In 2009, console-quality gaming on a mobile device still seemed like a fantasy. It wasn’t until we had our first look at games like Need for Speed, Modern Combat: Sandstorm, and Ravensword before we realized that mobile gaming was going to start catching up to consoles. Ravensword was especially promising– as a fully 3D, open-world RPG, it invited immediate comparisons to the Elder Scrolls series. Today, we’ll take a look at this landmark iOS game, plus several others from developer Crescent Moon Games.
Ravensword: The Fallen King
From the early concept art to the debut trailer, Ravensword looked like a major achievement, especially given the limited iOS hardware of 2009. Several of the key details that role-playing gamers look for, like customizable gear that actually changes your character’s appearance, were included in this ambitious title. You could also freely explore a large game world, take side quests, and explore a town where you could talk to non-playable characters. However, we found a few flaws as well, like a limited arsenal, and a lack of magical abilities. Even though it wasn’t perfect, Ravesword was still a huge step forward for RPGs on iOS.
Key Quote: “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.”
Rimelands: Hammer of Thor
While we waited for a proper follow-up to Ravensword, Crescent Moon teamed up with Dice Works to publish Rimelands, an isometric RPG with a unique turn-based combat system. As you explore dungeons and fight monsters, you have to roll a pair of dice to determine the impact of your spells and attacks. Special gear gives you extra dice to use, or let you re-roll if you wanted to inflict more damage. We love the concept, storyline, and gameplay, so we’re still waiting for a sequel someday.
Key Quote: “The combat and upgrade system in Rimelands surpasses the excellent story, which gives us great hope for a sequel that lasts even longer and takes us further. Developers Dice Works and Crescent Moon Games have built a very fun game engine that has a great deal of potential, and we’re hoping this is just the first installment of a series that could help define turn-based RPGs on the iPhone.”
Aralon: Sword and Shadow
A year after Ravensword launched, Crescent Moon released Aralon, a much more expansive open-world RPG that took place in a separate universe from Ravensword. Aralon contained even more immersive details, like horseback riding and fishing. You could also fully customize your character, selecting their race, sex, class, and appearance. The world felt more alive, with a day-night cycle and wildlife moving freely around you. Most importantly, the controls and gameplay were finely tuned, with interesting quests and a large, complex storyline. Even three years later, we still think Aralon is one of the best iOS RPGs you can buy.
Key Quote: “Aralon: Sword and Shadow offers just about everything you could want in a gigantic open-world RPG. If you have the time to invest, you’re going to love it.”
Last year saw the return of Ravensword in Shadowlands, another detailed open-world RPG. Shadowlands makes use of the technical advancements seen in Aralon, with more detailed characters and environments. However, it was also more streamlined than Aralon, so there is less emphasis on features like weapon crafting. The gorgeous graphics are appealing, but we had to struggle a bit with the game’s map, and not all of the quests were truly engaging. At least Ravensword let us do battle with an unconventional RPG enemy type: dinosaurs who inhabit a jungle straight out of Land of the Lost.
Key Quote: “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.”
Crescent Moon Games made a name for themselves with their mobile RPGs, but they’ve since experimented with a variety of different gameplay types. Some of these games were developed in-house, and others were published based on partnerships with other indie developers. A few of our other favorite Crescent Moon games include Siegecraft and Siegecraft TD, Gears, Pocket RPG, Wraithborne, Paper Monsters, and Slingshot Racing.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss Apple’s favorite showpiece games for iOS: Epic’s Infinity Blade series.
This article is part of a series about the best games on iOS, 2008-2013. You can read the rest here.