Ravenbound PC Review

Ravenbound is a highly ambiguous game that fully allows players to explore its vast ever-changing landscape.

By DShelley, Posted 05 Apr 2023

Death comes for us all, from the lowly clover to the greatest of stags; everything must die, even gods… But what happens after? Ravenbound is a fast-paced open-world action roguelite that sees us play as one of the many vessels of the raven, who must complete itself and return balance to a scattered land.

Ravenbound is developed and published by Systemic Reaction, a small but fierce developer based in several locations around the world such as Stockholm and Malmö. Systemic Reaction mainly focuses on sandbox games that rely heavily on player freedom, unconventional stories, and narratives, as seen in their 2020 game, Second Extinction, a sci-fi dinosaur shooter. While Second Extinction had mixed reviews, hopefully Ravenbound will fare better, as it is the studio's most anticipated game.


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, Boss Fights
 

The story for Ravenbound goes as follows. The island of Ávalt was once protected by six gods known as the Ellri. However, one of the six gods, aptly named The Betrayer's mind became corrupted, and she betrayed her fellow Ellri. Unbeknownst to her, the other Ellri came together and forged a weapon, in the form of a raven, that would be used to defeat her and the evil she had brought to the land. However, before they could complete their weapon, The Betrayer caught wind of what they were doing and seized the opportunity to strike while they were weakened and vulnerable in the middle of the ritual. The Betrayer proceeded to seal the Ellri away in tombs of her own creation to be sure nobody could stop her. Though the incomplete raven managed to go unnoticed, it now waits for a host that can be its vessel and finish what the Ellri started.

That vessel in question is you. You play as the aforementioned vessel and hopefully champion known as the Ravenbound. It is up to you to hunt down and defeat The Betrayer, who has fled to the heart of Ávalt to spread more of her hatred across the world and spread like disease upon the land. How you defeat her is completely up to you, as Systemic Reaction has delivered on giving players as much freedom as possible, within reason of course.

You see, in Ravenbound, the world is your oyster, well a killer oyster, but an oyster nonetheless. You have complete freedom to explore the island of Ávalt however you want and go anywhere you want. This doesn't mean you won't run into any challenges along the way. Quite the opposite in fact, as dotted throughout the island you will encounter many dangerous enemies, from giant club-wielding trolls to deer-horned witches, even the undead soldiers of The Betrayer's legion of hatred. A swift death awaits the foolish, but don't fret, death is but a stepping stone.


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, NPC, Quests
 

Death actually plays a major part in the story's narrative. The Raven itself is an immortal being that will never truly die until it completes its task. Whomever the Raven inhabits will be granted many great and wonderful gifts, but the Raven's immortality isn't one of them. When you travel across the vast world you will come across cards, these cards can be found in chests or through collecting three enemy fragments, and will give you a choice between three or more options. Your choices vary a positive, a neutral, and a negative choice, positives require mana to activate, neutrals don't require mana and negatives activate immediately on reveal, whatever you choose, will stay with you till the end of the run. Meaning if you die you will lose all the cards you had acquired, good or bad.

In Ravenbound you are going to die a lot. Unless you are a particularly skilled player, your journey will eventually come to an end and you will need to start from the beginning. Well not entirely, you see Ravenbound isn't that merciless, it being a roguelite means that you don't start from scratch, it's more that you start from where you left off but on a blank slate. Whenever you die, you will lose all your cool armor and acquired abilities and will need to pick a new vessel, these vessels are randomly generated, so what passive abilities and skills they start out with change between run to run. This will also give you a chance to pick a character who has the necessary traits you need that your previous character lacked. The randomized system isn't perfect, however, as while some may have a trait you want, they may also have a trait you don't want or strange coloration. 


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, Reward


While sadly, you don't get immortality, you do get plenty of other abilities, such as flight. As mentioned earlier, the world of Ravenbound is absolutely massive, but the game doesn't give you many modes of transport, no horses or giant wolves to ride on, and you don't have a fast travel system, but what you do have is your raven. At locations known as raven towers, you will be able to enter a raven form. In this form, you are able to take to the skies and soar above the highest mountains and easily reach your destination most of the time. Your raven form isn't that easy to control, and most of the time, it feels as if the bird has a mind of its own. The game explains the controls, but most of the time, it feels less like you're controlling the bird and more like you are fighting against it.

As for your other means of exploration, you have the Raven Claw, no, not that one; the Raven Claw is essentially a grappling hook that allows you to reach difficult-to-reach places that may be hiding valuable treasures, but most of the time, you will be using the raven claw to make your own shortcuts when exploring as there seems to be no limit to what your grapple hook can hook to, which may lead you to some awkward situations such as being stuck on a cliff side above a bottomless pit. Much like the raven form, your grappling hook isn't exactly the most polished mechanic, the hook can easily be used to exploit enemy ai and essentially reduce a challenging boss fight to a series of well-timed potshots.

As for Ravenbound's combat, it is highly reminiscent of games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne but incredibly fast-paced. A key part of the game's combat is timing. You will need to time your attacks perfectly so you can stagger your enemies and get in the most amount of damage possible. You will also need to be just as aware of your enemy’s movements as much as your own, as you have to time both your blocks and dodges or else your character's health will quickly vanish.


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, Gameplay
 

While the combat is incredibly engaging, it's not perfect and at times, just feels unfair. A good example is when you're facing off against a large enemy whose attacks seem to be tethered to your character, meaning no matter where or when you dodge, their attack is still going to connect, and your only way of stopping it is to block, but some attacks are unblockable meaning no matter what you do, you're going to take damage whether you like it or not.

As mentioned earlier, when you die, nothing from your previous run carries over; that even includes the world you play in. Whenever you die in Ravenbound, the game will generate an entirely new world with different landscapes and features. Locations of certain chests also don't change but what type of chest it is does, meaning you can't simply go chest hunting and get all your previous abilities back, as the chest could be corrupted with hatred.

While a generative word does keep things fresh and adds another layer of challenge, it doesn't change enough to be impactful, it hardly changes anything at all in fact. Yes, the landscape and NPC locations change, but major landmarks such as towns and enemy forts don't, making regenerating the environment redundant as you don't really have to worry about finding a town to heal when you know there's one 15 meters away, but it's now on a mountain rather than a valley.

Towns also serve a very important role in Ravenbound. Towns are one of the few places where you don't have to worry about being attacked. They are also a place where you can easily acquire new cards from the town's blacksmith. You can gamble for new cards as well, however, the certainty of actually getting the card you want is no guarantee. You will also encounter more of these gambling merchants throughout your travels, and these NPCs don't really make much sense as what cards they other can easily be bought for roughly the same at the blacksmith, but just without the risk. So why gamble when you can just buy the card?


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, Cinematic
 

The landscapes themselves are incredibly vibrant, and each one is distinct from one another. The verdant green forests are filled with flowers and various plant life, which contrasts the harsh and dry badlands that instead of dense woodland, are filled with dry grasses and shrubbery. While these environments are beautiful, they are also incredibly empty, there is no wildlife at all in these areas besides the fluttering butterflies in the forests, the game is just incredibly empty. What NPCs you encounter are so far and in-between you will spend many hours exploring the world mostly alone until an enemy sneaks up on you and cuts away half your health.

The game, in general, lacks a sense of polish and refinement, as mentioned earlier all of these fun and interesting mechanics are indeed fun and interesting, but their charm doesn't last long when you start noticing how unrefined they are. Ravenbound is an incredibly huge and ambitious game, but it seems that the developers have bitten off a lot more than they can chew and it clearly shows, from unfair combat to generative landscapes that don't really change anything, the entire experience of the game loses its luster. In the beginning, you will feel like the reason you are struggling is because you just don't fully understand the mechanics but later, you realize, said mechanics, aren't fully developed.


Ravenbound, PC, Review, Screenshots, Roguelite, Cinematic
 

The game has had a lot of passion put into it. This is incredibly evident in the game's soundtrack, which is tribal and ambient and takes heavy inspiration from traditional Slavic folk music, the layered vocalizations and echoing drums just entirely immerse you into the world of Ravenbound. The music changes from area to area and just compliments each area perfectly, making them feel unique and distinct from one another.

As of Wednesday, 5 April 2023, a new update was released for Ravenbound. The update seems to mainly focus on addressing some issues experienced within the game, such as minor performance bugs, as well as rebalancing combat. While combat seems much less unfair, the enemy ai can still easily be exploited and bosses attacks are still locked onto your vessel's movement. Meaning, while the experience is slightly better, the many of the problems within Ravenbound are still present.

Ravenbound is a highly ambiguous game that fully allows players to explore its vast ever-changing landscape. Despite its ambition, the game lacks refinement and makes the game feel underbaked and not fully developed.


Daman Shelley (@UndeadandTired)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Ravenbound

60/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Systemic Reaction
Developer(s): Systemic Reaction
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Fantasy, Action, Roguelite
Release Date: 2023-03-30

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