Ravensword unsheathes big, bold fantasy role-playing dulled by a few shortcomings. Limited character customisation and a small set of abilities prevent it from being truly epic. Despite opting for accessibility over depth, however, Ravensword remains just sharp enough to be enjoyable.
As an amnesiac who wakes up in a small village outside the massive Castle Ravengard, you're given no other choice but to hunt down the Demon Lord who has ensnared the kingdom with evil. He's ultimately responsible for your lost memory, and recovering your identity means finding the titular weapon and wielding it against the malevolent lord.
It's a big adventure matched by equally ambitious gameplay. Ravensword delivers compelling exploration and combat, yet the desire to make the game accessible dulls the experience.
Chief among concerns is disappointingly shallow character development. Acquiring experience by dispatching enemies levels you up, upon which your attributes are automatically enhanced. No freedom is granted over which attributes are raised and there are no skills or abilities to learn.
Automatic levelling would have been fine if it was complemented by a customisable skill tree. Through the entire adventure, you're never given the opportunity to learn new combat abilities, skills, or spells. This makes for bland role-playing - even an adventure game like The Legend of Zelda is driven forward by the discovery of items that lend exciting new abilities.
Alternatively, providing automatic levelling as an option to be toggled in case you're uninterested in toying with skill points and attributes would have been preferable. In fact, most of the role-playing games from which Ravensword draws inspiration do this.
Unfortunately, neither option is provided and the resulting character development is shallow.
Chink in the armour
You're afforded the liberty of managing a stock of armour and weapons, but there's a curious lack of variety. Only a handful of weapons exists within the game. Even worse, a paltry two armour sets can be purchased from the town blacksmith.
While price hints at each item's relative strength, the omission of any sort of statistical data for weapons and armour prevents easy comparison. How do you know whether the mace is stronger than the sword, for example? Only by wielding a weapon against an enemy and checking how much damage it does to it are you able to deduce its strength.
Regardless of what you equip, tricky targeting tarnishes combat. Tapping an enemy triggers a lock-on, though it regularly takes several taps before targeting activates. Once you've got a lock the action is good, but it's regularly a hassle wrangling a target.
Cutting across these flaws is a sense of discovery and adventure. Ravensword is saved from the shortcomings of its rudimentary role-playing by this sense of excitement. You're driven to level up not because you get to customise your hero and unlock cool new skills, but because it refills your health and lets you continue exploring the far reaches of the kingdom.
From fighting lizardmen on the banks of lava flows in Sytheria to old skool hip hop references shouted by the townsfolk, the game possess an alluring charm. Without greater depth though, Ravensword ends up sacrificing its charm for the sake of accessibility, even though it remains just sharp enough to be fun.