Ravensword: Shadowlands Review: This Open-World RPG Impresses Visually
The original Ravensword was an impressive title in the early App Store. It was a given that its sequel would be expected to offer something good. And in a large part, it does. Ravensword: Shadowlands is a technically impressive open-world RPG that shows off how far mobile gaming has come.
In terms of story, Ravensword: Shadowlands offers a pretty generic “find the objects to forge the epic item” story set in a standard medieval fantasy setting. It’s not a terrible story and it serves to carry the game along, but it’s not something you’re going to remember in a few months’ time.
What you will remember is the way Ravensword: Shadowlands pulls off the open-world RPG on iOS. This is the game a lot of us imagined back when the original Infinity Blade was introduced — a gorgeously rendered fantasy setting without pathing, rails or static views. Graphically, the folks at Crescent Moon Games did a ton of work on this title, making sure that everything in the game is textured, rendered, and sporting bold lighting effects. The devs were clearly aiming for the Skyrim target with this game (and even if they weren’t, the comparison was inevitable). In a lot of ways they hit their mark. In terms of both play and visuals, this game brings to mind that RPG hit.
The open-world element of the game can be both fun and frustrating. For those used to games with big, obvious quest arrows and markers, note that this game requires that you talk to NPCs and explore the land to find out what to do. There’s a main quest line, but you won’t be able to complete it directly without doing some exploring and grinding and leveling along the way. And this game isn’t the kind that only presents you with areas or challenges appropriate to your level; you can easily stumble into places with deadly monsters at low levels if you’re not careful.
As you go, you get to level your character in a very open character system. There are no classes here; you get to choose how to focus your character and what abilities he uses to best effect. Personally, I went for sneaky and shooty, as I found that to be an effective combination. Choose carefully, though, as there’s no way to alter your choices once you make them.
Combat can be very button-mashy, especially if you focus on melee. But there’s some strategy to be had in maneuvering and using all the weapons at your disposal. [Pro-tip: buy a crossbow as soon as you can.] The AIs are very limited, mostly relegated to moving directly towards you and attacking, so using that to your advantage can play a big part in your success.
The interface definitely needs work. On the iPhone, buttons are too large and too spaced out and the area for turning & looking is too small. On the iPad the buttons remain large and spaced uncomfortably, while turning and looking requires reaching deep into the device screen. On both devices, there’s a lack of any sort of quick spin, turn, or auto-target, which means orienting yourself to attack an enemy in your rear or flank is obnoxiously awkward.
There’s also the issue of drawing weapons, which is slow and annoying and which happens far too often since the character automatically puts them away if they’re not used for a minute or so. Grabbing or looting items is also horribly awkward, requiring you to look down AND stand a certain distance away AND go through multiple taps even if the object is just a single money bag on the ground. Couldn’t this be achieved by a contextual button, so that I at least don’t have to readjust my stance and glance five times just to loot a corpse?
Hopefully Crescent Moon Games will see all the complaints about this in the iTunes store and various forums online and release an update after the New Year to address them. Because right now these interface issues are the worst part of the game.
Overall, I found myself impressed with what Ravensword: Shadowlands offers, but not quite as impressed as I’d hoped to be. The interface issues can (and hopefully will) be addressed in future updates; the generic story we’ll just have to forgive. Regardless, it’s an excellent game. If you’re an RPG fan and you’re looking for something to do over Christmas, than you should probably check this out.
Update: The control issues have been fixed through updates.
Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars