Disclaimer: Review code provided by Cococumber.
Every great fairy tale needs three things: a kind, plucky protagonist with a willingness to plunge themselves into danger for the sake of adventure, a kingdom in desperate need of saving, and an evil protagonist you want to defeat. Ravenlok successfully provides … two of these things, at least. But more on that later.
The game comes from Canadian developer Cococumber, a studio with a history of developing games dating back a decade to their first, the mobile title Bunny Bonker. With their 2019 game, Riverbond, they started a new series entitled the “Voxel Trilogy”, with Ravenlok representing the final chapter in that saga.
Rather than starting with the player being directly dropped into the fantasy world, the game instead begins on a humble farm, where the hero is asked to help their parents with a recent move. You play as a young girl who you get to name, but upon entering the fantasy world everyone just calls “Ravenlok.” Like most fantasy stories, Ravenlok begins exploring an unused part of her house, only to discover a portal that pulls here into the fantastical realm of Dunia, where the rest of the game takes place.
I’ll be honest: typically, I’m not much for sprite or voxel-type games. While I’m not a graphics snob, I’d much rather be looking at something that feels like it came from the last ten years. But Cococucumber has outdone themselves with Ravenlok’s stunning fantasy world. The developer has traded Echo Generation’s nostalgia-laden environments that conjure feelings of the 1980s and ‘90s for a different brand of nostalgia. The Kingdom of Dunia evokes classic fantasy with its various locales. It’s never pulling too hard from one reference to say its just aping something more popular; each of the major areas have their own feeling to them.
Upon arriving in Dunia, though, there’s one thing players are going to have to get used to, fast: quests. Ravenlok dumps what feels like over a dozen quests on the player almost as soon as they appear in this new world. Every character wants the mighty Ravenlok to do something for them. Some of these are fitting of a powerful kingdom-saving warrior, while others honestly feel beneath her notice. However, they’re all necessary to keep progressing, so while you might not want to find that mouse his “cheesy new recipe,” you’ll still need to do so to finish the game.
Even as someone who spends a lot of time in open-worlds, the number of quests felt overwhelming early on. Part of the problem is you’re often only told what to do, not where to go. It felt reminiscent of a lot of PS1 and PS2 games, as frequently the only way I found my way around was wandering to locations and interacting with everything I saw. With no map and no way to definitively track what to do next other than quest directions, I even wound up beating an area early, only to travel backwards to find and fight the boss of the previous area by accident. While that kind of non-linearity is always appreciated, it’s better when it’s an intentional design choice.
Speaking of bosses, the combat in Ravenlok is almost mind-numbingly easy most of the time. Regular enemy encounters are sparse, and largely unchallenging until the end. Most of the time, enemies barely even got to attack before I unleashed a flurry of sword swipes to take them out.
The game tries to add difficulty to its combat encounters by trying to swarm the player with enemies, but honestly that just exposes the combat further. With nearly a dozen enemies surrounding you, it should feel pretty dangerous, but generally there were few situations I couldn’t slash my way out of. I died twice — once to a boss early on because I didn’t understand the level up mechanic, and another time later against an enemy that revived twice while I wasn’t paying attention to my health bar.
Ravenlok’s combat will either be refreshingly or frustratingly simple, depending on the person. Unlike a lot of indie (and AAA) games trying to fit into the trends lately, there’s no Souls-like combat to be found here. You’re not benefiting from timed attacks, there’s no parries, and while there is a stamina bar, it’s for defending not attacking.
Some people who like punishing combat will find this to be easy enough to be boring, while people who just want to explore Ravenlok‘s gorgeous world might still find this enjoyable. While you only get a sword and a shield for weapons, defeating big bosses will grant special abilities to vary the gameplay up. It’s not a lot, but it’ll keep things fresh for the duration of the game.
If there’s one major flaw, it’s that the main villain isn’t really all that impressive. As a protagonist, Ravenlok is likable — she’s sweet, she’s willing to risk danger to save the denizens of Dunia, and she’s courageous enough to stand up to anyone evil. It’s not particularly deep characterization, but it’s enough that I liked playing as her. The antagonist, on the other hand, leaves much more to be desired.
The Queen of Dunia appears about three times during the game, and one of them is when you’re fighting her in the last boss fight. The game is so eager to set up a fun, happy fairy tale adventure that they never really ratchet up the tension in a meaningful way until the last dungeon of the game. I was far more interested in some of the other villains in the game than the Queen, who seemingly had no reason to be ruining the kingdom at all.
In the end, Ravenlok is a “good enough” action-RPG. Cococumber estimated finish times at 6-10 hours, and that’s about right. My game clock said it took me seven hours and fifty-seven minutes, and I got lost twice for about an hour. If it were at full retail, or even a reduced price like $50, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it to anyone. But at $25, it’s a perfect title to spend a weekend on, as the visuals and adorable cast of the Kingdom of Dunia alone are worth the price of admission.
Disclaimer: Review code provided by Cococumber. Every great fairy tale needs three things: a kind, plucky protagonist with a willingnessCOMICONRead More