Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
Piracy, an often romanticized fantasy lifestyle of both young and old. To take to the high seas bound by no law, carving a reputation from coast to coast across the known world with displays of force and cunning, it's easy to see why. But we all know that real life piracy is anything but fun for anyone involved; with very few exceptions, there's nothing alluring about the life. Such is the case with Raven's Cry, a game centered around pirates that teases you with promise of treasure and grandeur in screenshots. But once the game is in motion, the fantasy ceases and the player will set sail straight into a perfect storm of despair and misery.
In the opening moments of the game, that familiar feeling of dread began to show itself as wooden dialogue was shared between protagonist Christopher Raven and his first mate and friend. What made it worse, was that constantly through facial close ups I could see the lifeless stares in their eyes. What little facial expression they both had was easily overshadowed by the stares of men with no souls. It sounded as though the voice actors didn't want to be there, and it honestly seems like the animators didn't want to either.
This is true of much of the story aspect of the game, honestly. Every time I was in a conversation, I wanted to skip the scene so badly just to get away from the awful acting and those vacant faces. However I didn't, because conversations in an RPG are always the bread and butter for figuring out what you need to do. The biggest credit I can give to the writing of the game however is at least it attempts to make the characters feel like they fit the time period. The dialogue could've easily been better with more sincere and fluid voice acting, and other than a few out of place taunts I could definitely see it working well if they had different talent in place.
However, given that they were trying to fit the time period, there is some content that many today would find offensive. Love it or hate it, most of the writing is spot on in conjunction with what we know about actual pirates from just a few centuries ago. They were mostly rude, crude, and ruthless. The writing captures that for the most part even if the voice acting does not. In what can otherwise be described as a train wreck, at least the game has that going for it.
Choppy Seas, Choppy Gameplay
The gameplay doesn't get much better. While the ship controls are at least passable, they feel clunky and awkward which draws out ship duels much longer than necessary and not in a way that remains fun or intense. What could easily be the shining star in the game quickly becomes a monotonous chore whenever you find yourself in a battle on the high seas. Awkward use of sight lines when firing your armaments often leaves you coming up short or overshooting your target if they aren't exactly on point with the angles you're allowed to set. This wouldn't be a problem if there were more angles to adjust to, or perhaps a manual aiming mechanic, but without those there it just becomes beyond frustrating very quickly.
Taking to the shores, you're more likely to be hit with snores rather than a epic atmosphere. While the settlements and environment do look nice, the robotic and poorly animated aspect of the NPCs make the world feel very artificial. Rigid movements are an eyesore as you guide a stiff moving Raven through alleys and streets, participating in main and side quests that too often run together and serve no other real purpose than to burn some time and possibly put a reward in your pocket. If that wasn't bad enough for the land aspect of the game, it comes to a head when you find yourself in a battle.
I've played games with lackluster melee combat, but honestly I think this is one of the worst offenders. Imagine two fencers participating in a match after having too much to drink, and that is essentially what you will find. Special moves have no real impact, as it's much more efficient to just spam the attack button and occasionally dodge. The least they could do is make it at least have some visual appeal, but once again there are only robotic and stiff movements. Only this time with a slightly drunken edge. Firearms are way too accurate for the time period, but given that it's a game I can let this slide, otherwise ranged enemies and your own ranged weapons would be borderline useless and highly circumstantial.
But more often than not, ranged combat doesn't factor in when dealing with most enemies is just a matter of running up to them and spamming attack as quickly as you can. It works both ways as well, because who gets the first hit usually determines who is going to win, because it's a breeze to keep enemies stun locked, and it's easy for them to do the same to you. That's about the only real challenge you will find in the melee combat, or if you find yourself up against more than one opponent, which becomes a balancing act of dodging and spamming as you attempt to not be stun locked. If all of this wasn't enough, there are what seem to be random game crashes, even after a patch that was supposed to fix this. Apparently all it did was make them less numerous, in effect, making them harder to predict. Save often, or risk losing a lot of playtime.
Going Down With The Ship
This ship is sinking with every passing moment, and there is no happy ending to be seen here. Raven's Cry encompasses a great idea, and it certainly looks nice until things are in motion, when they immediately start falling apart. As a game, this is a failure and while it's at least playable it doesn't mean you're likely to have fun while you're doing it. At most you'll try to convince yourself to like it as the water rises, until you're drowning in the realization that the ship isn't even sinking anymore; it's sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Decent writing that attempts to give a more realistic take on pirates, a small bit of the story is interesting, good looking environments
Poor animations, poor voice acting, lackluster land and naval combat, random crashes, most of the story is forgettable, lifeless eyes everywhere