It might seem odd to praise a game for its bravery when it’s so formulaic, but Witching Hour Studios should be lauded for aiming to compete with the big boys – Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics – and not falling too far short.
What’s initially striking is the extensive web of lore the developer has wrapped around its fairly substantial campaign, with a detailed codex for those who want to dig a little deeper into the narrative background.
The amount of effort put into this is praiseworthy, but in truth it seems overly convoluted. The in-game dialogue has a similar problem, with few characters proving particularly memorable and plot developments becoming rather muddled.
Lore and order Mechanically speaking, it follows a familiar template – you’re asked to command a preset group of units, guiding them across grid-based environments to complete a variety of objectives.
Often this involves little more than wiping out the enemy presence in a certain region, but occasionally you’ll have to survive for a certain number of turns or protect specific units until they reach an exit point.
With a limited number of commands to issue, you won’t always be able to move every unit under your control - a curious restriction that can seem a little unfair. Couple that with the sometimes random nature of combat and you’ll likely find a few missions to be rather frustrating.
It’s flexible enough, however, to allow you to group units, increasing your attack power and giving you the opportunity to move two for the price of one. You have to consider level topography, too – take the high ground and you’ll be able to get the jump on your foes.
But the most important factor is that turns play out simultaneously. It’s a design decision that's at once Ravenmark’s biggest strength and its most obvious weakness.
On the positive side, it means battles can be unpredictable. You’ll have to try and read your enemy’s intentions as you consider your move before tapping ‘start’ and watching your masterplan succeed or fail.
Whims of change
On the downside, it means battles can be unpredictable. You simply can’t prepare for certain outcomes, especially as the points system can so often work against you, as attacks miss and you suffer critical hits from supposedly weaker units.
Too often its systems seem weighted against you, the caprices of its invisible dice rolls forcing you to grit your teeth at times. While it’s not a hard game as such, it can seem a touch unfair to lose battles you should have comfortably won.
That said, Ravenmark is worth sticking with. If nothing else, it’s a well-presented strategy game with a solid, intuitive interface, and that’s not particularly common on iOS.
Sure, the attempts to add character don’t always work, but these are noble efforts all the same - enough to suggest Witching Hour Studios will be a name to watch in the future.