R.A.W. - Realms of Ancient War - Staff Review  

Spiders: The Only Enemy That Matters
by Sam Marchello

Less Than 20 Hours
+ Great control
+ Easy to pick up and play
- Uninspired gameplay
- Horrendously boring experience overall
- Repetitive on all accounts
- Tiny text, tiny enemies, tiny everything
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   Realms of Ancient War is a special game designed for those who love hack n' slash titles. However, it's a game that gets very little right in its own genre. It does so much wrong, in fact, that we question its very existence. For a downloadable game, this should have been a quick and dirty experience. However, for the whole seven hours my spouse and I played, we spent more time crying for it to be over than enjoying the experience.

   Let's cut to the chase: R.A.W has little to no plot going on. Sure, players can choose between three character types, warrior, rogue and wizard, but their plots don't offer very much in terms of intrigue. The realms are fighting, people are dying, kings are squabbling, and it's the player's job to traverse the lands and deal with their conflicts. There's so little going on in terms of story that when plot elements appear, it tends be more goofy and distracting than anything else. It doesn't help that the dialog is poorly placed, weakly written, and just laugh-out-loud silly. The number of villains that scream at the party to just "DIE!" makes it hard to take them seriously.

   Regardless of the character one chooses, the game does little to show variety. There's no map or mini map to help guide players around the derivative environments, and there's tons of backtracking without good reason. Furthermore, as a hack n' slash game, players will be forced to fight mobs of enemies, yet they appear randomly, from all sides and seem to be scripted fairly poorly. It also doesn't help when players feel like they've accomplished themselves against a mob and then all of a sudden there's another surprise ambush. The most villainous of all enemies is the dreaded spider. Yes, spiders. They appear on nearly every map, and probably kill the player more than any other enemy in the game. This isn't thoughtful game design: it is unnecessary padding.

Something is happening! Maybe! Something is happening! Maybe!

   Which ultimately leads to R.A.W's biggest problem: it's a game of padding. The story is mindless filler, the maps go on longer than they need to, and the mobs are never-ending and not fun to engage. While the game's controls and menu interface are very smooth and well implemented, it doesn't change the fact that this game is derivative in every way possible. There is nothing more irritating than reaching a story point saying that the player has reached the final battle, only to have the game pull a bait and switch that requires more backtracking because "oh, all the kings need help!" now.

   It also doesn't help that everything in the game is small. The text is tiny, the enemies and player characters are miniature, and overall it's just difficult to see around objects within the maps. Moreover, the maps are full of colourful objects, yet very little is interactive. In fact, many stairs clutter the maps, and character can't even use the stairs to their advantage when fighting enemies. Only some stairs are designated for moving the player from map to map. Furthermore, if a player dies, they get sent back to a checkpoint, but there's a currency system in place so if a player dies too many times they will have to restart the level from the beginning.

   For all its flaws, it is a competent hack n' slash game, it just doesn't offer a lot to do. Once a player chooses his or her class, the formula stays essentially the same and seldom adds any new spices to the mix. Even the skill tree lacks enough unique skills to make the player want to explore their options, and once the player finds the skills that work best for his or her play style, there's no reason to dive further into trying other attacks. Everything uses mana and one will often find themselves with not enough options to replenish their mana unless they die, lather, rinse, and repeat. The game also has no puzzles, very minimal trap implementation, uninteresting sidequests and and surprisingly, not a lot of loot. Most of the items are generically named — it doesn't exactly entice the player to check out equipment stats if all items are named "training bow" and "red key." This game is so generic that it does nothing to think outside of the box to create a fun hack n' slash game.

Hordes everywhere! EVERYWHERE. Hordes everywhere! EVERYWHERE.

   The worst offender in this game is the co-op experience. This should in fact be the highlight, but it's not even fun to play with a friend. The second player's progress doesn't even save (even if you have two accounts on the 360), meaning that the second player has to start completely fresh every time the game is loaded. While it may be the first player's story, there's no excuse why the second player's progress isn't saved. Also, if one likes achievements, the second player is shafted from receiving those even if they perform the tasks for said achievement. The second player gets stiffed in almost every way possible, making the co-op experience feel unfulfilling.

   In terms of audio and visual appeal, R.A.W has very little going for it. The environments are colourful, but tiny and cluttered. It's amazing that a game can look decent, but have nothing in it to to create appeal. The soundtrack is ambient or non-existent depending on how far along one is and the sound effects are terrible. There's no reason for a heartbeat sound to appear when a player is at half health. The game will take on average about seven hours to complete, though if the majority of the padding had been cut, R.A.W would likely be a three hour game. The difficulty is also all over the pace as one minute the game is easy as pie and the next it floods an insane amount of enemies without rhyme or reason.

   R.A.W is a frustrating and humdrum experience. It offers nothing new to fans of the genre, nor does it attempt to create a lasting impression. Instead what players will receive is a lazily designed, boneheaded experience that doesn't even attempt to charm. R.A.W is a waste of time, energy and money, as you get very little value and content, and no reward other than a sore thumb and a sour attitude.

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