In an era where Diablo-like games have made a huge resurgence with titles such as Runic Games’ Torchlight I and II, often hastily developed to precede Blizzard’s own launch of Diablo III, the usual elements players expect and their actual execution quickly give away what constitutes a worthy entry in the genre.
Realms of Ancient War, commonly abbreviated as RAW, is a role-playing game in which the player controls one of three pretty typical fantasy classes: a warrior, a mage, or a rogue. Each play as one might expect; the warrior is an up-close and personal melee style character, the mage uses offensive and defensive spells, and the rogue can shoot arrows and also use a dagger for close combat, making her the most well-rounded character in the game. Alone, you must spelunk through dungeons, defeating enemies and looting for treasures along the way. Unfortunately it seems that Wizarbox’s attempt in Realms of Ancient War has proven itself to be a tattered recollection of fallen times.
Aside from that, the challenges which RAW faces are how to distinguish itself from its more popular brethren in Diablo and Path of Exile. This proves to be an obstacle that Wizarbox had trouble overpassing, though to some success, while at other times merely neglected to address at all.
Here’s what we liked:
Art direction: Realms of Ancient War looks like what is to be expected from the usual low-budget attempt at the genre; pretty well animated models and environments, delightful particle effects, particularly when using magic attacks such as the fireball, and all at a steady frame rate, with the occasional dip in framerate when combat scenarios get too congested. Effort was indeed put into the in-game cinematics that utilize gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations to highlight the game’s plot.
Cooperative play: The addition of the ability to play with a friend is highly welcome in a game like this and one of the game’s pleasantly welcomed features. However, unfortunately the game is constrained to only one other available local partner. The lack of online capabilities is a serious blow to the game’s replay value.
Controls: The controls are relatively simple for an RPG. Each class has its different attacks or spells assigned to the controllers face buttons, a swipe of the L2 button will use a potion to heal the player, and of course the analog stick to move the player around. This simple control interface makes sense, as the game itself is pretty simple to play.
Voice Acting: Voice acting is fairly hit or miss in video games; oftentimes the actors tend to oversell their performances, especially in this standard type of fantasy setting where many characters generally sound the same. Luckily, despite the small budget the team had, the acting here is pretty robust, all points considered. It doesn’t get in the way too much, as it only comes through the game’s cinematics, of which there are luckily few.
Pacing: The game does a good job of letting the player jump into the core gameplay right from the beginning, with only a cinematic introduction and a short talk with a fellow interloper in the dark world of RAW. Seeing as dungeon crawling is one of the game’s main strengths, it’s nice to see that the development team have acknowledged that the player’s time is valuable and is not to be drawn out and wasted.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Unfair difficulty: This is one of the worst offenders of the game mechanics, by far. While RAW does allow for three difficulty levels from the start, it is how the game has been built that this tends to fall apart. The player has little to no mechanism of defense, which causes enemies, of which often appear in swarms, to easily overcome the player. Especially when an event has been triggered, such as when a key is picked up. As well, the player is given very few lives; though when you die everything you did in the past life remains, if you lose all of your lives, you are forced to replay through the entire level from the beginning. This combined with the style of game that Realms of Ancient War is, creates a disparity between having to be careful and concise with your actions so as to not die while also being pretty fast, as the constantly respawning enemies will give you a run for your money. It just feels cheap, and can lead to large amounts of frustration in small doses, often enough to give up entirely.
Technical issues: From the moment Realms of Ancient War begins, one of the game’s technical flaws becomes immediately apparent; the load times can be rather atrocious. The introductory loading screen seems to take upwards of 15 to 20 seconds, and only to get to the game’s main menu. While the frame rate remains steady, several graphical glitches can be encountered throughout playtime which hinder the experience greatly.
Repetitive gameplay: RAW does not do much to create any variations in its core gameplay, and this leads to a feeling of trudging through a mountain of repetitive enemies, coupled with the large amounts of deaths the player will amass with nothing to show for this experience. It makes the experience difficult to justify sitting down for long periods of time to play through, as the result of carrying out the same small set of actions repeatedly is a largely negative experience.
Through and through, Realms of Ancient War is not always a particularly engrossing experience; it could have used a longer development time to further polish the game and add more to the game’s core design to encourage more thoughtful combat scenarios and more interesting gameplay. As for it’s position among the many hack & slash RPGs out there, this one isn’t the best, but it may offer the player some fun gameplay to last a few hours.
Score: Try it!