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.