Realms of Ancient War Review

October 7, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Wizardbox
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Release Date: September 19, 2012

Realms of Ancient War is dated. And I say that keeping in mind that it was probably what its developers were going for. It's meant to be an old-school style, arcade hack-and-loot RPG and it does all of those things fine… just fine. R.A.W. doesn't bring anything new to the table in terms of innovative gameplay mechanics. You simply start out as a warrior, wizard, or rogue and start dungeon crawling your way through similar-looking environments, encountering the same enemy types, and upgrading the same spells you started out with. You can bring a friend along for the ride, but that's not enough to save this title from mediocrity, especially in the wake of games like Diablo III and Torchlight.
  • 12 hour-long campaign
  • Local co-op
  • Decent visuals and art-style
  • Stays true to its fantasy setting
  • Wonky/jerky animations
  • Lacking innovation
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Grinding isn't that rewarding
While R.A.W. does earn points for helping flood XBLA with more kill-and-loot love, it doesn't succeed in its execution. The gameplay is repetitive and the animations are wonky. Each character class is a cookie-cutter representation of themselves. You will start out with a projectile attack, a close range attack, and an area-of-effect attack. But since you have no way of blocking the incoming swarm of enemies on screen, you will be running around repositioning yourself constantly. Why get in close and die when you can just run away blasting projectiles?

Let's talk about loot. Most Diablo clones will bog you down with complicated and often overbearing statistics about weapons and armor. R.A.W. cuts straight to the chase. Tougher enemies drop more beneficial loot. It doesn't hold your hand through the game by any means, but as you level up you will progressively get better equipment and proceed to kicking more and more ass. Some of the most satisfying abilities are summoning a tornado and becoming invisible.

Keeping the experience arcade-y enough to be familiar, yet unforgiving enough to keep things interesting is one of R.A.W.'s strong suites. You are given gems at the beginning of each stage that act as credits. Run out of gems and its game over. This simplicity adds to the pick-up and play nature of R.A.W.'s gameplay and makes the game a blast to play cooperatively. When a friend joins you for local co-op, R.A.W. hits its greatest stride. You have a lengthy campaign to dredge through and swarms of enemies to overcome, but the gameplay just isn't worth it. Why should I have to pause the game to use a potion? I felt like I was playing Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox again. A game like this doesn't need online co-op, but its dated nature begs for it. Because it is a somewhat beefy campaign for a downloadable title, I wouldn't mind running through R.A.W. online with a stranger or with friend over the weekend, but that option isn't available.

It just seems as though I've seen and done everything that R.A.W. has to offer in other games before. Games that I played around ten years ago. That's definitely a positive and negative thing. This game is nostalgic. This game isn't taking any strides to move the genre forward, but the familiar is not always unwelcome. Hot on tail of Diablo III and Borderlands 2, R.A.W. just didn't get the timing right. The genre has been innovated and exemplified by newer, fresher experiences. Nostalgia only gets you so far. Gamers need substance as well as motivation.

While sometimes quite detailed and pretty to look at, R.A.W.'s graphics range from way-too-brown, to way-too-gray, and everywhere in between. This inconsistency is something that other games of the genre have tried to overcome over the years, but it feels as though R.A.W. is simply stuck in a time paradox.

But time paradoxes can be fun! Besides looking and playing like an older game, R.A.W. is still going to give you twelve hours of fun for only 1200 Microsoft points. That's 100 Microsoft points an hour for an overall okay time slashin' and hackin' around with one of your buddies like you did in the 90's.

Final Score “Fun for a Weekend” 6.5
Not the best graphics in the world, but R.A.W. has its moments. The fantasy art-style is befitting of a hack 'n slash RPG.
The fun really begins when you grab a friend and delve into local, co-op. Otherwise, the gameplay is repetitive, but it's supposed to be! Its simply hack, slash, loot, repeat.
A lengthy 12 hour campaign is all well and good, but would I go back for more? Probably not. There are honestly better options in the genre, but you can always go back and play through with a different class.
While some of the music in this game sounds epic and very Game of Thrones-esque, other tunes simply blend into the background and don't stand out as much as others.

Review by Michael Engle

Raised on punk rock and video games, Michael Engle remembers a time when Mario was on his second birthday cake and when game reviews weren't biased and contrived. Engle hopes to bring his love of nostalgia and gaming honesty to you. He co-hosts his own video game news podcast, All Your News are Belong to Us. He loves games, writing, music, and not sleeping. All Articles by Michael.

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