In Ravensword: Shadowlands, you play as the sole survivor of a great war between humans and elves. As in many games, your job is to talk to powerful people and do what they ask. In this case, you must collect three Ravenstones and find the legendary Ravensword. Why? That’s not really important. Ravensword: Shadowlands doesn’t try to build a Tolkienesque world on a library of invented lore. Instead, the focus is on exploring the expansive game world.
And what a world it is! Every inch of Ravensword: Shadowlands is stunning and full of detail. The game contains a wide range of environments, from deserts and jungles to snowy mountains and underground caves. All of them are richly detailed and crawling with bad-ass enemies. This is a much more streamlined game than something like Skyrim, so don’t expect to craft weapons or read every book you come across. But most of the stuff you can do– like ride steeds and solve puzzles– is a lot of fun.
They’ve done a great job with the controls. You never feel limited in what you can do, but everything has been slimmed down to just a few onscreen buttons. Movement is handled on the left side of the screen, while camera and combat controls are on the right. Dedicated buttons let you jump, attack, and cast spells. To block, you hold the attack button. To run forward automatically, you double-tap the screen. For easy access to auxiliary weapons, spells, and potions, you can assign them to a pop-up toolbar. It’s all very intuitive and easy to use, particularly if you’ve played other 3D iOS games with full control set-ups.
Combat works just fine, although it leans toward the “button mashing” side of the spectrum. You can attack, block, use magic, and jump, but mostly it comes to down to you and the enemy swinging at each other until one of you dies. You have an energy bar that depletes as you attack, and when you run out of energy you slow way down. Once that happens, you just have to wait for your energy to come back, which is annoying and doesn’t really add anything to the combat system.
The only good T-Rex is a dead T-Rex.
Your energy pool, as well as a number of other stats and talents, can be increased when you level up. These boosts do things like increase your strength, agility, melee power, and walking speed (which, with the amount of ground you cover in this game, you’ll definitely want to pour points into first). These upgrades are all well and good, but we wish the effects were more noticeable. As is, you’ll see your character become stronger over time, but probably won’t notice an uptick based on a single point distribution.
The quests are the main focus of the game, and they’re mostly well done. They start out kind of bland and become more interesting as you progress. Optional side quests are available, but these often feel half-baked. A bigger problem is the unbalanced difficulty. Each new quest sends you to a different area of the map, and the locals are not always matched to your experience level. For instance, a cave we were sent to early in the game contained trolls far more powerful than we were. You can adjust a difficulty slider in the options menu to fine-tune the game to your liking, but it would be nice if the standard difficulty was a little more balanced.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Another issue is finding your way around. Your quest log always gives you a hint about where you need to go next, but it’s not marked on your world map. This leads to occasional aimless wandering. The destination is marked on your mini-map, but it doesn’t cover much ground, so you have to be near your destination before the indicator shows up. On the plus side, there’s a very handy fast-travel option that lets you immediately go to any location on the world map that you’ve already discovered.
On your quest, you come across all kinds of gear in treasure chests and in the inventories of shopkeepers. There’s a ton of armor to deck yourself out in, weapons to equip, and rings and pendants to wear that boost your stats. These items change your character’s appearance and affect how you fare in combat. So when you come across powerful new enemies you can’t get past, try upgrading your weapon.
Is it “worm” or “wyrm”?
However, the inventory screen has room for improvement. Instead of a grid-based view of your items, they’re lined up in a single row that you have to swipe across to navigate. In our quest we picked up tons of hides, shields, runes, and swords, making it time consuming to scroll from one end to the other. And then there’s food. Your character eats automatically as long as you have food in your inventory, but it takes up space and seems kind of pointless.
We’ve whined about many of the details, but our overall impression of Ravensword: Shadowlands is positive. It’s obviously not as polished as a game like Skyrim, but there’s plenty here for an action RPG fan to love. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best looking games on iOS (open-world or not) and full of great-looking, ferocious enemies. Ravensword: Shadowlands is a beautiful game that stumbles often, but only because it reaches so high.