Ravensword: Shadowlands review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

There’s one good thing that can be said about Ravensword: Shadowlands: between it and Anodyne 2, it would appear that Ratalaika Games is very slowly moving into publishing games that are more than just easy Platinums. To be sure, neither Anodyne 2 nor Ravensword are amazing games by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still a lot more substantive than Ratalaika’s usual fare.

That said, that is literally the only good thing that can be said about Ravensword. In every other respect, it’s absolutely wful. It’s a port of an 8-year-old mobile game that was designed to pay homage to (by which I mean: rip off) Skyrim, except all of it — every single aspect of it — is mind-bogglingly bad.

This is clear right from the get-go. The game starts off with a quick tutorial mission as you go with other troops into a battle against a troll and a bunch of dark elves. After dispatching the first wave of dark elves, my fellow soldiers veered off the obvious path forwards and instead ran at a wall, where they ran in place for several minutes, legs pumping, not moving an inch on account of, again, the fact it was a giant stone wall. After giving up on them, I went to find the troll, who popped into existence right in front of me.

That last sentence highlights one of Ravensword’s biggest issues: its performance is brutal. The game doesn’t just struggle to render anything on the horizon, it can also barely show you what’s in front of you. That means that not only do mountains and trees vanish and reappear depending on the angle of your camera and where you’re standing in relation to them, other people, monsters, and buildings will suddenly show up in front of you — or, just as likely, disappear without any warning.

As you can imagine, this makes navigating the small, lousy map incredibly difficult. You’re given missions, but the game doesn’t really tell you where you’re going, and as far as I could tell it doesn’t allow you to set waypoints or markers either. It gives you missions, and then no details beyond that, and you have to figure out how to get to places that don’t always exist in your line of sight.

Of course, when you can see things, it’s not much better. The people all look like hideous imitations of humans, with all the right parts but none of them looking quite right. Moreover, they blink but they don’t move their mouths when you have conversations with them, which means that they just stand there, blinking at you, as their clunky lines of dialogue scroll across the bottom of the screen. It’s as incredibly disconcerting as you’d imagine.

Equally disconcerting: how the characters here. It probably won’t surprise you to find out that they don’t walk or jump in any kind of natural-looking way, so much as they slide and suddenly bounce up in the air — not usually very high, but on one occasion I saw someone jump up an entire storey, from the ground to a roof, so the physics are pretty baffling. Likewise, combat is awful, as you flail around with swords and the game occasionally registers that you hit your enemies. I’ll also note here that the difficulty curve is baffling, as even on the easiest difficulty, sometimes you’ll dispatch enemies with ease, while other times, for no apparent reason, you die instantly if someone else breathes on you.

Basically, Ravensword: Shadowlands fails on every level imaginable. It wants to be an on-the-cheap version of Skyrim, except it feels more like a weird knock-off made by some people who became vaguely aware Skyrim exists after having had it described to them very poorly, and who then proceeded to make a subpar version of that. It’s really not good, and given that you can get the actual Skyrim for not very much these days on pretty much every console under the sun, you’re better off just getting that instead.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Ravensword: Shadowlands PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: D-