Roguelites have been a staple genre in modern gaming for quite some time now, but developers System Reaction are looking to stand out with their latest project, Ravenbound. A focus on a unique fantasy world inspired by Scandinavian folklore that features intense combat, a deck-building mechanic, and the freedom to choose how you want to play.
Just hearing about these features is intriguing enough, but thanks to a hands-off presentation by the developers, it seems that Ravenbound is well placed to fulfill its open-world roguelite promise, at least at this early stage.
Players take on the role of a vessel in each life, guided by an ancient being in the form of a raven. In service to this higher being, the vessel is granted great power, which will come in handy if you do not wish to perish in a dangerous world.
And this world can be accessed via a hub area, with seven doors leading to a variety of adventures. The first five go to different regions, each with its own boss to overcome, which is a familiar premise for those that have played the likes of Valheim. Defeating three of the bosses leads to the opening of the sixth door, where the final boss, the Betrayer, lies in wait. Systemic Reaction also shared that it is committed to post-launch support like its other titles Second Extinction and Generation Zero, with the seventh door becoming available once the game has launched.
Having opened a gate, an area with seemingly no end appeared before us, showing off the vast distances players can travel on their adventures. Thankfully, you do not have to trek every step of the way, with the ability to turn into a raven becoming very helpful when covering longer distances. Of course, this ability is not always available, but making full use of it whenever you find Raven Towers should reduce the downtime between more meaningful activities.
The team stressed that since Ravenbound is meant to be an open-world roguelite, you choose where you want to go in each of the regions, and the enemies you wish to take on. Icons appear up high to denote areas of differing difficulty and enemies varieties, and the randomized nature of these encounters will certainly help maintain the freshness even if the world itself remains the same. As you explore and fight, players will eventually reach three vital locations for each region, complete them all and you will unlock access to the boss.
Even with all the exploration, the main bulk of the gameplay in Ravenbound is combat-oriented and having landed in a location suitable for beginners, we got to see the combat in action. Heavy and light attacks are a given; there are staggering attacks, and considering the frenetic pace at which things unfolded, knowing exactly when to take your chance will determine whether you survive to fight another day.
On the defensive end, players can dodge quickly out of harm’s way before leaping back in, or use the Raven Guard, a magical shield that envelops the player and soaks up damage. Time either dodges or the guard right and you could deal increased damage or knock down all enemies in the immediate area. Just be warned that your Raven Guard can be drained completely with reckless use, leaving you vulnerable instead.
Keeping active in the fight also builds energy, which is displayed as a yellow bar above the health in the corner. The more energy you accrue, the more damage you can do to your enemies. However, being hit will drain the energy bar, and this risk and reward system is designed to constantly push players into action rather than sit back.
Between damaging combos and evasive maneuvers, Ravenbound should feel quite comforting for anyone into action games, but the seeming lack of a lock-on system might cause some concern. Yet, if you taste victory in these encounters, it can lead to an important part of progression in the form of card draws from slain enemies or chests.
Finding and unlocking cards help bolster your deck of cards that stay persistent throughout various lives, determining how your life will pan out as you play specific cards. These can be equipment to make you more powerful, artifacts for passive bonuses, or instant effect cards, just to name a few. The one thing to note is that cards cost mana to use, with the mana pool increased by leveling up, so don’t expect to be overpowered thanks to a lucky draw. Systemic Reaction did allude to more advanced cards that can bring further synergy to the proceedings, and it will be interesting to see just how expansive the system can be.
Just before showing us the boss of the region, the developers also made a pit stop in a nearby town, which serves as a safe haven in each of the regions. Here, players will find vendors that will take coins for precious goods, while there will always be a quest giver in each round, which can help you get better prepared for the trials ahead upon completion.
As expected, boss fights are going to be the toughest challenge in Ravenbound, a true test of not just your equipment build, but your deck build as well. The wind god of Axel Kvalheim made short work of the vessel, but since dying is a huge part of a roguelite, the death provided us with a closer look at how the system works. Every time a new life begins, Ravenbound will give players a selection of three characters randomly composed from unlocked options. Depending on the species, weapons, and traits, the variation can result in drastically different experiences straight from the start.
Like many roguelites, your success in Ravenbound will depend on many factors, but based on what the team has shown, every bit of success will help in ensuring that your next attempt at taking down the evils is easier, and the combat and deckbuilding systems look intriuging enough in a genre full of excellent contemporaries. For now, Ravenbound has no release date just yet, but Systemic Reaction will be running a closed beta test in the near future, so be sure to signal your interest on the official website.
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