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Ravensword: The Fallen King Review

Touch iPhone Games
Action RPG by Chillingo is a Brilliant...Work in Progress

2009 has been a year chocked-full of headlines for games on the App Store. Ravensword: The Fallen King is perhaps the biggest headliner of them all with its immersive experience in a beautifully rendered open 3D world. Although the first iteration is not without some controversy, it's difficult not to like this game.

Chillingo and their partnership with Human Powered Games and Crescent Moon Games has opened our eyes to the possibilities of a solid console RPG experience on the iPhone. Following other RPG hits like Zenonia, Chronicles of Inotia, and Dungeon Hunter, Ravensword pushes the iPhone platform even further...but is still very much a work in progress.

Graphics

There is a lot of beautiful terrain to explore and surprisingly looks great running on my 2nd Generation iPod Touch. My initial concern playing Ravensword was that it would be primarily geared toward the 3GS and 3rd Generation iPod Touch devices. Not so. Graphics and animitation renders quite nicely.

The monster/creature animation unfortunately didn't impresss much. It isn't bad...just bland. Particularly in combat, there's not much depth to your character's abilities. Part of the lacking experience is not having any special fighting skills or magic to execute. There's only so much excitement that comes from watching your character use basic melee weapons and a bow. Still, the overall playing experience is quite satisifying.

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Audio

The soundtrack is vibrant and excellent. Environment sounds are also quite good. Having voiceovers from the non-player characters would certainly be the icing on the cake but the omission likely spares us some extra space on our iDevice.

Gameplay

Ravensword BlacksmithsA man completely unaware of his own identity or purpose, you awaken in the town of Aven after being found on the edges of town. Your epic journey begins by talking to people around town and taking on some basic quests. The narrative, while somewhat vague and mysterious, reveals itself nicely as you complete the main quests. The ability to openly explore areas allows you to enjoy several side quests. Poorly equipped from the start, you'll have to grind through a few introductory quests in the forests killing rats, boars, and goblins. Fortunately, this doesn't take very long to complete.

I was impressed how quickly you can progress through the game and still get your fill of questing and monster killing. Early quests give you an opportunity to master the controls by fighting smaller creatures. You can also earn money fairly quickly to buy/upgrade armor, weapons, food, and potions to prepare yourself for more advanced quests and higher level beasties.

An available map is good for basic orientation but you'll still have to explore a good bit to find your way around. As you explore, you'll have plenty of opportunities to kill things. Lot of things. I only wish Ravensword was a better combative game. The controls are too streamlined for fun hack-and-slash battles and there's little depth to weapons and character abilities. Consequently, battles feel repititive and don't seem to require much skill. You'll have a handful of melee weapons and a bow but there's no stats available to assess their strengths and weaknesses. The shallow depth to combat is perhaps the weakest part of the gameplay.

www.touchiphonegames.comCharacter development happens somewhat automatically. Player customization is not a real feature of the game. In it's current form, Ravensword is definitely geared towards casual gamers. This isn't all bad if you tend to play in 15-20 minute playing sessions because you don't get lost in the mire of managing stats and complicated character customizations. It makes the game progress more smoothly and is a much more enjoyable to play as a casual game this way. On the other hand, automatic leveling and stat building doesn't yield a real sense of accomplishment...a feature that probably annoys hard-core RPG fans.

Fortunately, expansion packs in progress could introduce new features to bring the game much closer to a true RPG and will hopefully enrich the overall gameplay experience.

Controls

Controls are very streamlined and easy-to-learn. A virtual D-pad allows you to move in any direction while using swiping motion on the screen allows you to turn (Tip: use 2 fingers to turn faster). While I prefer to play from a third person view, it is sometimes helpful to switch to the first person perspective, especially when using the bow during combat.

To engage in a fight, you must first tap on the enemy to highlight it. From there, it becomes somehwat of a mindless ryhthmic tapping of the "attack" button...hacking and slashing your enemy in melee combat or using your bow from longer range. There is a button to jump and you can also use the virtual D-pad to evade enemies. After a kill, you have to tap on the carcass of your fallen enemy to receive their loot. An option to do that automatically is not currently available but would be a nice feature.

All settings are conveniently available through the inventory interface and accessible quickly by clicking your inventory bag in the corner of the screen. From there, you can check your quests, items, and adjust game settings. Turning off "shadows" and "foliage" can improve performance if running on older devices.

Lastability

There's about 8-10 hours of gameplay that includes main narrative and all smaller side quests. The first iteration of the game should certainly appeal to the casual gamer audience but could also turn-off hard-core RPG fans. There are explansion packs in progress that should hopefully resolve the limited scope of the initial release when plans to possibly include more classes and allowing for character customizations. Regardless of what changes are made, it would be a great disappointment if the game doesn't evolve to some extent over the next few months. There is just far too much potential.

Value

Ravensword is well worth the initial $6.99 (USD). There's sufficient content to play through and if your expectations are realistic, you'll still enjoy the Ravensword experience despite being short of a full RPG game. Ravensword has recently been honored in iTunes 'Rewind 2009' as one of the best games of the year. If expansion packs come to fruition, 2010 looks to be every bit as promising.

Presentation

Overall, Ravensword excels in providing a rich and engaging RPG experience. The streamlined approach to an epic RPG story is actually executed quite nicely. It's easy to get into the game quickly. The ability to explore openly doesn't result in in aimless wandering and playing through the game really held my interest. The inventory interface is simplified and very user-friendly. Game stats in the first release seem extraneous with no option to assign points and customize character abilities. However, the decision to include them almost certainly eased the anxiety in many gamers!

ravensword in the snow

While it may have its shortcomings, Ravensword a huge step in the right direction in terms of delivering a high-end RPG experience for the iPhone. Casual gamers like myself can appreciate a more simplified version that is absent of all the rigor that hard-core gamers are accustomed to on PC and console titles. There is absolutely no need to lower you expecatations for this game. It's exciting to play and provides an overall satisfying experience.

Stuck? Check out the Ravensword game hints and our forums for tips, feedback, and informtion from the gaming community!

TiG Review Score

Graphics Rating:
8
Control Rating:
9
Gameplay Rating:
7
Value Rating:
8
TiG Overall Rating:
(not an average)
8