Version Reviewed: 1.1
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Ravensword is an ambitious, 3D RPG set in an open fantasy world. The developers have cited games such as the Elder Scrolls series and Zelda as inspirations behind the game, and the result is a noble attempt at a console-like RPG. Unfortunately, despite hints of greatness, it falls short thanks to a dearth of customization, a dull storyline, and a strict adherence to RPG cliches. Is Ravensword a huge achievement? Certainly, and I can't wait to see what the future holds. But as it stands now, I feel like Ravensword is just mediocre once you get past its ambitious skeleton.
The cliches begin as soon as the game opens. You, a male warrior, have awakened in a village with a severe case of amnesia. You're woken by a kind woman who suggest you go visit Donald if you want some gold. Guess what your first quest is? Yup, that's right: kill some rats! The game progresses in a linear fashion from there. Take a quest. Kill some stuff. Gain experience. As you talk to the townspeople and take on more quests, you learn about the events in the world around you. The king apparently vanished years ago, and nobody knows where he went. It's all typical RPG fare, complemented by a few boss battles and competent (though unexciting) storytelling.
Combat boils down to simple button-mashing. You tap on an enemy to lock onto it, and when you're close enough, you mash the giant "attack" button. There are very few weapons, and the only one that adds variety is the bow. Still, there's very little strategy necessary here. My main gripe with the combat system is that there's no "auto" setting, so if you get attacked from behind, for example, your character will just stand there while you desperately try to spin the camera around.
Every time you kill something, you'll gain experience; unfortunately, however, levelling is done automatically. You can't assign points towards specific attributes. This isn't really surprising, given how little customization is in the game; for example, you're also bound to being a male warrior. Also, weapons and armor have no visible stats, so the auto-levelling isn't as annoying as it might have been.
There is one aspect of the game, however, that shines: the open world. The graphics aren't console quality, but they're still good enough to give you a sense of wonder as you explore. I mean, jeez, is this an iPod I'm using? While we've seen great 2D worlds (see: Zenonia, Inotia 2, etc), this is one of the few iPhone games where you can roam around a true 3D world. Add that to fairly good movement and camera controls (well, besides how long it takes to turn around), and you end up with an immersing experience that might make you forget you're on an iPhone.
All told, there's a lot of promise to Ravensword. More variety and a departure from fantasy tropes could have made it a stellar success. As it is, exploring the world is still fun, and there is definitely a "wow!" factor at work here—Ravensword is undoubtedly a historic App Store game.
However, all the shiny graphics and technological feats in the world can't make up for the fact that Ravensword feels more like a beefed-up proof-of-concept demo than a full-fledged game. Yes, you can easily spend a lot of time immersed in the world of Ravensword, but I can't shake the nagging feeling that something's missing, and the limited scope of the game makes it a lot less fun than it could have been.
This has been a hard review to write. I really, really want to celebrate Ravensword for what it has accomplished, but at the end of the day, it's the gameplay that matters. All but the most hardcore of RPG fans will probably want to wait and see what the future holds for 3D iPhone RPGs.