RAW: Realms of Ancient War is a new Hack n Slash developed by Wizarbox. It’s set to release Wednesday, September 19th on the Xbox Live Arcade, with future dates for PSN and PC. At it’s core, RAW feels like Fable and Diablo had a love child. It has a very dark and creepy setting much like Diablo, while it’s core gameplay mechanics feel much more like Fable’s. The question is, is this a formula for success, or a formula for failure? Let’s find out.
When you first load up a game, you immediately draw a conclusion about the game’s graphics and the game’s sound quality, so we’ll look at those two aspects of RAW first. As I said early, this game’s atmosphere seems very similar to that of Diablo’s. It’s very dark and eerie. Each of the three classes: Wizard, Rogue and Warrior start out in dark decrepit areas. The game isn’t completely set in Darkville; there is enough light so your eyes don’t hurt. Overall the environments are pretty good.
The character models are a completely different story. Each unit on the screen looks almost PS2 quality. No offense to my beloved PS2, I just wouldn’t expect those graphics on an Xbox 360. The player model and animations look very stiff, and the enemy models are even worse. In a large, it’s hard to tell which mob is the big bad scary mob, as everything looks exactly the same. Everything is just clumped up and combat is just pure chaos. This can get even worse when you add another player into the mix, as it’s hard to tell which one of you is which when you’re both being zerged by hordes of angry enemies.
The soundtrack to this game is about what you’d expect from a Hack n Slash title, it’s very haunting with ambient songs that set the stage for slaughter. The actual sound effects are a bit lower quality. The first thing I noticed was that there didn’t seem to be any sort of sound when you connected a swing with an enemy. While this may not sound like a bad thing, it really takes away from the visceral experience. A lot of the fun of Hack n Slash games is destroying groups of enemies, but when your weapons don’t make any sounds upon hitting said enemies it seems somewhat lackluster. Another issue is that there is no real audible cue of when you’re low on health. Often I’ve just died not even realizing that I was low on HP. Other than those two issues, the sound effects are pretty standard. Each enemy has a distinct sound when it attacks, and everything else you’d expect from a Hack n Slash.
The controls are probably the best part of RAW. Mapping each of your skills to the ABXY buttons works surprisingly well. Swapping between each page of skills with the right thumbstick is very easy and fluid. With health and mana potions on each trigger, it’s very easy to pop a potion exactly when you need it. My only gripe in this area is with the interaction button. Right Bumper is not the first button I’d expect to push to interact with loot and the environment. However, it’s not hard to adjust to using it.
This is the bread and butter of a Hack n Slash. The game itself has to be fun to play as these games generally have very weak storylines. RAW is no exception, the story is very generic. The gameplay is good for what it is. The game delivers tons of enemies to destroy with your arsenal of weapons and abilities, and it is fun to decimate a group of enemies. The action gets even better when you throw another player in. Rampaging through a group of enemies with a friend is a lot of fun.
There are some pretty big flaws with RAW’s gameplay. The biggest issue I had was the difficulty. Now I love a good challenge; I normally love it when a game is difficult. RAW is difficult for all the wrong reasons. The enemies seem to hit significantly harder than you, and I at no point, felt powerful. A lot the fun with Hack n Slash games is feeling like you’re the true chosen warrior. RAW never gives you that feeling. The possession mechanic does give you this feeling, but enemies that you can posses are few and far between. Another huge issue is mana management. I initially started as a Wizard, but quickly stopped because the mana costs of his abilities were ridiculous. I then picked up a Rogue and was having a blast until I noticed that attacking with my dagger actually lowered my mana bar. The mana issues, coupled with the insane cooldowns on your abilities makes anything short of spamming your basic attack seem like a waste.
Overall, RAW: Realms of Ancient War on XBox 360 is fun. It’s great to pick up with a friend and kill a few hours. From a solo standpoint, this game leaves a lot to be desired. It is a very average Hack n Slash game, and the possession mechanic is really cool. I just wish it was more common. The loot aspect seems like it was thrown in at the last second, and it’s not particularly fun to look through loot. However this game is still really fun with a friend. I enjoyed myself more in the short time I played with somebody else, than I did the entirety of my solo experience.
I’d recommend this game to people who would play it with somebody else, though if you’re looking for a solo Hack n Slash, I could not recommend this game.