Recently launched on August 22nd, 2011 from Milkstone Studios as part of Indie Games Uprising, Raventhorne is a fast-paced action-adventure platformer venturing into the Norse lands of Yggdrasil and kicking some serious ass.
This tale starts in the Norse lands of Helheim – the land of the dead – as our hero, Raventhorne, awakes with no knowledge of where he is, how he died, or who killed him. In these undying lands is where Raventhorne first meets the Norns; the guardians of fate. They tell him of the coming battle of Ragnarok and hint that, perhaps, someone did not wish him to fight alongside the Aesirian gods in the last battle. Yet, as fate would have it, the brave Raventhorne’s soul is bound by a golden thread; one found in only the bravest of warriors. He can still return from Helheim, but time is short. His task is a simple one. Travel to Asgard and fight alongside the gods in the battle of Ragnarok. But, as with many good stories, it will not be that easy.
Led by the Norn’s guidance and riddles, Raventhorne must venture through the many lands of Yggdrasil fighting against the fallen souls of warriors long lost to time and dark mythical beasts. Along the player’s travels, they will also meet the mysterious Loptr. He gives Raventhorne help where he can and attempts to guide him as well,feeding him information and insight, but insists to Raventhorne that the Norn are misleading him for their own purposes. The player will have to continue on, never waivering, but must keep a watchful eye on both sides; looking for hidden agendas.
Visually, the game is quite nice to look at. Using a dark, almost comicbook, style design, Raventhorne keeps the atmosphere moody and full of grit. The levels are filled with beautiful details throughout that make the game truly amazing to look at. From the amazing flowing fog to the wind-blown snow flurries, these little details do an amazing job of filling the screen with life. Raventhorne himself is very well animated, but a little more detail or a less of an almost “stationary” feel to his animations would definitely have added a lot more to the overall quality of the game. All-in-all though, Raventhorne is a wonderfully done title visually, and far beyond the norm currently found in the indie community.
The controls in Raventhorne are surprisingly well designed and laid out, yet they do take some getting used to. The combat in Raventhorne is fast-paced and not exactly friendly to newcomers, but still very manageable to pickup after a small play session.
The combat is rather deep beyond the standard button-masher hack-n-slash. The combat system is broken up into three “stances” each bearing their own advantages and penalties. The Defensive stance deals much less damage to your foes, but exerts very little stamina when attacking. To the exact opposite, the Attack stance deals significantly more damage at the cost of increased amounts of stamina usage. As always, there is the tried-and-true Standard stance which evenly blends attack power and stamina usage.
Stamina is a massive and important part of the combat system in Raventhorne. It is used to activate attacks, dodge enemies, and must even be used to block incoming enemy power attacks. If the player attacks too wildly or blocks too much, they will find themselves stunned and helpless to incoming attacks; a penalty with grave consequences in some battles.
Beyond the standard brute force of swords and hammers, the player has access to powerful runic spells that can enhance their prowess in combat. From the area-damage effects of lightning to the powerful attack-doubling combat rage, the player has a multitude of options in battle. The usage of a rune spell at just the right time can truly push the tides of battle in many different directions; giving the player and upperhand when they need it most.
One feature that greatly helps keep the game fun is the experience system. As players progress through Raventhorne, fighting enemies and collecting magical crystals, they will slowly gain experience. With each level the player will grow slightly stronger, allowing them to deal more damage and use stamina with less cost. One of the great aspects of the this system is that the experience carries over even after death. This allows players to get past certain challenges out of perseverance versus hours and hours of frustration.
The music is beautifully orchestrated and blended in with the action, or lack there of, on-screen. It brings the player thoroughly into the world of Raventhorne filling the plains of Helheim with a palpable ominous tone and the frosty lands of Niflheim with the chill they deserve. The clashes of blades and hammer resonate throughout the game with crisp detail and give the world a true sense of interactivity. From the first moment the title screen appears and the title track plays, the player will be left feeling ready for some adventure.
The largest complaint I found with the title is the staggeringly short story. To be honest, the end twist of the game felt like the first roll of a snowball on a much larger hill and, as soon as I was hooked and wanted more, it ended; leaving me feeling a bit let-down. To be continued are always bad words to see when a game is only just starting. It is a fantastic game with immense potential that, hopefully, if truly continued will be a great title to enjoy for any action/adventure fan.