Aug 31, 2011

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Raventhorne Review

Raventhorne Review

The Indie Game Summer Uprising is in full effect, and out of the 70 original nominees, 25 were selected as semi-finalists.  The semi-finalists were voted on and the titles headlining the Uprising were narrowed down to eight (with two more fan-selections pending.)  The Uprising began on August 22 with Milkstone Studios’ Raventhorne, a 2D adventure of glory and vengeance.  Is Raventhorne worthy of being the first headliner to the Summer Uprising?

Raventhorne tells the tale of a fallen norse hero who must fulfill his fate and seek revenge for his death.  Raventhorne awakens with amnesia and is informed about the death of his family from the three fates.  The only cutscenes in the game are executed between the three fates, Raventhorne, and a mysterious character looking to sway our hero down a different path.  Armed with weapons from the gods, Raventhorne must seek revenge by slaying any and everything in front of him.  The story is trite and cliched, but gives enough of a motive to continue forward with your quest.

Raventhorne is a hack-and-slash game in every sense of the word.  Armed with a sword, hammer, and four different spells, you must destroy every beast put in your way.  Attacking is straight forward, varying from light or heavy strikes; players can also jump, dash, and block as in every other similar game.  Using spells is simple enough; press the left bumper along with one of the face buttons has various effects, like regenerating health or a powerful electricity spell.  Attacking, dashing, and blocking all use stamina, so it’s up to the player to keep an eye on their gauge.  If your stamina drops too low, Raventhorne literally hunches over and gasps for air, leaving himself open to attack.  This is crucial, because enemies will attack high and low with projectiles and powerful swipes.  Luckily, you can parry attacks if you time your blocks, and doing so renders your character invulnerable for a limited time.  There are three different weapon stances to choose from, each accenting different strengths and weaknesses, but they seemed very superficial and you’ll likely not even realize there’s any change between the three.

If this all sounds generic to you, that’s because it truly is.  The moves and weapons you get during the beginning of the game are literally the exact same throughout the entire length.  Raventhorne himself levels up, but aside from minor health and strength improvements, there hardly seems to be any changes.  To make matters worse, Raventhorne tires incredibly quickly.  Aside from parrying attacks, there really isn’t much in terms of strategy aside from swinging for the fences, though doing so drains your stamina quickly.  By far one of the most irritating omissions is the lack of a ranged weapon.  With the number of enemies that attack from the sky, it’s annoying to have to jump and constantly swipe at enemies to take them down when a crossbow would have been a much better substitute.  Further complicating things is the fact that you lose even more stamina when striking in the air as opposed to swinging when grounded.

Raventhorne may not be anything special in the gameplay department, but it’s definitely got some of the prettiest graphics to grace the indie game marketplace.  The characters are detailed and the animation is smooth though oddly marionette like.  The sound is excellent as well, and overall the game has a phenomenal amount of attention to detail in terms of its aesthetics.  The backgrounds are beautiful throughout the six worlds you play through, and are most likely the main reason the game started off this Summer Uprising.  If I had to base my score off graphics and presentation, Raventhorne would have earned high honors given the resources, competition, and pricing, but unfortunately, they don’t have the gameplay to match.

The game boasts six worlds, but it honestly felt much shorter then that.  As soon as I felt I was getting further into the story, the game ends in an episodic nature.  There’s hardly any closure and the plot twists are anything but unexpected.  Even worse is the fact that there is no epic boss fight to look forward to in the end.  The buildup was hardly great, but it would have been nice to know there was some type of final monster Raventhorne needed to slay; unfortunately I was disappointed again.  In fact, get used to fighting the same groups of monsters over and over, because there are no bosses whatsoever in this title.  What’s given are the same beasts repeatedly, often in larger groups with hardly any change necessary in strategy.

Aside from its pretty graphics and nice presentation, Raventhorne is a very generic hack and slasher.  The action grows stale, the enemies become irritating, and the game is pretty short.  The combat itself is decent enough, but it’s nothing that you probably haven’t seen elsewhere.  The core game that the developers have here definitely has potential, but at this point it doesn’t really shine.  However, there are much worse ways you can spend $3, and for the low asking price plus the prospect of a sequel, you’re probably getting your money’s worth.

Platform: Xbox LIVE Indie Games
Genre: Action
Release Date: 8/21/11
Developer: Milkstone Studios
Publisher: Xbox Live Arcade
Community Rating: Violence: 3/3 Sex: 0/3 Mature Content: 1/3
MSRP: 240 MS Points