Cold. Snow. Vikings. They are all things that spring to mind when the word Ragnarok is uttered, and this would make sense as they where the Norse Mythology originates from, it often is cold and snowing – not to forget Vikings! It’s a theme that’s occasionally picked up for videogames, comics and films when developers want to move away from the norm and unfortunately this often means that the ancient and proud Nordic people have their heritage defecated on from a high height increasingly frequently.
Rather than going for the typical Japanese ninja theme, or “push the boundaries of imagination” and go into a post-apocalyptic future, Raventhorne has pulled heavily from Norse Mythology. Or hero is stranded in the underworld, with no knowledge as to why or how he is there. Within a few seconds, a very basic plot is outlined and it becomes clear that to find out more, the gamer needs to do battle.
To say “do battle” is a bit of an exaggeration with Raventhorne, a better phrase is “button bash”. Whilst the developers claim, at great length in game, there are options to kill the undead, no tactics worked aside from hitting the A button. There’s meant to be two battle options, the regular attack and the slightly stronger attack, then there’s jump and block for other moments in the game. However, the responsiveness of the main character against the enemies is such that any form of tactic considered would be a waste as by the time you’ve tapped a few options, you’ll be on your back.
In addition to this, he has some magical powers that he can summon once his energy gauge hits full. At this point, you can select either a lightening attack, health restore, stamina restore or a temporary power boost. Most of the time, a lightening attack is the only thing worth considering as it helps to destroy the already over strong enemies. There seems to be very little logic in how the enemies are killed, it’s not a case of jumping on it 8 times and then he’ll die, Robotnik style, it’s more random. Sometimes the enemies are easy and other times, they are impossibly hard. Yet, there are no physical differences so it makes going into battle even more challenging. Although, hitting a flying, dead, skeletal bird and seeing blood coming off the creature is somewhat annoying. Not forgetting the levelling up system, although the effects of levelling up are not noticeable at all.
The very basic plot, at no point is explained. The introduction of secondary characters, such as witches and demons who are all trying to point you in different directions – although the only direction you can really go is forward, add nothing but further irritations. The entire purpose of the lead character being in the Underworld and having to battle his way out for “vengeance” is clichéd and trite.
Before long, it’s all over. After only 7 stages and normally three to four “chapters” inside the stages it’s done, finite. There’s literally about 4-5 hours gameplay and that’s with the occasional break to enjoy other more leisurely things, like lunch.
The one thing it really has got going for it though, is it’s looks. Raventhorne is a polished and pretty game, whilst the main character may look like a cross between Wolverine, Thor and the Huntchback of Notre-Dame, the rest of the cast and the environments are beautiful. With depth, detail and a clear concept, the act of looking at Raventhorne is an enjoyable one, it’s just most of the pleasure ends there. The soundtrack is enjoyable as well, it’s got a Lord of the Rings style effect which is trying to enhance the fantasy theme that bit further. It’s a great musical score, although there’s not a lot of variety, it’s the same basic background songs in a cycle.
Raventhorne is the first in the Indie Uprising of Summer this year and unfortunately it’s set the bar pretty low. With generic gameplay, poor player responsiveness, a tired plot, it won’t take long until Raventhorne is left behind. Even the most stunning visuals and great soundtrack can carry a game so far although at 230 Microsoft Points, it’s not an expensive purchase and is definitely worth a play on a wet day.