reviews\ Dec 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

RavenSword - The Fallen King - - Review


If there were any misconceptions that the iPhone isn't a viable gaming platform, then they're now obliterated by Ravensword: The Fallen King. In fact, Chillingo's new action RPG raises the bar in pocket gaming on every level, and could easily pose as the iPhone's flagship "gotta get it" title. Is this an over-exaggeration? Certainly not, and we'll tell you why.

The best way to describe Ravensword is to compare it to Bethesda's older RPG, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Chillingo's Ravensword offers a similar engrossing environment but with a little less of the RPG flair - meaning players can't customize their protagonist in any way save for the usual armor and weaponry upgrade purchases. Players thus spend less time worrying about the protagonist's physical attributes and more on the quests and action at hand.

But given the platform, players won't endure 60 hours of gameplay thanks to the overall limits to the game's size. However, Ravensword is surprisingly epic, which is why Morrowind (and even Oblivion) comes to mind: it offers a huge, impressive, inhabited world. Even while the main quest may be over, there's still much to explore. Even if every inch of the virtual countryside is revealed, players may still find themselves traveling afoot, seeking new ways to level up the character.

To make this epic world to come alive, developer Crescent Moon Games has implemented an impressive amount of detail, creating rich, enjoyable visuals. Unfortunately, the splendor doesn't come without a price: at times, there was a bit of lag on the iPod Touch 2G used for this review, and made combat somewhat cumbersome. There are options to disable foliage and shadows, however the scenery looks less attractive, and not worth the sacrifice.

To make the environment even more engrossing, there's a switch located at the top-left of the screen that transitions the view from third person to an in-your-face first-person perspective. Overall, the game's UI is clean and easy to use, with the inventory interface tucked away in a backpack located in the top-right corner. However, the "hotbar" hidden to the left of the screen - a quick little access to four items - can be quite annoying if accidentally tapped; sometimes it simply refuses to go away.

The control setup falls into the same category: clean and simple. By default, players move the hero using a virtual pad on the left; the attack and jump buttons are found in the bottom right-hand corner. Players look around by moving their thumbs anywhere on the right-hand side, however head movement can be controlled on the left as well although it could be problematic in heated situations.

But needless to say, those heated moments aren't few and far in-between. Ravensword is full of action, and is very reminiscent of MMORPGs and other open-world RPGs where players camp in one particular town and slowly endure the level grind just outside the gates. Players will spend a good deal of time getting the hero beefed up, but as it was stressed earlier, there are no options to fine-tune the hero's stats.

But for Ravensword, that's just fine. Players will be more focused on exploration and hunting down secret areas than worrying about applying points to specific attributes. Because Ravensword is a single-player experience, they're locked into one central, warrior-type character whose destiny is to free the King from the grips of the evil Demon Lord. The story is 100% fantasy cliché, but again that's Ok. Perhaps the developer will incorporate additional classes in a future content update (aka expansion pack), and perhaps even offer new areas to explore.

Although the initial leveling process may take some time, the main quest didn't take long to complete. Ravensword is ideal for the RPG gamer on the go, providing a beefy main quest and a handful of side adventures to give the game more meat. There are plenty of opportunities to make money, even a job requiring the hero to go horseback across a field and wrangle up a few sheep. The available jobs are few, but do produce the necessary funds gamers need later on. 

As always, players will need to gather gold in order to purchase better weapons and armor. The hero also has access to magical runes that can be used as weapons; these are recharged at the local magician's shop. The magician also provides blast arrows, handy projectiles of death that are quite effective against the monstrous, towering Giant Troll and Uber Golem (both at level 60).

Overall, Ravensword is insanely engrossing in its presentation and content. There's a genuine connection with the game as players explore the Forest of Nagmore, to the cold mountains to the east, and even to the fiery domain of the Demon Lord. There's no question that the game is visually appealing, powered by the iPhone / iPod Touch's hardware that clearly outpaces any other handheld gaming devices.

Ravensword is definitely a must-buy for RPG fans that enjoyed the Elder Scroll titles. Just keep in mind that the usual RPG elements such as classes and stat customization aren't there, making this game more action/adventure in nature than hardcore RPG. Ravensword's primary goal is to tell a single story, and it does so exceedingly well.

Gameplay: 9.0
The overall gameplay is simple and to the point: target your enemy, hack away with the latest weapon, and collect the loot. It would have been nice to see an auto-targeting system that locks on to the enemy attacking from behind, however that may make the game a bit too easy.

Graphics: 9.0
Without the splendid, engrossing imagery, Ravensword would fall down the ranks and place amongst other unattractive RPGs. The visuals come with a price for older machines however, offering lower framerates and choppy gameplay. This can be changed in the setup, however the lag doesnt justify removing the trees and shadows.

Sound: 9.0
The music was just as surprisingly epic as the rest of the game, making way to a more immersive experience. The sound effects offer even more ambiance, completing an excellent audible duo.

Difficulty: Medium
Ravensword really isn't difficult, it's just a matter of attacking at the right time: taking on the level 60 Uber Golem isn't such a good idea when the hero is at level 2. Things get a little rough towards the end of the quest, but that's expected.

Concept: 7.0
There's really nothing new here: play the hero who comes in an saves the world from evil. In this case, the king has been bewitched by a Demon Lord in an effort to rule the kingdom.

Multiplayer: N/A
Currently, Ravensword is a single-player game only, but we would certainly like to see the game open up a MMORPG title.

Overall: 9.0
While the story was less than original, and players can't customize the central character, Ravensword: the Fallen King is an amazing attempt to bring a console-sized, open-world RPG to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Developer Crescent Moon Games has not only provided an AAA game for Apple's mobile platform, but has raised the bar for portable gaming on any device.


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