Announced back at Nacon Connect 2022, Ravenswatch is a roguelike title that allows up to four-player co-op, and here at CGMagazine we have seen behind the curtain.
What do you get when you cross Hades, Diablo, and fantastical tales and fables? It’s Ravenswatch. Passtech Games is no stranger to the roguelike genre, as they’ve seen success with their previous launch, Curse of the Dead Gods, and they’ve repurposed the comic-looking art style for a new endeavour.
This time they’ve upped the ante by allowing players to choose between different characters ripped straight from fairytale books and popular folklore to take on a horde of epic proportions. It is dangerous to go alone, so cooperation appears front and center in Ravenswatch, but you could still go at it alone, if you dare. The premise is simple. You play as a fallen folklore hero to fight back the invading Nightmare menace. In typical roguelike fashion, when each run ends, you must start from the beginning.
Ravenswatch is dripping in style. Passtech Games implemented a similar graphics style as they have with Curse of the Dead Gods but have refined it, making it feel like the characters are jumping off a comic book page in the third dimension. From a top-down perspective, animations surrounding the main cast are VARIED. The Pied Piper’s feather on his hat sways when standing stationary, and the Wyrm on Beowulf dances around as if antsy for a fight. The attention to detail is remarkable, and Ravenswatch allows its art style to shine mainly through its characters and enemies.
The level design is also robust, as there is a sandbox-like area for the player to explore that is randomly generated each run. Each level is referred to as a chapter, and the chapter resolves when four day and night cycles happen in a row, and the big bad shows its ugly face. Enemies seem to become more aggressive at night but so do the player characters. In a deviation from the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, the playable character, Scarlet, is Red Riding Hood during the day but becomes the Wolf at night in a show of fury. Grandmothers beware, she doesn’t use flowers this time around.
“The attention to detail is remarkable, and Ravenswatch allows its art style to shine mainly through its characters and enemies.”
There are multiple activities strewn across the level. There are crow-like statues that act like Assassin’s Creed viewpoints upon activation and allow the character to see more points of interest on the mini-map. Potential health upgrades litter the landscape. There are even currency locations to loot, which allows a player to snag sweet upgrades from the merchant standing at the spawn-in location or used at a randomly located upgrade spot. Currency not used during a ‘run’ is utilized as character experience. This allowed me to play as a level three Pied Piper right off the bat during a new run.
There are locked caves in Ravenswatch to explore that house mini-boss enemies — these are slightly overgrown, faster counterparts of basic enemies — and there are even small challenge areas that throw waves of enemies at the player in an attempt to end a run prematurely. But, if the player triumphs, they can get a sweet upgrade (for everyone that participated in the challenge).
The characters of Ravenswatch all have different abilities and roles to play. To start, the player can choose between 4 characters. A choice between the Pied Piper, which functions as a rat-calling necromancer type that uses a flute to attack from long distances, Beowulf, who operates like a tank/warrior hybrid who can deal serious damage with the help of a shoulder Wyrm that infuses abilities with fire, The Snow Queen, the sorceress class, and Scarlet, the rogue-type-turned-berserker at the night cycle.
Two other characters, Aladdin, a melee specialist, and Melusine, a long-range mage-like character from more easy-to-recognize folktales, are unlockable, but the first chapter needs to be completed as a pre-requisite to play as them. When I asked the developers if Caradog McCallister from Curse of the Dead Gods would make an appearance in Ravenswatch, they said there are no plans for him at the moment.
I happened upon a stonemason while exploring, and he requested I grab a bunch of stones from around the area to build a shelter against enemies that would arrive. This gave me a four-minute timer to grab as many stones as possible to build the poor guy’s house before the nightmare ends him. I was only able to collect half of the stones required, but he still ended up building a house with only half a health bar. This was a real challenge.
Waves of nightmares came in all varieties — even healer types that still deal SERIOUS damage — and I ended up failing to rescue the stonemason and had to watch as his body slumped over, lifeless. Ravenswatch may be many things, but easy is not one of them. The true magic of Ravenswatch comes in jolly cooperation, as it feels like the title should be played with more than one hero on the screen. Especially due to the LENGTHY cooldown of the character’s dodge roll.
“Ravenswatch may be many things, but easy is not one of them.”
While playing the Pied Piper, his defensive skill sends a shockwave out, but it doesn’t do much crowd control when faced with bigger enemies. If another Ravenswatch hero is available, staggering the enemy becomes a simple task, and mincemeat is made of your adversaries while normally, the ranged character would have a bigger issue handling them. Strength in numbers is undoubtedly the name of the game here.
Players have to be cognizant of their skills and cooldowns at all times to be an effective member of the Ravenswatch, and on more than one occasion, I felt myself saving a charge on a skill for a more devious threat. Ravenswatch punishes the player for this, skills should be used as often as possible.
A Hitman-looking crosshair on the mini-map denotes the big bad boss of each level in Ravenswatch, and they can be challenged by standing in the spawn point for a period or by waiting out the four-day cycle and accumulating upgrades in the meantime. Either way, it is forced on your group. Boss fights are HUGE undertakings, and the first one looks like it was pulled from the maw of an H.P. Lovecraft cosmic-horror catalogue, complete with tentacles that maim the party endlessly.
Ravenswatch is a unique concept. Take popular folktale heroes and repurpose them against a grave nightmare horde that threatens the fabric of the world. By reformatting and implementing the Curse of the Dead Gods upgrade level system, allowing for cooperation, using a solid level design that randomly generates each run, and heavy reliance on ability mastery and player skill, Ravenswatch is a game with serious potential.