In case you missed it, Phil’s been hard at work powering through a final pre-release copy of the open-world RPG Ravensword: The Fallen King. In this video, he goes clubbing for Rat Donald’s and then hops around town. He’s promising more videos to come, but check out these early scenes.
Ravensword: The Fallen King
Released earlier this month, Chillingo’s Ravensword has been living proof that a 3D role-playing game is not only possible on Apple’s platform, but that it can raise our expectations for mobile gaming in general. It was not a game without its flaws, but for a first attempt, it has set the bar high, not only for other developers but for Ravensword’s own team. Not resting on their laurels, the team is already hard at work on the game’s first expansion. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask developer Josh Presseisen about what we can expect in the coming months, and snag some exclusive concept art.
Ravensword’s development was hampered by a few problems, mostly with Apple’s approval process, that caused it to receive a few unexpected delays. This will hopefully not be the case with expansion, which could see a four to six month development window. “I’d say that’s a fair estimate. We don’t know for certain as we are still in planning stages, but we hope sooner than later,” Presseisen told us.
Even though they’re still calling the game an expansion, Presseisen believes that “it will be a separate product, as so much is changing (somewhat drastically) based on our customer feedback and reports.” They already have an update to the original that should be submitted in the coming days, which “will have some new areas to explore and some other small upgrades.”
The expansion, then, aims to go a lot further than the original. “It will probably take the original and double it– meaning the size of the world will double; you will still be able to get into the old world areas too, but there will be an entirely new land (and ocean) to explore,” Presseisen explains. What we’ll be doing on the ocean remains to be seen, but we can’t help but envision something like the GameCube’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
“The story has been roughed out for the expansion,” Presseisen said, “and it includes new lands to explore. Many new enemies, which are being worked on by Elder Scrolls Artist, Mark Jones. He’s also helping out on the weapons as well.”
Jones’s inclusion on the expansion has certainly garnered our interest, and as you can see in the exclusive concept art, there are many imaginative landscapes and characters that could blossom from his work. We can only hope that the final product will reflect these early drawings. “He’s got some ideas as well to add to the mix– its great to have such a talented artist approach us and want to be a part of the team. Right now he’s contracted to do more beasties and weapons in the expansion. I’m sure as time goes on, he’ll be lending us a hand in other areas as well,” Presseisen says.
Beyond new lands and enemies to encounter, other ideas that we felt may have been missing from the original could show up in the expansion. One of the possible changes is how conversation happens and the inclusion of dialogue trees. To that, Presseisen tells us, “We are going to try to get into that more, and see how much it snowballs at first. Obviously when setting up stories, it adds more options to where you end up in the end of the game; However, it doubles the amount of testing required, and since we are a very small team, we have to be realistic about what goes into the game. Right now we’re not at that stage, but we are thinking about how it can be done.” We suppose that means that a lot of you need to start crossing your fingers if you wish to see it in the final game.
Character depth will generally be more robust in the coming expansion, though. “There will be different races and classes, including customization for each,” he tell us. There may even be multiple story arcs, although that is strictly a possibility, and nothing that he could confirm.
“We received requests to be able to play as a female character – so that is definitely going to be an option, as well as more armor, weapons, magic, etc…” And yes, having customization out of the players’ hands will be a thing of the past, as he assures us that, “At the very end of development on the original we received some feedback about doing customization, but it was much too late in the process, and would have destroyed the whole base of the code. We decided it would be better to do the expansion, and everything else that people are hoping for. Yes there will be additional customization, we’re getting into the concept stage of that now.”
And what of that fabled online component that we’ve heard murmurings about in the past? Presseisen tells us that they “are tinkering with an online component. Whether that gets made for the expansion or after, we’re not sure yet.” A co-op adventure mode is being considered. “It will sort of depend what we can get done on our small budget. We put the expansion vs. multiplayer to a vote – and the expansion won by over 2:1 ratio. I’m sure people would be more excited about multiplayer after they get the items they want in the expansion pack.”
As far as what else to look forward to, expect details to be slim for a while, but we were able to get a few hints as to what we might be seeing. Presseisen says, “One hint I can give you is that there will be a lot to do with Elves in this chapter. Ravensword will pick up 50-75 years after the first one ends, and there will be new problems in the world. The Ravensword itself will get a facelift, and it will become more powerful– but you will need to earn that.”
It’s clear that the team has been listening to feedback and is excited to make a number of changes to the Ravensword formula in order to make this expansion an even greater success than the original. As for Presseisen, he said “personally I would have liked to have more interaction with the water element, swimming, particles, etc. I’d like to address this in the Expansion.” He added that he “would like more weapons to purchase, skills to learn– these will also be in the expansion.”
If all of this falls into place, we could be in for a real treat come next spring. Until then, we still have plenty of side quests in the original to keep us busy. When we can, we’ll bring you even more information on the continuation of the Ravensword saga.
Ravensword: The Fallen King is one of the most ambitious titles ever to hit the App Store. Inspired by the Elder Scrolls series, which contains some of the largest single-player RPGs ever made, Ravensword brings open-world 3D fantasy gaming to the iPhone. The result is a big, gorgeous game that’s overly stripped-down in some respects, but vast enough to reward dedication and exploration. It’s definitely not perfect, but when a developer aims this high and comes close to its goal, the result is still an impressive achievement.
At the start of the game, your character wakes up in the town of Aven with no idea who or where he is. By talking to the locals and working through the standard quests they ask of you, you’ll piece together what’s happening to the world and begin your larger quest to figure out who you are and what happened to the king, who vanished several years ago. The storyline is typical RPG stuff, and it’s told in a competent – but not thrilling – way. The whole game should take around ten hours if you take on all of the side quests.
When you accept a quest, it’s placed in a log, where you can view all of your quests and the steps required to complete them. The menu interface is easy to use and will immediately make sense to anyone who has played this type of game before. The basic controls are similarly user-friendly. There’s a stick in the lower left-hand corner that controls forward, backward, and side-to-side movement, and you can drag anywhere on the rest of the screen to look around.
I could’ve sworn Luke Skywalker killed you…
Fighting uses a lock-on feature similar to the 3D Zelda games. Tap an enemy to highlight it, and your view will hold steady on the beast, leaving you free to approach, evade, and hack away at it. And hack away you will, as fighting in this game is mostly button mashing. Your two primary options for taking down bad guys are to stand at a distance and shoot arrows into them, or to go up close and stab. Either way, you’ll end up tapping the attack button as fast as you can.
Many players will be let down by the use of magic in this game. You collect stones with magic abilities, but their effects are hardly apparent and they require costly recharges. Your character is a fighter plain and simple, so if you usually play RPGs as a mage or priest, beware.
Also unlike many other RPGs, you won’t find any emphasis on loot-collecting or stat-building in Ravensword. Loot-wise, there are only a handful of weapons and two different sets of armor in the entire game. Quests will occasionally reward you with a new weapon, but you won’t randomly stumble upon any weapons aside from the occasional dagger or club dropped by a low-level enemy. Also, none of the items in the game have stats, so you’ll be hard pressed to figure out whether the mace or sword deals more damage. Your character has stats, but you don’t get to custom-assign points to them when you level up – that’s done for you automatically.
Smells like burning.
Another weak point in the game is the map. Because the game emphasizes exploration, we expected the map to show us exactly where we were in the game world. Unfortunately, the map only gives you a vague idea of your location. There’s not even a compass to tell you which way you’re facing. Also, quests will have you running all over the place, but you can only fast travel back to Aven, meaning you’ll end up trudging over long distances to places you’ve already been.
But let’s get back to the good, because there’s a lot to love in Ravensword. The game world is very large, and you never have to travel far before you come across something interesting. This is extremely important in open-world RPGs, because it doesn’t matter how big the game world is if no one wants to explore it. We had a blast just wandering around the varied environments, fighting polar bears on snowy peaks and lizardmen on the shores of lava streams.
The game saves your progress every time you close out of the app. The next time you boot it up, you return exactly where you left off, which is very useful. However, we might have liked a manual save feature that we could use before fighting bosses. The music is atmospheric and fits the mood of the game perfectly.
When it comes down to it, Ravensword is both blessed and cursed by its own ambition. Blessed, because it can easily go toe to toe with the best RPGs on the App Store. Cursed, because it attempts to give gamers a console-like experience, and it falls short of that goal. At any rate, we are glad to have this game in our pocket and enjoyed it from start to finish. Any gamer with an interest in Western RPGs should definitely pick it up. As far as steps in the right direction go, Ravensword is a big one.
In an email proclaiming today a “black Friday the 13th”, Chillingo told us that Ravensword has been rejected by Apple for using the Unity engine, which has API calls in its code used by another developer, Storm8, to collect personal information from users. Chillingo’s email can be found on the next page.
Chillingo’s email to us:
You have probably already heard, but in case you did not:
Chillingo’s latest iPhone epic Ravensword: The Fallen King has been rejected by Apple, alongside other games based on the Unity engine. Ravensword like many other Unity games have found themselves caught in the crossfire between Apple, Storm8, and API calls which exist inside of all Unity games. The same APIs were used by iMobsters developer Storm8 to solicit contact information from players. While Ravensword and other Unity-built games do not collect information from users, Apple rejected the game and others as a measure to prevent such from happening again.
Ravensword: The Fallen King did use these APIs. As such, they’ve since been removed and the game has been resubmitted.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest on this situation, but importantly, Ravensword will be resubmitted without the questionable APIs.
We’ve been playing a nearly-final build of Ravensword: The Fallen King recently, and as certifiable Elder Scrolls: Oblivion addicts, the game is truly impressive to us on a number of levels. Read on for our report as we take you through our character’s first ten levels.
One thing that may disappoint RPG experts is that you can’t customize your character. You’ve got a set face, set identity, and set story. The focus of this game is going to be about telling a specific story, so customization isn’t really essential.
You also can’t distribute your experience points where you want. Each level gives you predetermined upgrades to your strength, dexterity, etc. For the first few hours, we pursued only the quests that were available to us, so we were kept on a very linear path of progression.
Our first stop was to Rat Donald’s, a food vendor a few steps from the inn where our hero wakes up. Donald wants you to club five rats for his “super value meals”, so he sets you off into the forest to rustle up some chow. Our level one character handled the rats just fine, but the occasional wild boar or goblin did make trouble for us, especially before we learned how to stock up on food to replenish our health during battles.
The controls, which you can get a peek at in this developer video, worked very well. We turned the look sensitivity up very high, so we could move and look around using a dual-joystick setup similar to Modern Combat: Sandstorm (where the entire screen is your second joystick). Tapping an enemy will target them, and tapping again will tell you how much health they have left, and their level. This way, you can learn to steer clear of enemies that are far too tough for you to handle at the earliest stages of the game.
After helping Donald with his rats, we took a quest from the local blacksmith, who required us to first buy a dagger from him (which the inventory screen describes as “for when you’re feeling stabby”). The blacksmith asked us to retrieve his sword from a goblin thief in the forest, where we were recently clubbing rats. A few minutes and one dead goblin thief later, we returned to the blacksmith, where he let us keep the sword as a reward.
Armed to the hilt (literally) we took on what would be the toughest quest of our first few hours: rescuing a local’s daughter from a nearby dungeon. The dungeon itself was guarded by a baby troll, only level 7, but tough enough to require us to eat a lot of Donald’s rat nuggets for sustenance. Inside, we were faced with skeleton swordsmen and giant orcs who were way tougher than us, but we had saved and scavenged enough to buy a bow and explosive-tipped arrows, which tilted the odds in our favor.
After jumping over a pit of lava and laying waste to the ugly guards, we were able to spring the captive, who ran home. Her father rewarded us with a singing rune, which we had learned from exploring was the key to a few barred pathways.
We have a feeling that Ravensword will hook the Elder Scrolls crowd, as we had trouble putting it down when we knew there was still a quest to be completed. Plus, the game is quite a looker, with a range of lush environments and unique characters to interact with.
On the downside, later on in our early build we encountered a major glitch involving a secret entrance to a castle which permanently blocked our progress. However, we’re assured this bug has been fixed for the final game.
Ravensword has already been submitted to Apple, so expect to see it on the App Store in a matter of weeks.
When it comes to role-playing games on any gaming consoles, a few heroic figures stand strong and usually gain a mention. Games like Oblivion and Mass Effect are enjoyed on the next-gen consoles, but so far we’ve lacked an expansive role-playing game on the iDevice besides The Quest, which still left us wanting more. Well, very soon we’ll have a potential contender for top RPG on the App Store, called Ravensword: The Fallen King.
When we talked to Josh Presseisen of Crescent Moon Games, he compared elements of the game to Oblivion and Zelda, calling the game a ‘cross between an adventure game and an RPG’. The game will feature a 3-6 hour long main quest, with an undisclosed number of side quests. As in Oblivion, there will be something of a sandbox-world in which you will be free to explore and fight numerous enemies, but Josh specified that some of these areas will be restricted until ‘you have the key to that area’, so we’ll have to wait and see how restrictive, and expansive, the world really is.
While exploring, the main thing you do is something familiar to frequent RPG players: hacking and slashing. Games like Oblivion utilized this type of combat, and it seems as though Ravensword is following suit. However, Ravensword has a more limited range of weaponry, just swords and bows, with ‘magic items that work independently and in combination’.
There are also a few ways that Ravensword isn’t following in the same tracks as major RPGs, such as character customization and moral decisions. Apparently, Ravensword will not offer character creation, but will instead start you out as an unknown personality who needs to discover who you are and why you’re there.
Josh assures us that a great deal more will be included in the Ravensword Expansion, with complex behaviors like dialogue choices and the ability to ‘choose between a few different characters’ at the start. Unfortunately, it will be a 4-6 month wait for this expansion, though it may come with an online version of the game, which was hinted at and intrigues us mightily.
All together, Ravensword could be an enjoyable and graphically impressive game, though it may not be as heavy on the role-playing elements as a more outright RPG. As you can see from these screenshots, three to six hours of this on our iDevice would be very much welcome indeed. We’ve been told that Ravensword should be submitted to the App Store next week, so keep a look out for this one.