Realms of Ancient War

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Action-RPGs have exploded this year, with Diablo III and Torchlight II releasing in one year.  Most other entries have not been brave enough to step into that ring, that is until Realms of Ancient War (R.A.W.) came out!  This new action-RPG, from Focus Home Interactive and Wizarbox, has been released on both XBOX LIVE Arcade, PSN and PC, but will it tear you away from others in the genre, or just make you tear your hair out?

30 Second Review

(+)  Unique storyline for each character

(+)  Fluid gamepad controls

(-)  Poor save system

(-)  Incarnation mechanic underused

(-)  Lacks enticing loot

(-)  Little in terms of character class innovation

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Story

The story of the game seems to remind me very heavily of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.  The four kingdoms of Elves, Men and Dwarves have been decimated by war.  A new, unknown enemy is looking to capitalize on this weakened state and all those sent to scout out and analyze the new foe have not been lucky enough to return.  Ten years ago, the four kings of the land were summoned, the king from the North never to be seen again, and the other 3 struck down, maimed and mute of their experience.  You, however, might be the lucky savior, taking on the role of a Rogue, Wizard or Warrior, you take on the quest of searching for an answer to vanquish the Chaos and restore order and life to the lands.

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The Gameplay

The gameplay is standard point and click action-RPG fare.  Choosing one of the three character classes provided a unique opening level to the game, giving faint reminders of Dragon Age : Origins.  Your character may have two attacks bound to the two mouse buttons, or two of the face buttons, if using a 360 controller.  You can use numeric keys for potions and the two chosen skills, but the game clearly seems to have been designed for a controller, and will only let you select two skills, at a time, and give you a spare set of two to swap from.  RAW boasts about the fact that mobs will completely outnumber you, and they certainly do.  Using a Rogue, I was swarmed at the end of the first level, not knowing that there was a story trigger that I had to hit.  Now, this would not be a problem if not for the different implementation of deaths and continues.  Your character finds Soulstones, a total of merely 9 can be carried.  Those Soulstones are used to resurrect your character upon death, unless you have no more, at which point you will be resurrected at the very beginning of whatever level you are at.  Going back to being swarmed with my Rogue, I was forced to traverse three areas to get back to said swarm, and still did not know of the objective I had to complete by walking to an obligatory spot while I was overwhelmed.  I first attempted a strategy of hanging back and relying on ranged attacks to thin out the never-ending mob, wrongfully thinking that there would be a limit of how many enemies I could kill.  There are checkpoints generously scattered throughout the levels, but this also depends on you possessing a Soulstone to resurrect with.  RAW also boasts an Incarnation attack, where you can whittle down the health of larger enemies and then possess them to aid in your fight.  The opportunity to use this feature, however, seemed incredibly few and far between.   Being overwhelmed, that promise was delivered upon, but the difficulty seemed oddly stacked.  For example, playing on a ‘Normal’ difficulty could easily be insurmountable, but dialing back to an ‘Easy’ difficulty just made everything incredibly easy to rollover.  Of course, no Action-RPG is complete without loot, but RAW seemed to be a little light in this department.  I’d love to see some of those “outnumbering mobs” traded in for more variety in the realm of loot.  Using the Rogue, as an example again, afforded me a bow, daggers and one set of armor to find, all with different attributes and displaying one of a few color palettes.

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The Verdict

RAW is a functional game, it plays well, it controls well with either mouse & keyboard or controller, and it can have it’s moments.  Sadly, it just feels a bit generic to me.  Well, here comes the inevitable comparison.  I feel that my palette has been tainted by the likes of Torchlight II.  Granted, RAW is only $14.99 on your platform of choice, but it just doesn’t seem to take advantage of all of the innovations the genre has produced.  The visuals are a bit muddy and dated, the character classes are of a very generic nature, the skill trees do not offer a lot in the way of variety and allure for repeated playthroughs, the loot does little to drive exploration and the Soulstone system just didn’t appeal to me.  In addition, load times could be long, and prone to crashes or freezing.  When stacked against Torchlight II, it’s sad to say that I would recommend ponying up the extra $5 and going with that over RAW for a more pleasurable Action-RPG experience.  I would actually even recommend seeking out the original Torchlight, if your preferred platform was XBOX LIVE Arcade.  I was hoping to find a fun, alternative Action-RPG experience that would provide hours of loot finding and character tweaking, but instead RAW just left me feeling…….well, a little raw.

[starreview tpl=14]

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