Review – Ravenbound
Ravenbound takes the entire concept of a roguelike/lite experience and branches it out into an epically large open world. Clearly, this is in an attempt to make the open-world and rogue genres much more compelling. Especially since the vast variety of them blending together at times. That’s not to say they are all bad. Can combining these two genres work?
So, taking two genres that should be incompatible, how does it work? Well, that’s complicated. The open world is vast, maybe a little too vast and with very little in it, which is seemingly a problem when it comes to Avalance/Systemic Reaction. Scattered around the place are small bandit camps, trickier mini-bosses, and the occasional town where you can heal, upgrade your cards, or pick up sidequests. The problem is the world just feels so empty and lifeless. Towns are filled with NPCs just standing around doing nothing, and you can’t even interact with them. The world just doesn’t have anything interesting going on.
When I say the world is massive, I really mean it. Thankfully you aren’t forced to walk from one point to the next. Scattered across the map are raven shrines you can use to turn yourself back into Raven form and soar across the map. This ensures you can always make quick progress towards your objective.
When you are set free in the world after a brief tutorial, you will need to figure out what’s going on. With the exception of a few waypoints, Ravenbound wisely leaves everything for you to discover yourself. There’s no hand-holding here. Thankfully, it’s clear what to do. Cleanse the area, power up your shards, and take down the region’s boss to progress. It’s a pretty standard gameplay loop, but does work rather well.
Where it complicates things is in its Hatred mechanic. The more fragments and chests that you gather that are inflicted by Hatred, the more powerful region bosses and enemies become. This ranges from simple health and damage boosts, to status effects. It’s a neat idea that makes you think twice before taking on an extra bandit camp in hopes of an upgrade. At the same time though, it can be said that this nullifies any sense of exploration, but without anything of interest to see, it doesn’t matter too much.
Combat itself is pretty solid, and a lot more fluid than I was expecting from something that looks very Dark Souls-like. Your dodge move dashes you around enemies. Perfectly time a dodge or block, and you will be granted either a frenzy or brief invulnerability, respectively. Ravenbound rewards good timing and strategic thinking. Sometimes the frenzy will be more beneficial, with a higher critical chance but brief invulnerability, which allows you to damage enemies for a few seconds recklessly. However, mistiming that block button can hurt, especially since healing items are so limited. The problem often lies with the enemy variety, which is lacking.
Ravebound also sits closer to the roguelite than its “like” counterpart. Meaning there is a degree of permanent progression. Once you die, you will go all the way back to the start and you’ll have to do everything again. But the challenges you complete will unlock more and more cards that will show up in the world. Ravenbound‘s progression is entirely in the cards. As you clear camps and open chests you will grow your deck and this is how your build is created. Simple things will give you simple stat boosts. Whilst others can add status effects
Ravenbound demands an online connection at all times to play. Usually, this is not a problem, but it makes absolutely no sense here. There’s no cooperative play, and it’s an entirely single-player experience. Perhaps most baffling though, is the requirement for an Apex account to access online features that are just pointless and bring nothing to the experience. Great! I can see where people have died, do I really need an account for that? As a whole, every aspect of Ravenbound feels undercooked. The combat is solid, but lacks variety. The world is huge, but static and boring.
Then we have the bugs and technical issues. There are multiple crashes, sometimes even minutes apart, for no apparent reason. On multiple occurrences, enemies wouldn’t spawn in camps. Then if they do spawn, they could also be invincible for no apparent reason. This also occurs to the NPCs in the towns, but you can hilariously still pick up the single side quest that sits in each one anyway, so it’s not like you miss out on anything interesting with that one. With the number of crashes and times I’ve had to quit, it almost feels like the game just wants me to stop playing.
The visuals and sound certainly aren’t mind-blowing either. The large open world may be impressive the first time you see it, but by the time you’ve soared through the entire map, you’ll realize it’s really boring to look at, with nothing of interest. The sound is equally as disappointing, with absolutely no dialogue outside of the cutscenes, adding to the lifeless feel of the world. At least the soundtrack is decent enough.
Ravenbound is a game filled to the brim with unique ideas. It marries the open world and roguelike/lites genres in an interesting way, but doesn’t quite hit the mark, and feels incomplete at almost every step. The open world feels unnecessarily massive, but with very little to do. It’s also filled with annoying bugs. It’s a shame because the concept and combat are surprisingly strong, making this misstep hurt even more.
Ravenbound‘s huge open world is ugly and uninteresting.
Strong combat with little variety in a vastly empty open world.
Completely unremarkable and buggy sound design.
Fun Factor: 4.0
A unique concept that is thoroughly underdeveloped and frustrating to play.
Final Verdict: 4.5
Ravenbound is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, 16GB RAM, Ryzen 5 3600X
A copy of Ravenbound was provided by the publisher.