Realms Of Ancient War Review
You’re not missing much if you skip this one.
Last week WizarBox joined the dungeon crawling, hacking and slashing, loot filled Action-RPG party with the release of Realms of Ancient War. As a big fan of the genre, I was really excited for this one leading up to its release but once I started playing it I knew that my dreams of another great Action-RPG were being crushed.
Set in the fantasy world of The Continent, four realms fought an epic 20 year war before their respective Kings met to bring peace across the land, but only three came back. With the Northern King missing and the other three incapable of speech, the war was over but no one knew why. The story in Realms of Ancient War starts almost 10 years later with our three heroes, the Wizard, Rogue and Warrior all on separate paths that will eventually lead them on an adventure to save The Continent from a new threat of evil. The major plot twists are predictable, but it’s not the worst story ever told in a video game.
Out of the three characters, the Rogue was my favorite with a good balance of melee and ranged attacks with her Bow and Daggers. She also has one of the best skills, where she spins around, throwing Daggers in all directions. It’s very powerful once you fully upgrade it. My least favorite was the Wizard because he couldn’t use any weapons at all and was completely dependant on mana for his magic attacks. At least give him a Staff or something for when mana is low or for when you’re trapped between 50 enemies. It’s much harder to get out of an enemy horde with fireballs than it is with a couple of Daggers. The Warrior is pretty average and if you prefer swinging a big Sword, then he’s your man.
Each character has their own unique set of skills to learn and upgrade, and as you earn experience and level up you’ll be reward with one skill point to do so. Skills are separated in tiers with tier 2 unlocking at level 10 and tier 3 unlocking at level 20. The main problem with them is that you have to assign the active skills to a button, but there are only four buttons to assign to, so you have to set up two different skill sets and use the right analog stick to swap between them as you play. It’s a little awkward to flick back and forth between them in combat, and there were plenty of times early on where I found myself forgetting to flick back over, losing a good deal of health as a result. The best approach I found was to assign an attack skill to the same button in each set and that way regardless of what skill set is active you won’t get overrun. One way to fix this would have been to assign the second skill set to the D-pad and have the non-attack skills such as healing or summoning allies go there. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about swapping back and forth.
Being an Action-RPG there is plenty of loot to find in Realms of Ancient War but most of it is useless and only worth picking up so you can sell it to buy more mana and health potions. Finding a new weapon or piece of armor that was better than what I had seemed to only happen on every second level or so, usually after a boss, and after a few hours the excitement of new loot was gone. There are a few “hidden” chests to find, but even those didn’t hold anything that valuable most of the time. That leads us to another problem which is that the levels are fairly small, linear and don’t have many secrets to find. There’s also no mini-map, which bothered me at first, but between the small, linear levels and the fact that you can press the left stick down to show you which direction the quest goes, it wasn’t really that necessary in the end.
Realms of Ancient War also doesn’t allow you to directly increase your character stats as you level up, so the only way to increase things like your mana, health, strength, stamina and elemental resistance is to find new armor, rings, necklaces and earrings, which as I already said doesn’t happen as often as it should. I don’t mind that you don’t get points to increase the stats, but there should have been more good loot since this was dependent on it.
When it comes to death and respawning, WizarBox choose a different way of handling it, with checkpoints throughout each level that you will spawn at if you die. The catch is that you also have a certain amount of lives, called Soulstones, and you lose one each time you die. You can hold up to nine Soulstones, and if you run out you will have to restart the level from scratch. I’m not a huge fan of this design, but I also didn’t die very often on Normal, except when playing as the Wizard, so it was never a major problem.
One of the things that WizarBox hyped during the marketing of the game was that through Incarnation you can take control of some of the larger enemies in the game, and while this mechanic works, it doesn’t happen often enough. Just like with good loot, enemies that you can control only seemed to pop up every now and then, until near the end where it happened more often. I don’t know if it was a bug, glitch or by design, but it seemed like for the first half of the game there were plenty of enemies that I could have taken over but the option was never there.
For the most part, R.A.W works fine and the graphics are decent enough for an XBLA/PSN game, but all the core mechanics are either average or missing something, with nothing new or unique to help it stand out from the rest. In the end you’ll get around 6-8 hours with each character, although you probably won’t want to bother playing through it a second time, especially with a friend.
Realms of Ancient War supports two player local co-op only, but it’s horribly designed, with progress not carrying over to either of your profiles, so unless you play it all in one sitting, your co-op partner will be starting over each time.
Their character starts out a few levels behind you and will have some skill points to assign, so it’s not like they are back to level 1, but the progress should save to at least one your profile’s so all of the EXP, skill points and gear that they earn carries over for the next time you play. On top that, while a second player can join at any time, the only way for them to leave is for you to quit to the main menu and start the level over again. What part of drop-in, drop-out didn’t they understand? This is one of the weakest co-op offerings that I’ve ever seen.
Even though I did enjoy some of my time with Realms of Ancient War, it’s really hard to recommend buying it over any of the recent Action-RPG’s that I’ve played. In most ways it’s as average as a game can get, but a few missing pieces and the terrible co-op system get in the way of it having any good selling points at its current $15 price tag. I would definitely recommend playing the trial version first, and even if you like what you see, I would still wait for this one to go on sale.
Price: 1200 MS Points ($15)
Available On: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and coming soon to PC.