PREVIEW / Ravenswatch (PC)

We all know how excited I become when I get my hands on a brand-new roguelike. This is a genre that feels like it has endless possibilities and I’m always keen to see what the next offering will bring. This being said you can probably guess just how thrilled I was to get my hands on a title that isn’t even officially out yet. I was even more thrilled to see it was coming from a team that I already knew and really liked. The game we’re talking about today is Ravenswatch and we’ll be taking a sneaky peek at it together.

So first things first; Ravenswatch is coming from the folk over at Passtech Games. These are the clever souls behind Curse of the Dead Gods. This is a game that I’m already massively familiar with and if you’re a fan of hard-as-nails experiences I strongly suggest checking it out if you’re not already in the know. This being said I’m expecting great things from Ravenswatch. I promise I’m not going to show any bias based on what I already know, though. If this game is pants I’ll tell you but at the same time, I’m still going to be a little bit lenient on account of this being an Early Access release. We can’t be too savage about an unfinished product, after all.

In Ravenswatch you play a member of the titular organization. Darkness has descended upon your realm and nightmares now stalk your once safe home. The people are crying out for aid and in response, a group of warriors and spell casters have come together to send the darkness back where it came from. These are the brave members of the Ravenswatch and you will be joining its ranks.

The Pied Piper’s flute has a range of abilities. None of them are good if you’re a nightmare.

The first thing I really like about this game is the choice of characters. This isn’t just some generic team of protagonists that could have been dropped in from any fantasy action game out there. Real thought has been put into selecting some really cool figures from fiction and giving them a fresh twist. A good example of this is Scarlet. I think there’s a phrase that basically says that you become what you fear. Red Riding Hood has this very problem. By day she’s a young girl with a pair of big knives that she’s very proficient with. She isn’t someone you’d want to get lost in the woods with either. When the moon rises, (it does; this game has day and night cycles,) she turns into a slavering ball of rage and flying fur ready to rip the nightmares limb from limb.

I won’t go through all the champions present at the moment but amongst the roster is the Snow Queen, a ranged combatant with a frosty nature. The Pied Piper is waiting in the wings with all of his furry little friends; as is Beowulf and his very large sword and dragon companion. You seriously wouldn’t want to meet any of them in a dark alley and aside from a few that I haven’t mentioned, there’s more coming in the final release. We’ll have to see who’s joining the crew then.

This is your safe zone. The Sandman looks after this area for you and also acts as the shop.

To put things as simply as I can without spoiling anything you’ll be sent out into an area infested with nightmares and given a number of days to make yourself sufficiently powerful enough to deal with a much more powerful foe and either make that area safe or die trying. To accomplish this you’ll need to murder the lesser beasties that are on the rampage and collect gold from caches dotted about the area. Leveling your character allows you to add more attributes to your roster of attacks and gold can be spent with the Sandman to increase the power of these bonuses and buy useful consumable items. These in turn will grant you armor and healing bonuses amongst others. Aside from this, there are chests and other events dotted around the map that will grant you boons. There are also characters with quests for you to complete if you can. Believe me when I say you’ll need all the help you can get if you’re going to stand a chance when the greater nightmare wakes up. Even a reasonably upgraded hero is going to have a tough time of it.

You need to get used to varied mobs very quickly. Enemies in this game aren’t squishy so tactics are advised.

One of the first things in Ravenswatch that’s glaringly obvious is the difficulty. This is not a game for the faint of heart and even for experienced action RPG fans this is going to be a difficult proposition if going solo. The characters are a lot of fun to play and when you get used to their abilities you’ll quickly pick a favorite, ( I’m skipping between The Snow Queen and Pied Piper, cause, exploding rats are lethal,) but this won’t alter the fact that your foes are a force to be reckoned with. We’re all used to getting mobbed but sometimes it really feels like you’re fighting a losing battle against an insurmountable force. Some battles feel like they’ve been designed for a multiplayer experience. Certain events will see you taking on increasingly difficult waves of enemies and this is fine but it feels like this is the sort of thing that needs at least two players, especially as some of them are timed. This being said, I think that the scaling could do with a bit of tweaking for a single-player run. Now I’m not saying we don’t want a challenge, we absolutely do, we don’t want to get absolutely smashed either though so evening the odds up just slightly would be nice. On the other hand, if this is scaled for a single-player game and it just gets harder the more people you add, heaven help four-player teams.

As a little sidenote to the point I’ve just been making, finding a match with other players should be relatively easy. Co-op games can be joined online and this means that you should never have any trouble finding a friend to aid you if you’re stuck. This is great because you’ll always have the ability to play with others should you choose to. If you’re like me, however, and prefer a more solo experience you’ll definitely have your work cut out for you, at least as things stand at the moment. 

One of the quest givers. You won’t only have to repair his house, you’ll also have to defend it and keep him alive.

Adding to the already impressive difficulty is the fact that this is a roguelike. The map and events hidden on it will change with every run, as will the enemy layout and, of course, the types of enemies you’ll encounter. Some enemy types you’ll see a lot more than others too and this is great for keeping the experience fresh. There’s an infestation of pig demons and spectral enemies that you’ll get used to fighting as you’ll see them regularly. I had a bit of a giant spider problem on my last run, though, and these eight-legged monstrosities are a lot more powerful than they are in other games. These critters not only spew toxic venom and trap you in webs but they also have a mean bite and lay eggs. The eggs don’t contain fluffy bunnies either. I live for procedural generation and in this game, it’s used brilliantly. There’s a real “get good or get dead,” mentality behind Ravenswatch and the roguelike nature of the title makes it a masochist’s dream.

Graphically Ravenswatch is as dark and gory as it needs to be. Think along the Diablo vein. We aren’t going for the full-on horror trope but you can still tell you’re battling all kinds of otherworldly horrors. It feels like you’re playing through a very adult, gothic, fairytale and I’m all for it. If you’ve played Curse of the Dead Gods you’ll recognize the excellently drawn-out art style that’s making a reappearance. The cutscenes and stills look like something from a graphic novel, and one that I’d be very happy to read. They’re colorful and deliciously dark all at the same time. The music and voice acting is also all very on-theme. I have to admit I found some of the character lines a little bit repetitive at times but this is a relatively small gripe in comparison to all the good that’s here.

This is a Master Nightmare. It’s absolutely not to be underestimated.

Ravenswatch is not perfect but it doesn’t need to be at the moment with it still being in Early Access. I can see this title growing from strength to strength and if things carry on going the way they are we’re going to be on to a winner. If you’re looking for something new to play with your mates I can already recommend this title. As a solo experience, it’s still a lot of fun but as I’ve already mentioned it’s blindingly difficult in places. I should have mentioned earlier that altering the difficulty is always an option, but I still think normal could be adjusted just a tad for balance. If you’re the sort of gamer that likes a slightly slower pace you’re definitely in the wrong place here. All in all, this is a title to watch for those of you looking for a new, action-packed, thrill. You’ll get a good amount of bang for your buck too on account of the replayability and the fact that you won’t be racing through this title at any kind of speed. Really good stuff all around!


This preview was based on an Early Access copy of the game supplied by the publisher.