Grinding is the name of the game.
Realms of Ancient War, or R.A.W., is an action RPG, dungeon-crawling, loot-collecting fantasy game developed by Wizarbox and published by Focus Home Interactive, and is available as a downloadable title. With the launch of Diablo III not too far in the past, gamers who lapped up Blizzard’s highly anticipated title may well be looking for something to give them the same kind of experience on the home consoles and, whilst there are a few choices when it comes to this particular genre, Realms of Ancient War is most certainly a game that should be considered. When making a direct comparison, R.A.W. doesn’t really measure up, but the Diablo III boots are difficult to fill. But R.A.W. has some interesting ideas, is substantially cheaper, can be played on a console and, most importantly, offers local co-op, making it a good choice for dungeon crawling fans.
But that will mean getting through the bland early part of the game first. To say that things are uninspiring at the beginning is an understatement and players will find themselves wondering if they have made a mistake with their purchase. The generic and lifeless starting area, accompanied by a funeral-like backing tune, are undoubtedly a mistake. But patience is the key and, before long, the player will find themselves getting sucked into the familiar pattern of killing hordes of monsters for a wide array of equipment, and cash with which to buy further equipment. Such are the staples of this genre, and in this respect they are offered up quite freely by R.A.W.
Establishing a unique fantasy world in which to set a game such as this can be difficult. The world, and the story which accompanies the game, is fairly standard. An evil force set the Kingdoms of the world against each other, and they have been at war ever since. Now another threat has risen and guess who has the job of essentially saving the world?
Players get to choose from the standard character types of a Warrior, Wizard or Rogue, each with their own specialities and way of playing, and the player is encouraged to try the game with each of the different characters to get the best experience. The game offers local co-op but, interestingly, only offers this for two players, which seems a stange decision given the three character types available.
The story trundles along, with the player picking up missions and stocking up on equipment in towns, as the player progresses and the characters evolve. The customisation options in R.A.W. are limited to the hue amount of equipment that can be bought or looted, and the impressive number of skills that can be learnt and improved upon through leveling. Whilst this may be bread and butter for many dungeon crawling fans, anyone looking for an involving fantasy world in which to get immersed, or characters with depth to bond with, may well be disappointed. The target audience for R.A.W. is very well defined and I am sure they know who they are.
The game plays quite well. The combat is smooth and the relatively linear path that the player must follow remains obvious throughout. Some level of exploration would have been nice, but it’s not a deal breaker. The controller layout is natural and doesn’t take long to learn, and before the long the player will be performing some rather nice moves and impressive spells to take down packs on enemies with ease.
Which is perhaps one of the larger problems with R.A.W. It is a bit on the easy side. The player gathers Soul Stones to come back to life after dying, but will quite rapidly get to the point when they simply don’t die and thus don’t need to use them. Sure, there are areas where the difficulty ramps up, but they are few and far between. Playing in local co-op reduces the threat even more, as players simply respawn as long as their co-player stays alive for five seconds after their death. Playing on the higher difficulty counters this to a certain degree, but it is still not especially challenging.
Visually, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The environments start out quite dull, but get more impressive as the game progresses. The characters themselves are not especially detailed and things can get a bit confusing on screen once the action really hots up with an impressive number of enemies swarming at the player. I have no doubt that I have seen worse, but once you get caught up in the grind for ever better equipment, it doesn’t really matter what the game looks like as long as it doesn’t affect the gameplay.
Realms of Ancient War may well be a little slow to start, and slightly quirky, but once things get moving it is a satisfying hack ‘n slash experience with plenty of loot to collect. Playing with a friend in local co-op makes it even better. R.A.W. is not ground-breaking, but it is a solid game and fans of the genre will get plenty of hours of loot collecting with a buddy.