Ravensword: The Fallen King Review (iPhone - iPod Touch)
Ravensword: The Fallen King is available on the App store now for £3.99. It's an RPG action adventure in handy pocket sized form: it has a pocket sized story line, pocket sized characters, pocket sized RPG experience and levelling progression. It's all there and makes for an excellent adventure and there are few, if any, better games for your pocket.
The story begins with a young man (you) found in the forest, knowing nothing about your past. Taken to the town of Aven to recover you'll complete a number of quests around the town as favours for the locals to build up your gold and start to level up your character. These serve as the learning curve for the game and consists of basic tasks like killing rats, herding sheep, destroying bee hives. From there you'll take on progressively harder quests that require you to venture further out of the town.
Each quest leads fairly smoothly onto the next and if ever you find yourself without anything to do, talking to the locals of Aven will point you in the right direction. Failing that wandering around areas you haven't investigated much will also lead you to the quest or quests available there. One of the great things about Ravensword is that when you re-enter the game you will start exactly where you exited last time. This means you can pick up on quests from where you left off, making it easy to play the game in sessions of varying lengths without having to repeat yourself, without which the game would be severely hindered.
The combat system is fairly basic, and allows you to move and fight in 1st or 3rd person. There is a single attack button which is used to wield whichever weapon you currently have equipped, and tapping an enemy on-screen will lock on to them to easily shoot arrows or swing your sword. Weapons progress through club, dagger, sword, warhammer, and finally to the Ravensword, which you do seem to get to a little soon, essentially voiding some of the intermediate weapons. Each hands out progressively more damage and you'll use in conjunction with the bow which fires standard arrows or blast arrows. Weapons are for sale from the blacksmith, as are arrows and 2 levels of armour (leather and steel) and health potions, blast arrows and crystals are on sale from the Magic Shop. Throughout your quests you will also pick up runes which you can use to inflict damage by selecting them from the menu.
Killing enemies, which range from rats, boars, imps, bears, elves to ogres, wolves, giant spiders and orcs will reward you with experience points and in most cases you can search their body's for gold and weapons. As you progress through the levels with experience points you'll deal out more damage and increase your damage, luck and dexterity. The experience points system is fairly basic but doesn't lose too much of the satisfaction of levelling up and becoming a more powerful character. You'll become noticeably faster and stronger, dispatching enemies much more easily towards to end of the game.
There are 10 distinct areas in the Ravensword world and travelling around will reveal the detail and size of the game on offer. From meadows, forests, mountains and more the Ravensword world is both large and amazingly well presented. The game is presented as a full 3D world with a level of detail I would compare with a DS or PSP game. The graphics, colours, textures, scale and scope of the Ravensword world is the most ambitious of any iPhone game I've played, and crucially that ambition is realised. Likewise the soundtrack is good and the rich music add to what is already a rich game.
Dying will activate the homing amulet and set you back in Aven where you can begin your adventure again. Although this will give you the chance to re-stock at the blacksmiths or the Magic Shop it can get frustrating to trek across the map back to where your quest is. Enemies reset every time you re-enter an area you'll rarely get the chance of a straight forward walk to where you're going. The result is it takes a while to get anywhere and you spend too much of the game either travelling through overly familiar routes or in combat with pesky annoying little creatures. The only benefit of regular combat with little creatures and enemies is that it boosts your experience points and remembering this as you kill the same rat, boar or imp for the hundredth time in the forest may make you feel better. After quests you will generally need to return to Aven, which thankfully can be done by activating the Homing Amulet.
The story and narrative of the game is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from an action RPG. There are kings, mysterious strangers washed up in the forest, mountains, castles, dungeons, ogres, demons, health potions, weapons, evil knights and character levelling up. Doing everything possible in the game will give you around 10 hours worth of action depending on how often you die and how long you spend re-doing tasks or getting into fights.
It's difficult to get a grasp on how long a game like this should last and when playing it, it did seem like it ended a quite soon and progressed too quickly from the “learning curve” quests to the end of game quests without much in the middle. But you have to remember that this isn't an expansive 360 game with days of action in it like Fable, this is essentially a mobile phone game. Around 10 hours of enjoyment from an app store game is good and it'll leave you satisfied that you've had value for money with it's £3.99 price point.
I often think of app-store games as disposable entertainment in the same way as you'd buy a magazine or paper or spend some time doing a crossword or suduko. Ravensword The Fallen King shouldn't be viewed like this though, it's not just a disposable entertainment game it's a proper game that you'll buy and enjoy in a similar way as you would a DS or PSP game. This is as much a cheap “proper” handheld game as it is an expensive app store game.
Working out how I would improve this game is not as straight forward as with other platforms as few people are aware of how much the iPhone platform can handle. A second combat button would make it more varied and skilled and open up the possibility of combos and special moves. It would also make the combat less frustrating and help get away from the fact that often you are essentially walking up to something and standing next to it hitting it until it falls over. Character progression is good but more customisation would be good, rather than a blanket upgrade system where upgrade points are automatically assigned.
The map shows you what area you're in rather than where specifically within that area you are which requires a degree of trial and error and memory to get around. This isn't a big problem but does involve some back tracking and running around where recently we've been hand-held with glowing trails, exact map locations and detailed pointers of where to go. There are actually readable sign posts in the game which I had to make use of on several occasions, which I found to be a nice touch. This is more old school and means you have to actually learn your way around. Part of me feels like I want a 'quick travel' feature to get around the map but a slightly bigger part of me knows that travelling around and fighting off the pesky creatures is a lot of what this kind of game is all about.
Where most other iPhone games are bit-games, mini games, stop-start, pick-up-and-play games Ravensword is a full game. It is a full, proper game with a story, characters, progression, missions, quests, maps and items, all in a handy pocket sized package. It's not the cheapest App Store game but it's pricing is correct and, to repeat myself, it highlights itself as much as a cheap, proper, full game as it does an expensive App-Store game. It's a gamer's game, a game for someone who wants a narrative, continuity and progression. If you want a pick up and play mini game it's not for you. If you want console-style gaming in your pocket, buy it today. The Fallen King is the first in a series of Ravensword games and I'll be in the queue for the new one when it's released.
Oh, and keep an eye out for what appears to be a table dancing goblin in the Mountains of Callas area!