First Impressions With Ravenswatch

First Impressions With Ravenswatch
Come. Stay a while and Listen!

We’ve reached the middle of April and it can only be characterized as “we’re in a holding pattern until Jedi Survivor comes out.” But this relatively slow period has its advantages. Case in point: the release of two games into early access that has me super jazzed: Supplice and Ravenswatch. I will be talking about the latter this week, so pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

Aladdin dead on the floor surrounded by cultists with the option to revive
Yeah, you are gonna see this screen a lot.

Ravenswatch is an action rpg Rouglite and it’s as the kids say, my brand. But there were two things that got me really interested in it. Those were the theming of it being a dark fantasy story featuring various fairytale characters like Red Riding Hood, Beowulf, and the Pied Piper fighting various undead and demonic nasties, and the developer being Passtech Games. This second one is especially relevant to my interests because they worked on Curse of the Dead Gods. I absolutely adored Curse of the Dead Gods when it came out of Early Access, so I picked up Ravenswatch to follow its development. What’s there currently is a decent foundation to build on, but it’s not without flaws.

The first among these is in the content, or should I say, lack of it. Ravenswatch only has its first chapter available and it can be cleared in about 45 minutes if you go out of your way to actually search the map. This normally wouldn’t be an issue since it’s a roguelike and the randomness of the genre keeps you on your toes, but the map feels static here, strangely enough. Different events spawn across it, but the general layout of the thing is the same each time. Another factor that kind of limits it is the current structure. You spawn in as your selected hero and from there, you have 4-5 in-game days to build enough power to fight the Elder Nightmare boss at the end of each run. And while that does sound neat on paper, you can find yourself coming up short power-wise if you Beeline it like I did the first few times I ran through it. There’s also the whole “fighting to gain currency and spending it at the Sandman” thing that kind of artificially extends the gameplay loop, but that’s a small nitpick. And I will be the first to admit that this could all change in the time between now and when the game fully releases, but this is just how it presents itself to the player (in this case, me) right now.

The Pied Pier fighting off a group of enemies in a ruined field with bardic magic

Now that the concerns/gripes are out of the way, let's get to the good stuff, namely the player characters. Ravenswatch currently has six heroes to choose from in Early Access with more on the way. There are four from the get-go; Scarlet the speedy rogue that turns into a werewolf at night (there’s a day/night cycle btw), Beowulf who’s armed with a claymore, shield and small drake on his shoulder that infuses his abilities, The Pied Pier who uses bardic magic and can control entire swarms of rats, and the Snow Queen who uses ice magic to dance around the battlefield and freeze enemies solid. There are an additional two that can be unlocked with consistent play: Melusine, a mermaid with tidal magic and the apparent inspiration for Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, here re-imagined as a badass sword fighter with twin scimitars that can call on the Genie of the lamp for quick fixes. The first four all have ability kits that tie into their thematics and are strong foundations for augmentation. If I had to pick a favourite, it’d be a tie between Scarlet and Beowulf with a lean towards the latter because I love having a pet dragon and a big beefy blade.

As I mentioned, you take any of these six and proceed to wreck shop on the undead and demons infesting the countryside. This all ramps up to a chapter boss fight that can be weakened through the aforementioned exploration, which is a neat idea. What helps out is that death isn’t a near-total big deal. You get up to four revives per run and can choose to use them as you see fit. This also helps because this game has a full four-player co-op mode. Haven’t tried it myself, but it seems neat.

Aladdin fighting off a group of undead enemies on a bridge
Unrelated, but God does Aladdin look sick

Ravenswatch has a good foundation, but it needs some time in the oven. Even with the multitude of characters, abilities, and upgrades, the variability could use a lot of work to give it some legs. I’d recommend seeing some videos on it to see if it’s your jam.