RAW – Realms of Ancient War
What we have here is your cookie cutter fantasy game. Within the first few seconds of the animatic opening scene, the words “Humans, dwarves and elves used to live in harmony together before -“. It’s fair to say that your average fantasy fan or even someone with a slight exposure to the genre is going to shut off after that point. It’s just an automatic reaction, no matter how that story may be presented, we’ve heard it all before and we can trust our Tolkien addled brains to fill in all the blanks.
What really doesn’t help shrink the steadily swelling stereotype this game has already made itself out to be is the character selection, at which point I found myself asking if the developers had just copy-pasted from the fantasy trope encyclopaedia. You can tackle RAW with a dual wielding Warrior, a dangerous-looking wizard and a nimble token female rogue, and they all have different talents that help them overcome the obstacles they’ll certainly face. Still awake? Good. I’ve got about 600 words to go here and I’m counting on you being conscious to keep me sane whilst I write this. Come on, we can get through this together.
I probably wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of RAW’s mediocrity if it didn’t seem to revel in it so much. Even the name basically says “Generic fantasy hack and slash, money please”. “Realms of Ancient War”? Were they even trying, or did they just want a title with a cool abbreviation? I can see where they were attempting to head with this, they clearly wanted to go in a retro-wards direction but it has not come across well at all, rather than feel charmingly outdated it just seems stilted and awkward. It looks and plays like a low budget PS2 game at the best of times, without all the blinding benefit of nostalgia.
You might think at this point that I’m being a little harsh, and that it’s unfair to judge games from smaller developers on a larger scale. So let’s get back into the meat of the gameplay, and you’ll see what I mean. Combat boils down to mindless mouse-clicking even as you level up and develop new skills, and there’s not much satisfying feedback to make those new skills feel like you’ve made any significant progress. Even Diablo III, heavily criticised as it was, got that right. It’s a fundament of the RPG, the hero’s journey from level one weakling to a capped and geared bad-ass who clears a dungeon with a single gesture of their wizard sleeve/beefy sword of death/+1 Armour Bikini of Cleaving. RAW leaves you with none of that sense of power or command of your environment, even the supposedly mighty Warrior character looks like he’s hitting wolves and spiders with drinking straws as opposed to axes and longswords. It’s usually expected that a reviewer finishes the game they’re playing before they can make a fair judgement, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that after playing through the game’s first half I knew everything I needed to know. It just wasn’t getting better, and the foundations the game are built on are so shoddy it’s a sinkhole waiting to happen.
There are a few positives lurking beneath the surface, there’s some pretty cool artwork in the static story scenes that makes you wonder how the classic fantasy imagery didn’t carry on into the full game. There’s a lot of promise hiding behind some crippling flaws, at best this game is hampered by someone’s rampant ambition. If you’re going to do the classic fantasy format in a game, you have to have a colossal amount of production value behind it, and RAW just lacks that ‘oomph’ necessary to make you want to play it, especially when you compare it to the two other big titles in the genre that released this year. Perhaps in a year where top-down dungeon crawlers have been unfortunately absent, this would seem like a welcome addition, despite a lack of imagination and an entirely standard presentation. But when two high-profile games have dominated the market, it makes RAW seem like a sad attempt at copying the formula.
Like I’ve said in countless reviews before, the size of a studio is no excuse for a low quality game. Tiny indie studios and two-man teams have out-innovated the big guns of the gaming industry time and time again, and that’s the reason why Runic Games outdid Diablo III with Torchlight 2. That might not be a comparison on the same scale, but what’s especially relevant to RAW is that size is no detriment to imagination, and churning out something as smugly average and derivative as this deserves none of your time or cash.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.