantage. Certain puzzles in the game require knowledge of this fighting system to complete. For example, at one point, Locke engages a powerful boss in unarmed combat that can quickly defeat you using a sequence of wrestling maneuvers. Only one who can properly counter his attacks will succeed.
Serving to make the game all the more deep is the highly innovative magic system. As a warrior-mage, Locke can utilize magic to damage his foes while strengthening himself. Spell casting is pretty much standard when compared to other RPGs (select your spell, select your target, and burn up a certain amount of mana to cast it); however obtaining magic is what makes this system unique. Spells are learned upon properly making combinations of the twelve magical talismans that can be found scattered about the world. Some spells require only one talisman, while others require four. And because order matters, it is not productive to randomly piece together all twelve talismans in varying permutations. Fortunately, the correct ones are shown to the player in the form of scrolls that are scattered about the world. It is very possible to miss a scroll or talisman along the way and be without some of the stronger spells in the game.
It is also very possible, however, that a bored player could sit and randomly combine talismans to create spells through a series of trial and error. Thus, a backfire system would have been a great addition to discourage such play. While some may think that it is fun to try these random talisman permutations, it does severely hurt the balance of the game when players discover spell effects before the scroll is presented to them.
Character creation and levels
Although there is really no method to create a custom character, there is a ton of character development and flexibility that allows the player to build a very unique Locke by the end of the game.
There are six attributes that can be improved by the player: strength, constitution, agility, reflexes, mind, and luck. In order to increase an attribute, the player must choose two of the six that he would like to improve. Upon leveling, these two attributes will increase. The player can then decide to change the two attributes so that they can increase at the next level. This switch can be made at any time.
Unlike attributes, skills increase in effectiveness every time they are used. Most of these skills define Locke’s effectiveness in combat, however certain ones (like lock-picking) have no connection to battles. It is in the area of skills that true character customization takes place. If the player chooses to rely on mostly magic to vanquish foes, Locke will become more of a wizard. Alternatively, if a player prefers the hack-and-slash method to progress, Locke will become more proficient in his weapon skills. It is not difficult to change the direction you would like to take in the middle of play, and doing so will allow you to create a more diverse, and therefore more powerful, Locke.
While the battle system is fun and diverse, often times it ends up letting your character become far too powerful. Once you become proficient in the different fighting/blocking styles, it is not unusual to escape even a very strong opponent relatively unscathed. Toss in skilled magic use to that mix, and you end up being able to completely destroy a multitude of monsters before they have a chance to lay a single claw on you. While the AI is beautifully designed and can often surprise the player in many ways, it becomes a moot point when the enemy cannot even get close enough to use its array of fighting techniques.
On top of this, the multitude of weapons and armor available at every twist and turn allows Locke to have constantly upgrading equipment while opponents stay inferiorly armored. You can generally find a new set, or at least accumulate the gold to do so as it is so abundant, every fifteen minutes. This makes the game unfairly tipped in favor of the player.
Revenant’s gameplay certain has its strong points, and the combat and magic systems are quite fun, but it seems as if the difficulty was put into the wrong place. I more frequently die of frustration when being lost in the wilderness than being killed by the monsters that lurked out there. Stronger enemies, weaker spells, and especially a map would be a very welcome addition.
The graphics are as beautiful as Locke is cynical
The world of Revenant displays itself to you through a third-person isometric point of view (see screenshot). This allows you to have a powerful field of vision which can be further enhanced if you opt to close the inventory, equipment, and/or status windows. However, one of the biggest graphical oversights is due to this point of view. Because obstacles obstruct your view of the ground, it is easy to lose enemies or even yourself when moved under a tree or some other overhanging obstruction. Scenery gets in your way far too easily, and it creates a very unpleasant experience when you cannot see what is going on.
Other technical issues include graphical slowdowns and jerky loads. Several magic effects will cause brief pauses which creates a very abrupt stop from an intense battle and ruins the overall mood. And when loading new map sections, the game will jerk uncontrollably and interrupt pursuit of a monster or some other activity. While load times are expected, it seems as if the transition could be made quite a bit smoother to avoid such jerks.
Aesthetically, though, Revenant is quite pleasing. The game world is beautifully designed and richly colored. The dull, grey colors that are common in several RPGs have been rejected from this game just as the cliché hero questing has been cast away. Replacing the tedium are bright colors that really bring life to the world and make everything generally more pleasing. Do not think, however, that everything is sprawled all over the place with clownish color. Each specific area conveys a true feeling through its graphical layout. Open and airy forests leave the player with a free feeling, while tight, damp caverns can make even the most daring feel claustrophobic. However you slice it, Revenant’s scenery just looks good.
And as if the attention to detail was not already obvious, the day/night cycles that occur make the entire atmosphere of the game change. The moonlight cast upon a desolate area heavily contrasts the sun-soaked and people-filled towns. Magic effects provide equally interesting eye material as an area affect spells tend to fill the screen with color and splendor. If it were not for them causing the occasional slowdown, they would be a wholly welcomed treat.
Sony, Magnavox, Panasonic…these are stereotypes
Neither the sound nor the music really stand out at all in my mind, and as such they cannot be considered anything more or anything less than average. What does stand out, however, is the voice acting.
Characters are so over-the-top in their line delivery that it is almost laughable. They literally scream out their words in an extremely stereotypical style. Between the Chinese combat trainer and the ‘pimp’ that you encounter, among others, I am left wondering whether or not the developers actually know how real people communicate outside of their labels.
Locke, too, had the incredibly annoying habit of screeching his lines and overdoing those that needed far less intensity. Fortunately, he eventually calms down a bit to a slightly less harsh British accent, but the voice is still borderline earsplitting.
It is truly a shame when an aspect of a game is done so poorly that you take measures to avoid it using any means possible. It is not unlikely that you will attempt to avoid conversing other characters in an attempt to avoid their dialogue, thus sometimes losing vital pieces of information. But trust me when I say that spending a length of time trying to find the next quest is much better then grimacing your way through NPC dialogue.
My soul for a gamepad
I tend to play all PC games using the typical mouse and keyboard setup. This is especially true for reviewed games, as I know that many people do not have a gamepad available to them. If you decide to play Revenant, however, it is a good decision to get one.
There is quite a steep learning curve when playing, and the tougher commands often remain tough even after intense practice. While using the mouse and keyboard setup will suffice, it is very obvious that this game was designed for gamepad play. Dealing with the stronger enemies will be much easier with a gamepad, as the offensive and defensive moves can be executed much faster with the more intuitive setup of the unit.
Of course, since the majority of players will be using the default mouse and keyboard setup, this rule must be emphasized: Do not attempt to use the arrow keys to facilitate movement. Locke’s movements are extremely choppy and unmanageable when controlled via the keyboard. Even though the mouse forces you to hold down the button in order to move, rather then simply clicking and watching, it is still a far better option than the keyboard. And it, of course, goes without saying that the gamepad is still your best option.
While the controls are beautifully done if a gamepad is used, it should seem obvious that the majority of players will not have that piece of hardware available to them, thus the keyboard and mouse based control should be made as easy and intuitive as possible. Unfortunately, this fact must not be obvious enough. If you are willing to shell out money for a gamepad, or if you have one already available, you should have no complaints at all with Revenant’s control. Otherwise, you are certain to have some frustrating difficulties.
Tiny impurities on a porcelain face
Revenant is a game that did marvelously well in some areas, and seemed to overlook others. While it is very nice to be able to enjoy these well-designed areas and to explore all the insignificant yet game-enhancing features (such as the ability to set the level of violence), there were certain areas that need improvement. It is a shame that these oversights could not simply be disregarded, but for a game to earn a high rating, it must be extraordinary through-and-through.
While Revenant will not keep you busy for very long (an experienced gamer will most likely be able to encounter everything in only twenty hours), it is highly original and has wide appeal to anyone willing to challenge their minds or their reflexes. It is addictive and challenging, and is quite enjoyable to play. If poor voice acting does not bother you and you have plans to use a gamepad, then you will most certainly enjoy the beautiful scenery, imaginative storyline, and splendid gameplay that Revenant has to offer. While I cannot recommend this game to everyone, it is certainly an intelligent purchase for anyone looking for something new and exciting.