by Chris Priestman
previewed on X360
Oh Not Again
You may be forgiven if you happen to glance at R.A.W. (Realms of Ancient War) and instantly adopt an expression of discontent. Your next choice of words are bound to be "not another Diablo clone!" Well, the developers actually prefer the comparison to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, so take your pick. Now that we all know where we stand with Wizarbox's fantasy hack 'n' slash, the question is whether it will actually be worth picking up as we await the eventual date of Blizzard's third. We went hands on with the game at this year's Gamescom and can say that despite being one of the most generic games alive, it is still fun to play.
Beat My Highscore
Considering the target audience of R.A.W., it may actually be possible that they have not played a game of this calibre before. If that is the case, you are in for a hell of a good time. R.A.W. is an isometric dungeon crawler in which you kill waves of enemies, find loot, and level up your character as you progress. It's standard fare for most players, but I am fairly sure that there is a patch of the gaming world that has been untouched by these types of games. I am of course referring to Xbox Live and PSN, and that is where R.A.W. is being released. Just to note, the game is also getting a PC release at some point.
Despite the familiarity of the game, the platforms on which it is being released certainly seem to justify its existence. As R.A.W. is being released as an Arcade game, its easy-to-grasp gameplay and all-out dedication to fun will go down well with the player base it is aiming to please. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light proved that this breed of game can do well in the Arcade space, so those that enjoyed the isometric action of Ms. Croft should anticipate a similar experience with R.A.W.. There will not be as many puzzles though, just plenty of button-bashing action and accompanying adventuring.
Wait, I Know This One
Take the most generic back story for a fantasy universe, and you have probably just outlined R.A.W.'s. The realms of the elves, dwarves and humans lay in ruins as an unknown threat looms over the world. Are you quivering in your boots yet? You will never guess what happens next. Three heroes rise to answer the call of good, to quell the evil, and to constantly get distracted by shiny treasure. These three apparent heroes act as the player's choice of classes - the almighty warrior, the dark sorceress and the crafty rogue. Each come with their own typical specialisations and attacks. Of course the warrior specialises in strength, the sorceress delves in magic and the rogue enjoys a spot of stealth.
The enemies are also pulled from the usual roster of undead, demons, trolls and raiders. Needless to say, there are not too many surprises when it comes to R.A.W.. To be fair though, there is one aspect of the game (only one, mind you) that is a little different to everything else. As you make your way across the environments, you will happen across some undead sorceresses; noticeable as they are slightly larger than their surrounding evildoers. Tapping the right bumper will let you possess that enemy and cast evil magic from your evil little fingers. It's a fun addition to an otherwise 'same old' game. This novelty is sure to be short, but presumably there will be more than just these types of enemies to possess, so that may sustain some fresh appeal for a while longer. As this manoeuvre has a whole button assigned to it, we hope that it has a little more significance throughout the game. Puzzles tied in to this ability for example could go down well.
A Most Tasty Sandwich
As much as we might complain about the generics of R.A.W., after having played the game briefly we have to admit that the classes do compliment each other quite well during its two player mode. While one of us charged in with a sharpened axe and a face of pure aggression, the other held back and casually cast golden fireballs at the army of skeletons. The possession feature, although fresh, caused a little confusion as my colleague sought to destroy my possessed undead sorceress, not knowing that it was under my control. The element that R.A.W. ultimately wields as its fun factor, though, is its fast paced brawling action. Hordes of enemies charge at the player, but rather than siding with powerful moves with cooldowns, R.A.W. decides that it is much more fun to literally hack your way through. The RPG elements in R.A.W. do seem light, outside of deciding on your apparel, but this is an Arcade title after all and it will get your pulse racing.
Take your generic fantasy story, typical heroes and fast-paced arcade-style action, slap it all together in a sandwich that tastes very much like Diablo, and you have R.A.W.. This may be a sandwich that you have eaten many times before, but the eloquent taste brings you back every time. R.A.W. will not stand up to the grand daddy of the genre, nor is it trying to, but it should provide players with a similar experience and one that firmly sits as a promising Arcade title.