A warrior with a mysterious past tears across the countryside in search of answers about his circumstances. Hundreds — nay, thousands — of enemies die by his sword as he loots, levels, and converses his way to the truth. His actions seal his reputation; his misdeeds ensure notoriety. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Now through in a middling-at-best framerate and some questionable gameplay, and you have Ravensword: Shadowlands.
After a brief tutorial/story intro your character (you guessed it) wakes up in a bedroom that isn’t his, full of questions about what’s going on. Your liason gives you a brief explanation, has you “clean up” to construct your avatar’s face, tells you to go visit someone higher up in the shadowy organization chain than her, and sends you on your way. After a little more chit chat you’re geared up and ready for the first leg of your quest to begin. Your goal? Leave the town’s walls to find a wizard who might know a little more about the circumstances of your last battle… which, coincidentally, killed every other combatant but you.
More Of The Same
Ravensword: Shadowlands is an Elder Scrolls clone brought to the mobile platform. This can be a good or bad thing. Nobody’s arguing that bleeding-edge graphics and deeper-than-usual gameplay aren’t welcome in a mobile game. Choppy framerate, poor controls, and a snoozer story, on the other hand, are something we can probably all do without. A big part of your enjoyment will come down to your willingness to put up with those last three points in order to get an almost console-like RPG experience.
Visuals: Almost, Almost, Almost
There’s no denying this is a very pretty game. From blood-soaked battlefields to quaint towns to deep, dank troll caves, the environments shine, through some muddy textures and suspect level design can mar things a bit at times. The characters are a bit muddier yet (and decidedly not as pretty), but the platform has to be taken into consideration. However you look at the design or art direction, it’s pretty darn hard to say the graphics are anything but awesome.
They come at a pretty big cost, however: a horribly inconsistent framerate. Depending on where you are, what you’re doing, and, most importantly, how many mobs you’re fighting, you can expect fluidity somewhere between water and molasses. Not a good thing for any title, let alone a paid one… and especially a paid one that costs seven bucks. There were several times where the choppiness hindered my ability to play and even more than a few where it was outright responsible for my character’s death. Not cool, Ravensword. Not cool.
Controls: The Silent Killer
This is not the kind of game I’d call touchscreen-friendly. The X and Y axis, in particular, turned out to be a nightmare: Turning, looking up and down, or doing pretty much anything else that didn’t involve moving in a sem-straight line seems clunky and slow to respond. The configurable button scheme makes things a little more bearable, but it doesn’t fix the hair-pulling frustration of performing basic tasks like lining up a dead mob to grab his loot.
Despite all that, combat isn’t terrible, mostly due to a combination of a stiff lock-on system and some fairly simple mechanics. In general, hacking and slashing and casting spells is a simple matter of mashing on the right side of the screen, though you’d be wise to take a little more precaution when fighting a meaner or higher-level mob than usual. There are also some fairly clever blocking/dodging mechanics tied to various gestures you perform, which is a nice touch.
Gameplay: Deeper Than Most
The leveling mechanic is surprisingly deep for a mobile title: Outside of leveling your character, each block, sword swipe, and spell grants goes towards improving various stats like Sword and Block. Really, the whole thing (like a lot of other stuff in the game) is pretty reminiscent of early Elder Scrolls titles. Unlike those other points, it emulates them in a good way, however.
Ravensword’s questing mechanic is also fairly good. You move from place to place quickly, so one setting never gets too old, and the diversity of settings and enemies keeps things from getting boring. The missions themselves rarely vary from the Kill X Of This or Go Fetch This quests — depending on the person playing the game, however, that might not be so big a problem.
Sound: Deep And Surprising
It’s worth noting that the sound in Ravensword is overall pretty great. The music sets the tone just right, and the voice acting (save for a few spots of awkward phrasing) nails the text on the screen. Combat and enemy noises are top-notch, too. It all goes a long way towards masking some of the other problems the game presents.
A Solid Maybe
I can’t say I really cared for Ravensword: Shadlowlands, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t (or aren’t right now). I like my 3D RPGs as much as the next guy. I don’t, however, like the choppy presentation and boring-at-times gameplay this title presented. Larger fans of the genre are much more likely to get a kick out of the game, especially given the platform. It’s an impressive mobile game — just not a good game overall. That’s a real shame, because there’s some definite potential here.