It is no surprise to see a game move from exclusivity on one format, to another a couple of years later, ported from PC, mobile or one console to another. I don’t think I have however ever played a game that has taken nine years to make the move from original release to console. In that time, games – and the world – have changed so much. But here we are welcoming Ravensword: Shadowlands to Xbox. Is it too late to the party?
Ravensword: Shadowlands is an RPG very much in the mold of those of The Elder Scrolls vibe. It originally released on mobile devices where it gained a lot of praise and positive reviews, especially in terms of the scope of a game of this type. It has now come to the Xbox, yet immediately you can tell that this is a game that hasn’t translated very well after all these years, especially as we’ve made the move to a new generation. You see, for all the good, Ravensword feels like a mobile game – and that’s the main problem.
It starts with an almost Lord of the Rings-type cinematic that tells an epic tale of good versus evil, of warriors and of magic. There is a story here that focuses on the Dark Elves as they force dark times onto the kingdom of Tyreas. The war is raging and the epic magic weapon – the Ravensword – is lost! The main quest centralises on the hunt for this magical weapon, all in order to win the war and bring order to the world. Good luck.
The writing and narrative are fun and work well, but it’s a retrodden tale that others have done before; a little better and with more panache than is on offer here. The hero you choose from the start is a nobody; one that you can customise and add your personal narrative to him/her/it. You can choose how you want to play your character as well – will you be a master of the sword, work the bow or utilise magic? There are skills and upgrades to unlock as you earn experience, leveling up in the process.
The world itself is an open one, full of forests, plains, caves, and medieval-type towns. Here you can explore to your heart’s content, stopping to chat to shopkeepers or guards. You can involve yourself in the battle too – grinding away at killing low-level monsters or creatures to build up your experience and upgrade your skill levels. There is a main quest to follow which covers all of these bases, requiring a lot of exploring, fighting and action, and there are bolted-on side quests which prolong the longevity of the game itself. All these nuts and bolts are standard RPG fare though, and you won’t be surprised by any of what is delivered.
Taking in combat is simple, as is blocking any attacks when you need to. You can fire arrows from afar and even hide for a while for a sneak attack, as you take on a whole range of humans, elves, boars, goblins, rabid bears, and the entire gamut of the fantasy world. Yet that combat can be inconsistent – sometimes you will walk into an area, swing a sword and your foe will be put down. Other times they are tougher than steel and will spot you from a mile away. The main problem is there is little indication of how tough an enemy is going to be, so you will spend a lot of time grinding away to get that XP up, before buying new equipment, hoping for the best and making progress with some of the main story.
It’s not helped that the control system is confusing as well – with odd button configurations that mean everything is awkward to navigate.
Visually, Ravensword: Shadowlands looks like an early Xbox 360 game with flat textures, lumpy architectural design, and Oblivion-type characters. I think it would have been impressive on a phone in 2013, but it doesn’t hold up today I’m afraid. There are a few bugs as well – creatures behave weirdly and things suddenly fly into the air when attacked. Thankfully the audio is a little better with an okay soundtrack that delivers a continuous epic score, whilst there is some good voice-over to be had.
If you are after a game that is capable of delivering a decent chunk of an RPG for a very cheap price, Ravensword is it. If you like a game that will happily remind you of some bygone times, then it is probably worth a shot. But you should be prepared to grow tired and frustrated as progression is made. It’s a game in which you need to farm experience points to make any decent progress, and there’s nothing in the story or experience that is exciting enough to carry you through to the end. Ravensword: Shadowlands on Xbox probably wishes it was 2013 again, but a lot of things have changed since those times, and this isn’t able to stack up to more modern interpretations.