Ravensword Shadowlands feels like a long-lost N64 title that never happened. The only immediate differences are the super clear textures and sharp anti-aliased(?) edges. Played on the PS5, loading times were kept to a minimum. An old game with a modern flavour?
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It’s almost a decade old and was first seen on mobile (it makes sense now). From Crescent Moon Games and Ratalika Games, Ravensword Shadowlands is quite an ambitious game, with a slight Skyrim flavour, only a much much lighter version, which works in its favour.
The introduction started well. A bit of a generic fantasy-based tale, it begins with a battle where the goodies are wiped out, leaving you as the sole survivor. It was this intro that was the start of what was to come: the AI is atrocious. With a band of merry men, myself and the AI charged a castle keep, but to fight the battle with the giant troll guarding its gate; we had to walk around a wall. Easy. Least, I thought so.
What happened was all three soldiers repeatedly ran into the wall, making no efforts to follow me or work out the 12ft gap into the battle arena. When the boss triggered, they continued to run on the spot, so I was left on my own. Not a big deal, but this lack of initiative came back and put an end to my quest.
Shifting back to the Ravensword Shadowlands gameplay, you create a hero with a static shot of your character. It didn’t look great at all. However, once the cast was complete, I was happy with how I looked. Ravensword Shadowlands can be played in first-person or third-person, and throughout my experience, shifted back and forth in viewpoints to complete areas, scope out new gear and check out my man bun.
The levelling is pretty cool. I tend to go with tanks or rogues, but a fan of swords rather than axes. That said, the axes on offer were pretty cool, so I went with that route. My axe skills were around 15, but as I progressed, organically rose to 60 – the cap increasing each time. Besides melee attacks, you can equip ranged weapons and also Witcher-like spells.
Interacting with NPCs is low-key, and conversation is to the point – there’s no time for small talk with the peasants. You wouldn’t want to. They’re a bit like the inhabitants of Innsmouth and tend to shuffle about a bit, and the guards in town seldom carry a weapon on them. You can’t kill them either. Not that I tried…
By the time I reached my first enclave of goblins, I encountered stacked enemies. Any more than three on the screen at one time, and they would literally hover on top of each other. Now and then, the final blow would send them into a ragdoll spinning frenzy that would make Zhang Yimou proud. It didn’t look great, but I accepted it for what it was as I was having some fun.
After grinding for a couple of hours and making a reasonable amount of progress, I entered a new area and was getting my arse handed to me. On each death, I’d return to the last autosave (I can’t recall if you could manually save). Eventually, I gave up and dashed through to a new area. Though it could only be reached through this deadly zone of overpowered beasts, it was much easier.
But this was the downfall of Ravensword Shadowlands for me. Reaching this klutz was easy enough, and I 100% cleared the way, so no threat of enemies spawning. Note that in some areas, they would appear from nowhere without warning). The problem was getting them to follow.
I genuinely tried more than a dozen times. First, it was a case of finding them, then retracing my steps. Realising they weren’t behind me, I went back and repeated a variety of techniques: me walking backwards, ensuring they were following, and moving in pigeon steps to avoid any mishaps. What happened was the NPC would walk off the gangway we were climbing, getting stuck behind a crate, standing still and not going any further, or disappearing entirely.
Not one to leave a soldier behind, by the final angry attempt, I’d got halfway up the mine, and Ravensword Shadowlands crashed. It happens, and as irritating as it is, sometimes it goes that way. However, this was the nail in the coffin, and I didn’t have the enthusiasm to return.
It’s a shame because I wanted to stick with it. Like most Ratalaika Games, trophies are awarded early on, so it’s a nice incentive as you’re playing. Despite the RPG qualities, it doesn’t take an age to see your character level up, and while it has a very old school aesthetic, I genuinely liked it.
The floating characters and having them stacked up on top of each other isn’t ideal, but I could look past it. I devoted a good amount of time to my quest. However, the AI is so bad that I couldn’t bear to invest any more time into something where I relied on it to get me through a mission.
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I don’t buy into the ‘avoid’ category for a game as what someone may dislike, another person enjoys. There are so many good points about Ravensword Shadowlands, but because of these glitches and a couple of mechanics, it’s not one I can personally say drop what you’re doing and get it. I will be returning to it at some point as a game can always get patched, but based on this experience, it’s left a bit of a sour taste.
- For those who like Skrim but don’t have time.
- Straightforward level progression.
- Early rewards; stats and trophies.
- Excellent soundtrack.
- Awful AI.
- Difficulty slider, but can erratic spiking in places.
- Glitchy combat; stacked enemies and spontaneous spawning.
- Generic story and NPC interactions.