Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): RPG, Action
Platform: Reviewed on PS4 (also available on Xbox One, Switch, PC, and Mobile)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 09/04/21
A code was provided for review purposes
Have you ever wanted to play a game like The Elder Scrolls but heavily stripped back, lacking any depth, and is just utterly bland? No? Me neither, but here I am reviewing Ravensword: Shadowlands.
Developed by Crescent Moon Games for mobile devices in 2013, a console port has been released. I didn’t really know what to expect when going into this. A fantasy RPG with clear inspirations from the greats, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really succeed in anything it attempts to do, and it ultimately leads to a dreadful experience.
A Plain, Fantasy Adventure
The game opens with some brief exposition and a tutorial section. A war between the humans of Tyreas and dark elven invaders has raged on for centuries. A final battle takes place at the elven stronghold of Heronmar. However, it soon ends in total bloodshed, as cataclysmic magic devastates both sides, save one. You play as that sole survivor. After waking up and gathering your bearings, the truth of what happened at Heronmar is revealed. You are descended from a line of kings that can wield the legendary Ravensword. It’s your job to find the sword and slay the powerful demon that now threatens Tyreas.
To its credit, Ravensword: Shadowlands starts off with a fairly decent opening, even if it’s a tad basic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow through and slinks into a monotonous journey. The storytelling is plagued with issues and repetitive design. Characters are completely forgettable and have zero development, which also extends to the antagonist. The demon, Ul ‘Thok (I had to look up the name, as I’d already forgotten it a few days after playing), isn’t built up beyond the initial exposition near the start. He only has a couple of minutes of screen time when you fight him in the Oblivion realm…I mean Shadowlands. This lack of depth all around, combined with the minimal world-building and lore, makes it impossible to be invested in the game’s narrative.
Just like the narrative, Ravensword: Shadowlands’ gameplay hardly provides anything worthwhile. The game gives you the choice of playing in either a first or third-person view. While neither is particularly satisfying, the latter is more bearable. General movement just ends up feeling far too stiff and stilted, a lingering effect from its legacy of being a mobile title. In some ways, its short 3-5 hour runtime is a blessing in disguise, preventing the issue from being worse.
One of the game’s few positive aspects is the customisation. In the beginning, you can create your own protagonist. While it ends up being quite pointless, as you only properly see your character in the menu, it’s still an appreciated feature. You have various talents and attributes to choose from and improve, using the points you gain as you level up. These range from simple ones that improve damage, to more miscellaneous ones that improve the gold you find or your jump height. Skills such as blade and magic improve and level up with continued use. Combined with the different weapons and armour you can buy from vendors and find out in the world, there’s a decent level of customisation here I wasn’t expecting.
Like with any RPG, there are various side quests for you to find and complete. Unfortunately, these leave a lot to be desired, a common theme in this game. Not only are they pretty monotonous in design, but a few were completely bugged for me. Any monetary rewards for them soon become unnecessary, as it’s very easy to become wealthy by selling weapons from enemies. There just isn’t much incentive at all to complete these quests, both from a narrative and reward perspective. A reputation and crime system is present, but these are just as underdeveloped as a lot of other aspects.
“I used to be an adventurer like you, then I played Ravensword: Shadowlands‘ dreadful combat.”
An important aspect of RPGs to get right is the combat. Ravensword: Shadowlands didn’t seem to get that memo. I mentioned earlier that movement feels stiff, and that definitely extends to the combat as well. You have the choice of three different styles of fighting: melee, ranged, and magic (from runes gained in the story and found in the world). The game allows you to focus your character’s build on one type, or make use of them all. You can even hot-bar up to four things for ease of access – a nice feature. That’s where the good ends, unfortunately. Whether it’s the start of the game or towards the end, combat never feels satisfying or even adequate.
Everything just falls flat whichever way you approach fights. Using a sword and shield is dull and awkward. Bows let you keep your distance, but it’s just too slow. Magic might seem more interesting at first but soon becomes unreliable. There’s a lack of impact and weight when trading blows, that it feels like you’re fighting air. It’s also very glitchy. There were countless times that I’d be standing there swinging a sword for a good amount of time, while the hits never registered. It’s frustrating. There’s a sneak mechanic, however, it’s utterly broken and useless. While there’s admittedly a good variety of enemies in the world, the terrible combat overshadows this. I’m just thankful there’s a difficulty slider to make the game a tad more bearable.
Dreary Visuals and Hilarious Voice Acting
As Ravensword: Shadowlands was originally a mobile game, I wasn’t expecting this port’s visuals to be anything good. I was correct. Apart from a single area that has you riding a flying mount through a surprisingly, beautiful ravine, the game looks dreary and flat. Low-resolution textures are aplenty, and character models similarly lack visual quality and detail.
The game features a semi-open world, being broken up into various different areas separated by loading screens. Some areas are much larger and open than others, but it causes those sections to resemble barren landscapes with little detail. There’s also a lot of copy-pasted design, where one large section of the map’s layout is literally lifted from another, with just a different colour aesthetic. This one though lacks any enemies or foliage and even opens up into the void that’s out of the map. There are also numerous visual glitches, as well as odd and inconsistent invisible walls around the maps. It’s this clearly unfinished, rushed, and flawed design that makes the game not fun to traverse and explore.
The music is perfectly serviceable for this fantasy adventure (if not completely forgettable), but the voice acting is hilariously bad. So much so, that it can sometimes verge into ‘it’s so bad it’s good,’ territory. There’s a certain charm that comes with that low-quality, budget voice acting. Where most other aspects of the game left me bored and frustrated, laughing at NPC’s dialogue is certainly a high point.
While Ravensword: Shadowlands would have been impressive for mobile devices many years ago, for a 2021 release on modern consoles, it simply doesn’t hold up at all. It doesn’t just feel like playing a game from 20 years ago, it’s like playing a bad game from 20 years ago. From its paper-thin narrative, archaic controls and combat, as well as bland and often broken design, there’s little worth here.
I couldn’t recommend this game to anyone unless you like torturing yourself or are desperate for an easy, platinum trophy.
Rapid Reviews Rating
1.5 out of 5
You can buy Ravensword: Shadowlands from the PlayStation Store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.