Ravensword: Shadowlands

There’s been an odd trend taking place in the gaming industry and I don’t think it’s a good one. This is the porting of PC games to mobile devices and the porting of mobile games to PCs. While the former version of porting brings complicated games to a mobile platform, almost always dumbing them down in the process, the latter does no one any favors. Bringing a mobile game to a PC is like brining a minor league player up to the majors without giving them time to develop or change. Such is the case with Ravensword: Shadowlands, a game that made a big splash in the mobile world but will hardly do so in the realm of the PC.

Ravensword: Shadowlands made noise in the mobile market because it did something unique by bringing the expansive world of an action RPG to the tiny screen. Playing an Elder Scrolls Lite on your iPhone or Android felt novel and enjoyable as few games could bring such depth to the mobile market. But we aren’t here to discuss the great mobile game Ravensword: Shadowlands, instead we’re here to discuss the terrible port that came out of it. Not much has changed in the game when it was transferred from mobile to PC, and that’s a crying shame. In the world of the PC, where games like Oblivion, Skyrim, and World of Warcraft are beyond popular, it’s nearly impossible to standout when the game feels generic and dull. Those words may be harsh but they are easily the best to describe what Ravensword: Shadowlands feels like on a PC platform.

After battling through a generic opening segment filled with a poor excuse for hack-and-slash gameplay, you create your hero and off you go. The story in Ravensword hasn’t changed much from the mobile version and so the myriad of generic “kill this” and “fetch that” quests will commence shortly after the opening sequence. I found the story to be boring and characters were uninteresting. As this is a port of a mobile game I didn’t have high expectations for the story but to bring this fantasy world to the PC and not try and spruce it up seems rather cheap. Every fantasy trope in the book can be found in the game as you clumsily hack your way around a rather depressing game world.

When the game was released on mobile, it looked grand and epic. On the PC, it looks flat and uninteresting. Part of me wondered if I was playing a game I downloaded from Good Old Games because the textures and graphics from the mobile game were brought to the PC without upscaling and it all looks rather terrible. Textures in the game look old and fuzzy, character models are unimpressive, and unintentional, callbacks to a forgotten error, and the majority of the game world just feels old. This isn’t a dig on old PC games, I like them just as much as any PC gamer, but to have your game look and feel unintentionally old is not a good thing.

Touch controls worked for Ravensword: Shadowlands when it was a mobile game but bringing it to the PC means the utilization of the keyboard and mouse combo. Currently there is no controller support, though I’m not sure that’d help. Controlling your character in the game feels clunky, awkward, and often times frustrating. I soon figured out the strange angles I had to hold the mouse at in order to target an enemy, and this weird angle applied to grabbing loot as well. Never in a game has the ability to pick up look alluded me so. As you run around with WASD and attack with the mouse the mouse is locked to your character. When you move the mouse the camera swivels and trying to grab loot means having your cursor directly on the recently-killed corpse. I don’t think I need to go on to explain that this is bad game design and feels just awful in practice.

As you struggle through the game your character levels up and gains new loot and stats. Leveling up feels particularly barren as there isn’t much to it other than numbers going up. Also, a quick side note, every time you want to upgrade your character or change their armor you must enter the inventory or character screen. The UI on these screens is easy enough to handle but it drove me absolutely insane that the ESC key wouldn’t, and will not, close the screen so that I can get back to the game. That means that every time you wish to exit the screen you have to drag your mouse and physically click the close button. This sounds like a petty argument but it’s strange design decisions like that, ones that are clearly pulled from the mobile development of this game, that litter the game as a whole. Animations will stop mid-movement, navigating the world can become cumbersome, and at times clicking dialogue choices didn’t do a thing until I clicked it two more times. These are obvious shortcomings and compromises that come from a poor port of a rather good mobile title.

Mobile games make compromises in order to make the game bend to the platform’s limitations. As mobile platforms become more powerful we see games get closer to their console and PC counterparts, though that level of synergy is a bit far away yet. Other games, like Year Walk for example, utilize the platform to create their own form of gameplay that is unique to the look and feel of the platform. Games like Ravensword: Shadowlands try to be Elder Scrolls: Mobile and while that feels exciting on a mobile platform, the same can’t be said about a PC port. When you bring a mobile game over to the PC you bring with it the compromises and shortcomings that are acceptable or even applauded and unforgivable in the PC realm.