ReviewsReview: Ravensword: Shadowlands

Review: Ravensword: Shadowlands

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I love a great fantasy tale. Good Vs Evil, and the constant back-and-forth action that eventually falls the way of the light. It’s easy to lose yourself in such a world. Aiming to become the hero of the realm, to right the wrongs, and bring peace to the Kingdom. Ravensword: Shadowlands follows this to a tee. A vast evil presence, a disastrous battle, and one hero who must reclaim what is rightfully his and thwart the beast.

Developed by Crescent Moon Games and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a clichéd, old-school RPG that has the look and charm of a 90s PC classic. Its bold colours, wooden acting and tinny audio will win no awards. But somehow I got hooked on it and I loved its retro, rustic style.

Ravensword: Shadowlands reminded me of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

The game opens with a dramatic video that sets the scene for the story ahead. Its pace, lore and delivery were Tolkien-esque. It reminded me of Lord of the Rings, albeit a poor man’s version.

Ravengard has fallen, and the Kingdom of Tyreas stands alone against the might of the dark elves. The Ravensword, is lost! Sadly, dark times are ahead. A war is raging and man pushes the elves back. An Archmage and a Demon have struck a deal. But the mage was deceived by his apprentice! Every soul that fought that day has been taken by the Demon. All but one, that is. He is the descendent of an ancient King’s bloodline. A man who may wield the Ravensword, the only hope that humanity has of defeating the darkness.

It’s super dramatic, I know. It’s been done to death and offers little in the way of originality. But I dived straight into my role as the new hero of this ancient and mystical land.

Don’t fear the skeleton, simply shoot it.

It’s an instant cult classic.

We’ve all watched films that are so terrible that we’ve loved them. Whether it’s; the awful plot, bad acting, atrocious costumes, or the lame choice of set. They make us laugh, and they become instant cult classics. This is exactly how I see Ravensword: Shadowlands going. Every element of the game is just about serviceable. However, more often than not it’s a comical mess that’ll make you chuckle.

The single-player RPG adventure has some standout layers that deserve to be highlighted. A large open-world map begs to be explored. Many caves and treasures hide in the shadows. If you fail to explore the surrounding land, you’ll miss out on the many rewards. There is an array of; creatures, monsters, and pre-historic beasts waiting to be discovered. Slaying them earns XP, meat to eat and equipment to sell.

Your hero is a blank canvas, and whatever you wish to specialise in is your choice. XP increases your level, which allows you to improve attributes and talents. Do you wish to be a master of a bow, sword or magic? Perhaps you want to sneak about in the shadows, or be an expert on horseback? The choice is yours, and it’s wonderfully empowering. Your character is set around your preferences and game style. And nothing else.

The pièce de résistance has to be the quests and the many subplots. Ravensword: Shadowlands has a main and linear narrative that must be followed. Side quests can also be accepted to help the people of each settlement you find. These missions and the multi-part quests add depth to the story and increases its longevity.

The horse fears no evil.

Glitches, tears, and as flat as a pancake.

Early PC and console gaming was great. However, the technology tethered it to its blocky, flat, and glitchy existence. Modern gaming shouldn’t suffer from these issues. Unfortunately, Crescent Moon Games failed to get the memo. Its presentation is an insult to the senses. I was left wondering if it had been optimised for modern systems.

There are some positives to the graphics. Mainly the variety in landscapes, and the interesting colour combinations. Magical and enchanted moments use a bright and vivid tone. Whereas, earthy tones made up the bulk of the colour palette.

The negatives cannot be overlooked; flat textures, poor render distances, ghosting, screen tears, animation delays and so on. Sadly, the list could go on! Even with its atrocious faults, I just got on with it. The issues were confusing, but they made me laugh repeatedly. Not one problem broke the game, yet, they simply don’t belong in a newly released title.

Sadly, I can’t be so generous about the audio. It was mostly diabolical, except for the music. The tunes that accompany the action flit from whimsical medieval folk song to tense battle moments that set the scene. From the sublime to the appalling, the sound effects are terrible! They are flat, lifeless and dull. The creatures share sound files, making them merge into one entity. I recommend not using headphones as the tinny and shrill noises are ear piercing, and will hurt your head.

Someone needs a dentist.

Confusing layout.

Ravensword: Shadowlands chucks you straight into the action with a simple tutorial that helps with the fundamentals. After that, you are on your own. A bizarre layout for; map use, accessing the inventory, and other tasks, make it a confusing game to play. Fortunately, the fighting controls and mechanics worked well, even if the animation and audio failed to keep up.

Will you return to play this? Sadly not! Though it has the talent tree, the freedom to choose your attributes, and which weapon you prefer. The gameplay isn’t unique enough for it to make a difference. The achievements are unlocked through natural gameplay, and there is little chance you’ll miss them. For all its faults, I enjoyed my first playthrough, so I’m not too disappointed.

Ravensword: Shadowlands will divide opinions.

I liked my time with Ravensword: Shadowlands, but that’s because its shortcomings tickled me. It’s not the best indie RPG available, but I found it oddly addictive. The characters appear to have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson; the audio is likely to make you deaf, and the controller layout is odd. However, this is countered with; interesting quest lines, a large choice of weapons, a selection of talents, levelling up, and a large world map. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it. If you want a copy, buy it here! Do you have what it takes to stop the Demon and save humanity? Follow the Archmage’s advice and face that Demon head on!

SUMMARY

Ravensword: Shadowlands is a classic old-school RPG. Level up your hero, choose his path, select your favourite weapon and slay your foes. A wide array of quests and a vast world gives you plenty to see and do. Sadly it's tethered by its shortcomings and fails to reach its full potential.

+ A large world to explore.
+ Lots of weapons to choose from.
+ A selection of talents to match your play style.
+ Addictive.
- Dated Graphics.
- Awful sound effects and acting.
- Confusing controls.
- Lacks replay value.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Mac, Linux, Android, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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