As an avid gamer of the ’80s and ’90s, I’ve got a real soft spot for all things retro-inspired. A lot of my favorites lean into the action adventure-style games, but I also enjoyed turn based RPGs as well. There’s hardly any Metroidvania-style games that I haven’t played – minus, for some reason, Metroid or Castlevania. I don’t really know why; I just didn’t play them. Yet just about anything inspired by them, I’ve sunk my teeth into. I even penned a column a while back covering a handful of them.
So naturally, I’m a sucker for at least trying MMOs that want to toss their hat into the retro ring. Leafling Online was a kind of cool game, but there were plenty of issues, which ultimately led to its shutdown last year. Warspear Online was rough… just no. Then I also played the demo for Arcane Waters a couple of years ago, and I think Chris even gave us a nice stream of it as well. Ha, a stream of it… Arcane Waters… there’s something there.
Well, the latest retro-inspired game that caught my attention was Ravendawn. When originally announced, the sister title to RavenQuest – which is an NFT-laden game – barely registered with me at all. But when Ravendawn launched last month and I took a closer look at what was on offer, I suddenly got pretty excited.
Class building and customization is almost perfect
Customizable classes. That is so fantastic to me. I wish more MMOs (and just games in general) allowed these sort of fully customized character builds. It’s the best, balance be damned! I love that I can be a super-tanky healer by combining the Protection class with the Holy class and even add in some magic DPS if I’m crazy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me step back for a second and consider how classes work more roundly. In Ravendawn, there are eight different classes, or archetypes as the devs call them, to choose from. You’ll begin the game by choosing your initial starting archetype, and then tutorial will hold your hand and guide you through some of the early leveling. Each class itself has about 12 skills split among five tiers in a something of a skill tree style. You won’t have enough skill points at the end of the day to unlock every skill in each tree. However, where the excitement comes in is that you’re able to combine any three of the archetypes to build your character class.
I just love that so much. It immediately gets my build-crafting heart pumping about how differently I can combine and come up with something uniquely mine. It was one of the things about ArcheAge that I really thought was amazing as well. There was a similar style of build customization that you just don’t see often enough.
Even on the Ravendawn website, the developers have a few examples of classes they’ve built. Here they created what they’re calling the Dark Knight class by combing Protection, Shadow, and Warfare trees. It’s incredibly awesome.
As you level, you’ll earn skill points that can be spent learning different combos of skills from your chosen archetypes, but you’ll also earn attribute points that you can place on your character. So even if you and I set up our class with the same skills, perhaps there’s an edge to how many points I put into Strength over Vitality or something.
The best part of all is that you can reset and try different skills freely until you hit level 20. I know why developers make that decision, but I do not like it. I much prefer full build adjustments for free at any time. When you have so many different options, I just want to try them all – which you can, up until you can’t anymore. Of course, another downside is that while you can reset your skills up to level 20, you are stuck with the archetypes you chose. Those can’t be changed from what I’ve seen.
Of course, I haven’t gotten that far into the game yet, so maybe I’ll change my tune (I won’t) and find out that there’s a good reason for the lock in. It doesn’t look to me like there’s any way to just create a full class and test out your build, either, so I guess I’ll keep having fun with it until level 20.
The animations and combat need some help
Now, as great as all the character and class building is, the animations and combat are kind of rough. It isn’t so bad that I turned if off right away, but there are issues. Some of them are glaring, in that we have tree chopping animations but we don’t have basic gathering ones.
When you chop a tree down, you’ll see a cute lil axe go chop chop, and there’s a minigame to speed up the process. But if you are looting a chest or something, your character just stands there the same as ever with a short loading bar on your head. Weak.
It’s kind of tough to describe the speed of the combat being slow because it isn’t that your skills take too long to activate or anything. It’s more like moving and fighting feels a bit janky. And actually – this is going to be a really deep pull – if anyone out there remembers it as I do, then I’m sure you hated it at the time too, but the combat here feels like the combat from Hydlide.
It was an old game I played on the NES. If you were to just look at screenshots, it kind of gives you a Zelda vibe. But it isn’t like that at all. Fighting involved just walking into the monsters. No animations of swinging a weapon or anything. You just walked into them.
Well, here I almost feel that way. You do have skills you can fire off, no doubt. But for melee attacks, you need to be right on them, and since moving doesn’t always feel that smooth, it’s as if you just want to keep pressing your movement keys into their bodies to make sure you don’t lose that connection. Luckily, Ravendawn does have an animation for attacking, so it’s got that over Hydlide.
Also, you better have a quick Tab-slapping pinky because if you haven’t intentionally targeted your monster, you aren’t going to hit jack-all. These two things together mean I’m constantly spamming the Tab key on my keyboard when moving towards a monster to be sure I can engage it as quickly as possible. Then I can pop off my skills.
There’s some rubberbanding too. At first I thought there was an issue with loading every time I went up and down stairs, but then I realized it’s just that there aren’t any animations for going up and down. Instead you just pop up or down them after a moment’s breath. It’s a bit jarring, but you get used to it.
I’ve fought only NPCs at this point, so I can only imagine it gets worse when you’re fighting another player. I can’t say yet. However, maybe next time I will. Ravendawn is widely available and free-to-play. So let’s play: I’m going to do my best to get in there and get some sloppy PvP going next time, so stay tuned!