This week, I’m taking a look at an ARPG (that’s Action Role Playing Game for those of you unfamiliar) that seemed to go by largely unnoticed. Is there a reason for that? Let’s find out!
This Bard Has A Tale To Tell
Realms of Ancient War was published by Focus Entertainment, an independent studio based in France. It was released for Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and PC in 2012. Some other games that you might recognize by Focus are Game of Thrones and the Trackmania series. Now, it’s worth noting that the game seems to have been developed mainly for consoles and it shows with the minimalist hotkey layout and multiplayer. I’ll touch on those later in the review, though.
Like most games in its genre, R.A.W. is pretty light on the main story, but actually has some very nice lore going on in the background. I don’t think this is a bad thing as the genre doesn’t really need to be any deeper than it is with its “Go here, kill this. Now go here, kill that.”
You’re chosen by the King of the Northern Realm as his aid to free him from his magical imprisonment, and must journey from one end of the continent to the other to achieve your goal. Along the way you’ll visit Dwarven, Elvish, and another Human kingdom in your quest to help free the once proud King.
It’s no walk in the park, though. The Nothingness is out in force and will do anything it can to stop you before you can recruit the three Kings of the other empires to aid your cause.
Of The Three, One You’ll Be
R.A.W. doesn’t get too flashy with a bunch of different archetypes. When you load up the campaign you’re given the choice of the Wizard, the Warrior, or the Rogue. Each begins their quest in their own starting area before venturing out into a bigger world.
Let’s face it, out of those three, the Wizard looks the most bad ass.
I played through the campaign as the Wizard and didn’t have any real trouble on normal. If anything, it almost seemed too easy, but that might’ve been because the Wizard can nuke everything on screen.
The Wizard is, of course, chock full of magical power and it shows. I feel like he’s actually incredibly standard for an ARPG Wizard. He uses Fireballs, Poison Clouds, Lightning, and even a Meteor Strike styled power.
They really didn’t do anything to break the mold or try anything new here, but that doesn’t detract from the fun of the character. This goes for all three, actually. They’re all incredibly fun, but also incredibly standard. Again, this doesn’t do anything to detract from the fun this game provides.
As you can see, most skills level up to 3, and some only require one point. Don’t let this fool you into thinking the skills are weak. No, there’s a noticeable difference between Fireball at level one and Fireball at level two. It gets even better from there, too!
You can see in the screenshot that it’s possible to get to another skill by maxing out your basic Fireball. This leads you to one of your first Focus skills. I actually enjoy the Focus mechanic quite a bit. The way this works is by holding Shift, you’ll negate any unwanted movement and give yourself the ability to hold down the mouse button, or hotkey, of the skill and charge it for an even more devastating attack.
In the Fireball’s case, you launch a massive hadouken in a straight line in front of you that will one shot damn near anything that isn’t a champion, elite, or boss monster. I prefer the Lightning Focus as it calls down a small electrical sphere that sits in place and zaps the hell out of anyone dumb enough to get within half a screen of it.
Below are the other two character’s skill trees and they’re really just here for reference. I’ll explain why after we get past them!
Notice anything kind of “samey” about them? Unfortunately, all three characters have some shared skills which steals a lot of unique traits that the characters could have had. That’s not to say that the shared skills are bad, they’re pretty damn good in most cases. Hell, one of them brings you back from the dead without wasting a Soulstone.
Speaking of Soulstones, let’s talk about itemization!
Bag Of Infinite Holding
The end goal for pretty much any ARPG is to hunt up the best possible loot for your character.
Unfortunately, it’s probably the weakest aspect of R.A.W. I rarely found equipment that was better than any I bought from a merchant, and if I did, I came across a merchant soon after who had even better stuff for me. Maybe it’s different in higher difficulties; I played through on normal.
On the bright side, picking up all the junk gear and selling it leads to you having enough gold to buy those nice shiny equips from the merchants.
A side note on merchants – holy crap, this game needs more of them. Maybe I missed a few hidden away in little cubby holes, but damn, more than a few times I felt like I was on a never-ending mission to find one so I could resume picking up more stuff to sell.
One thing a lot of folks who enjoy this genre like are the cosmetic changes given by their equips. This seems to be something else that R.A.W. is a little lacking in. Most equips look basically the same with different colors. Then again, a game isn’t made by graphics alone. The gameplay always counts, for me, as the key component.
Riders Of The Storm
Can’t really see the enemies there, can you? That’s because I opened a can of Thor on them.
One thing this game does exceedingly well is deliver on the fun. With decently sized hordes of enemies coming from all directions and awesome powers strong enough to wipe out small chunks of a continent, you’re almost always bound to feel like you’re truly powerful, and that’s the trick.
A really cool mechanic R.A.W. has is the ability to possess certain enemies. In most cases the target is a massive creature that has huge health and does massive damage. When you possess an enemy, your character disappears into the monster. That means you’re safe to smash to your heart’s content without worry of your character standing around like a lemon.
Once you’re done with the possessed enemy, you can release them from your control, and in most cases, they’ll drop like a sack of hammers. Some tend to have the annoying trait of being alive and coming after you. It’s also worth noting that when you dispose of your victim, you’ll spawn right where they were so you’ll have to make sure you weren’t standing too close to a trap when you pop out or it might spell disaster.
One thing I felt a very let down by was the lack of online multiplayer. Personally, I don’t have the room to play local co-op on my pc. My brother-in-law and I were really looking forward to smashing some werewolves and goblins together, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Another thing that kept nagging away in the back of my head was the terribly small hotbar. Like I mentioned earlier, the game seems to have been developed mainly for consoles, but let’s be real here, there hasn’t been a console in nearly 20 years that’s been confined to the four button scheme. Honestly, with the small number of skills, it isn’t too bad, but when it comes down too it, they probably should have gone with at least six hotkeys for ease of use as opposed to having to switch from one set of four to another.
You wind up with eight in total, but it just seems a bit clunky when you’re in combat to switch between the two hotbars.
They really managed to balance the fun and challenge, though. I know I said earlier that I felt like it was almost too easy on normal, but that’s not to say there weren’t a few times near the end of the game that didn’t give me a run for my money. I took my fair share of butt-whoopings late in the game.
This was mostly due to testing out different powers and how well they worked together, which leads us to some special items!
A Special Bag Of Tricks
R.A.W. has some pretty nice little special items floating around.
One type of special item is a set of books that you can use to imbue your weapon with different properties like electricity, poison, and fire. Another is a book that allows you to remove all enchantments from a weapon. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything like this for gear in either aspect; not that I’ve found, anyway.
One of the other special items you’ll come across on occasion is the Amnesia Scroll. This is something that seems to be completely unique to R.A.W. It completely resets your skill points, allowing you to reallocate them. Yes, I know, other ARPGs allow you to do this in a similar fashion, but I don’t recall any, that aren’t MMO’s, that allow you to do a full relocation of points.
The final special item worth noting is the Soulstone that I mentioned earlier.
These function as extra lives and you can carry up to 9 at a time. Once you run out it’s game over. I wouldn’t worry about running out at any point, though, they drop like candy in the later areas of the game. Not to mention that by the time you get to the end of the game you’ll probably have enough spare points to max out the resurrection passive which will can save you a Soulstone.
The Bard’s Song
The sound effects sound about like you’d expect them too. They’re simple and effective. Not much more to say about them.
The music itself is perfectly atmospheric and serves its purpose perfectly. It’s creepy when it needs to be and intense when it’s supposed to be. It flows very well wherever you are in the game.
So, in the end, how does R.A.W. fair?
Well, to be perfectly honest, I came into this review expecting it to wind up with me praising the game until sunshine shot out its backside.
Obviously, that isn’t quite the case. The game does have some flaws, but how major or minor they are is really up to the player. I still had a hell of a lot of fun playing the game and plan to go back through it a few more times.
Right now, the game weighs in at $14.99USD on Steam. I’m guessing the game won’t be getting any significant updates as its forums seem to have been nearly dead for the better part of a year at this point, so the $15 feels a bit high, but it’s worth a look if you’re looking for a very simple but entertaining ARPG. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re new to the ARPG genre and looking for something that isn’t overwhelming with massive skill trees and characters that are difficult to figure out.
It could be argued that Torchlight II is worth the extra $5USD and superior, and truth be told, it is if you don’t own it, but I still find R.A.W. to be fun, mindless, and easy to play when I want something that isn’t Marvel Heroes, Torchlight, or Diablo.
When it comes down to it, R.A.W. definitely delivers on the fun, even if it feels like an ARPG taking baby steps. It’s certainly overshadowed by bigger and better games of the genre, but it’s no less fun.
That’s all for now.
You folks have fun, take care, and I’ll see you next time.