Ravensword: Shadowlands review (iOS / Universal)

January 6, 2013

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10 word description: Action RPG sequel. Various weapons; flying mounts. Combat. Stealth. Dinosaurs. 

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10 word review: Sparse world. The gameplay doesn’t live up to the graphics.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Over the shoulder (or first person when it’s easier to aim that way) RPGs where you can fight dinosaurs with a sword for no apparent reason.

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The good news: The graphics are mostly quite impressive, particularly the armour and weapons. Since the update (1.1) moving and looking around are less of a chore. Landscapes are varied. Many of the elements you would expect in an RPG exist here in some form or other. The game tries to do a lot.

He's so pleased to be free, he will still be here long after you complete the main quest

He’s so pleased to be free, he will still be here long after you complete the main quest

The bad news: Main quest is short and linear with no scope for any kind of alternative method of completing it. Although the game includes ranged weapons, magic and stealth, the main quest is geared to melee fighting, specifically the Blade skill. Failure to develop the Blade skill is not advisable. Looting involves waiting for the dead body to register as a dead body (there’s always a timer to wait for), then you have to target a green cloud above the body in order to loot it.

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Melee combat, in fact all combat, is very simplified. The inventory is a long row of 3D items – very pretty but tiresome to scroll through. The world is not open; the main areas can only be accessed from the town which acts as a central hub and each zone is more like a large, rather empty room than a world. Many game elements including stealth, houses that can be bought, a hat shop, food, etc. seem to be included just for the sake of it as they don’t add anything to the game. Every zone is very sparsely populated. Enemy AI is rudimentary at best. Where physical puzzles have been included, they feel cumbersome and awkward. I could go on.

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Arcadelife verdict: This game tries so hard to be “a proper RPG” it almost makes me sad to hurl so many negative comments at it. Almost. I’ve completed the main quest and done most of the side quests but I was waiting for the 1.1 update to come out before reviewing it because I wanted to see how much they had improved the controls. I can tell you that the movement & looking around are greatly improved and make melee combat less frustrating when facing more than one enemy.

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In my opinion, this isn’t an open world RPG because, well, it isn’t an open world. It’s a few linked areas with a central hub, hardly any NPCs in any of the areas and no scope for experimenting or playing around with the environment or ecosystem. The quests are functional and the characters who respond to you are either totally bland or they might have a single line of half-heartedly humorous dialogue to impart – every single time you speak to them. The mounts are yet another nice idea but largely unnecessary and the flying mount(s) are just a good way to glitch into or through the scenery.

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I know that there are lots of counter arguments – “it’s just a phone game”, “it was made by a very small team”, “it only cost a fiver”, etc., but if this much effort can be put into the graphics, would it have been too much to ask for a bit more time and care (and play testing) for the gameplay? Players will buy the pointless houses because they are there. They will buy pointless hats from the pointless hat shop for the same reason. That doesn’t make an epic RPG, it just means there’s not actually a lot to do in terms of real gameplay.

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Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 8/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 8/10 (after update 1.1)
Content – 6/10
Fun – 7/10
Final rating – 7/10


Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.01 & 1.1
iTunes link

Crescent Moon website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPad (iOS 6.0.1)

One comment

  1. On my iPad version, I finished the main quest and then went to get the “Trouble in Aven” side quest from woman in the Guild Hall, but now instead of giving me the info to activate the quest, she just thanks me for my service. I will miss out on that quest.

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