After Second Extinction I’ve become a bit wary of Systemic Reaction games. They’re fun in spots but often needlessly bloated and accompanied by some bizarre design decisions. Both of these aspects apply to Ravenbound, a new roguelite from the developer. What’s especially interesting is that the game appears to be the first open-world roguelite. If that sounds like something that probably wouldn’t work, be assured that it absolutely doesn’t. But there are some very noteworthy things about the game, so the question stands – is Ravenbound worth it?
The game begins with a tutorial that teaches you the basics of gameplay. You’ll mostly be fighting things and your character has light and strong melee attacks, a dodge, and a block. The game recommends you play with a controller but it’s absolutely better with mouse and keyboard. You’re almost always going to be fighting groups and the lock-on makes it quite difficult to watch out for the other enemies, so it’s preferable to be able to just look at them using the mouse. The combat itself feels decent, but hits can lack impact and the way enemies react to taking damage leads to attacks feeling weak. It doesn’t help that they’re all so freaking spongey.
The absolute best aspect of Ravenbound‘s fighting is that dodging and blocking have bonuses associated with utilizing them at the right time. If you dodge properly, you’ll get a brief boost to your damage. Blocking, on the other hand, triggers an explosion that knocks enemies down. Dodging can be used as much as you want, but your block degrades quickly. If it gets broken, your character becomes stunned. You’ll also have a special meter fill up that allows you to use Surge mode after a time. Despite all this, it doesn’t take long for the combat to grow very stale.
Each run in Ravenbound begins with you exiting into the open world. It’s massive and you can find enemy groups to fight in addition to going after the game’s guardians, which are your main focus. You can walk around on foot or turn into a raven and fly wherever you’d like. It’s too bad the raven form controls rather poorly. You need to continually get stronger to take down guardians and you’ll do this by equipping cards that give you various boons, as well as increasing your attack or defense. Upon the end of a run, you get a currency that will let you unlock new traits for a random pool when you’re rolling your characters.
But there’s a pretty major caveat. Instead of offering a fun, flexible upgrade system, Ravenbound instead decides to be confusing and annoying. Enemies drop items that you need three of to get offered some new cards. After you do this several times, Hatred is added, which forces you to get a card that makes the game harder. Most enemies are tied to chests that you can open to immediately get a new card. But if you don’t defeat a nearby major challenge and purify chests, you’ll get a Hatred card each time you open one of these.
The problem is that only a few chests near the challenge get purified. On top of this, you need mana to even equip cards and, unfortunately, mana is mostly received from cards, meaning you’ll have to turn down the cards that make you stronger just to be able to afford one later. I didn’t like this at all, honestly. Add to the fact that there’s no way to check where purified chests are and the lack of a map and Ravenbound can be a pain to play.
I don’t personally think Ravenbound is worth it. It’s quite lovely and the combat can be fun, but the monotonous action and weak, obnoxious progression systems make the game feel like more of a chore than it needed to be. You can put this one into the same box as Second Extinction in the “it would have been really cool if not for x” pile.