Roguelike games have become an increasingly popular genre. Of course, most of them offer a huge re-playability factor that players find incredibly appealing. They often also provide a unique and addictive gameplay loop. Yet, what separates a great roguelike from a just okay roguelike. What elevates a roguelike to possibly be on the level of Slay the Spire, Dead Cells, Hades, and many others that become beacons of the genre. The game needs to be able to nail some key aspects to, not only, draw players in but hold their attention. Ravenswatch, the new roguelike from Passtech Games manages to make sure a few of these key aspects are done right.
Being in Early Access still, it’s hard to say whether or not the game will eventually land amongst the roguelike legends. Yet, it is off to a good start. From characters, to gameplay loop, to its aesthetic and more, the game does a lot right. But of course, these five things are some really obvious ones. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how Ravenswatch succeeds.
Character Design: Something Old, Something New
The idea of adapting fairytales to video games isn’t exactly new. However, Ravenswatch takes on these folklore and fairytale legends, puts them in a roguelike, and makes them feel fresh. The character designs are true to their story, they capture the essence of the fairytales. Yet, they also mange to add a new layer to the characters by having their character design be interlocked with the gameplay.
For instance, Scarlet is an interesting take on the Little Red Riding Hood trope. Not only, is she a lycanthrope but she also doubles as a rogue. Her identity as a character is tied to her gameplay mechanics and vice-versa. Ravenswatch does a great service to their folklore characters by linking their character design to their gameplay because it makes the takes feel fresh.
From Beowulf to Aladdin, and of course Little Red, the characters each feel like they belong in this world. Additionally, their characters use abilities from the character’s own story to make it unique. For instance, Aladdin has his wishes, and Scarlet brings along the Big Bad Wolf.
Gameplay Loop: Fighting the Nightmares
One of the best parts of the game is its actual gameplay. Ravenswatch manages to combine RPG elements with the roguelike gameplay loop. It provides players with the combat style of ARPG’s and mixes them with the obvious roguelike properties that it boasts. For instance, the collecting of upgrades, the unlocking new upgrades for later runs, and more all play into the desire to keep playing the game.
Furthermore, the actual combat itself is satisfying. The variety of enemies to learn and fight against provide a great challenge for players. Additionally, the overall scaling of the game ensures that players want to keep doing runs and winning them on every character. However, each character provides their very own learning curve that takes awhile to get good at.
This is exactly how Ravenswatch nailed their gameplay loop. They introduced a roguelike with a great deal of variety. This in itself is what makes the game so fun. Each character provides a different style of play and multiple different builds within that character’s style which provide further ways to play. It ensures players don’t run out of fun while fighting nightmares.
The Game’s Aesthetic: Fairytale to Nightmare
Another aspect that Ravenswatch gets right is its aesthetic. The game truly captures the feeling of a magical world overrun by nightmares. The twisting trees that come to life, the ruins left everywhere, and even the designs of enemies and allies. Overall the game brings the dark fairytale vibe to life with it’s background. Yet, the NPC’s also assist with this.
By using character’s like the Sandman and the Three Little Pigs as shopkeeper and quest givers respectively, Ravenswatch makes the world feel even more alive. A new character wouldn’t have the same impact. Part of the fun of the game is pointing out how the fairytales and folklore everyone knew and loved have been twisted. Seeing these characters in a fairytale gone wrong is a part of how Ravenswatch succeeds in its aesthetic. Nothing like some gruff, post-apocalyptic, pigs to convince you the world needs saving.
A Roadmap: A Look at What’s to Come
Of course, Ravenswatch is a new game. At the time of writing this, the game doesn’t have a great deal of content to go along with it. In fact, it has one chapter of a, supposedly, longer story. This chapter comes with one area to explore and provides players with one boss fight. Importantly the challenge increases as players win runs, adding new modifiers on to enemies and negative modifiers to players. However, after a player has beaten the game with all characters it could be said they are done with Ravenswatch.
This is why the roadmap is a great thing that Ravenswatch has done. Though it is in no way a new concept, the roadmap provides players with a way to know what they can expect to arrive to the game and when. Additionally, it lets players know that not only is new content planned it is confirmed. It allows the game to build hype for itself while it is currently playable.
The roadmap ensures that the experience of playing Ravenswatch is a transparent one, where players can get excited for whatever comes next.
Multiplayer: A Game for Friends
Perhaps one of the best aspects of Ravenswatch is the fact that they successfully made a party based roguelike. The game allows players to play in groups up to four and does a great job making each player feel individually important to the group. Like games such as Risk of Rain 2, the character diversity of Ravenswatch provides a group of players the means to play the game in a style that fits them while not letting one character carry the whole run.
It feels good when the whole game comes together, combining a great aesthetic and gameplay experience while letting a player explore this world with their friends. Of course, Ravenswatch does just that. It lets players embody their favorite fairytales as well as group up with other heroic friends and save a story from nightmares.