Inside Pulse 12

Review: Realms of Ancient War (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Realms of Ancient War
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Wizarbox
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 9/19/2012

When I first turned on Realms of Ancient War I was truly interested in the game. Preview videos showed what looked like a fun and hectic Diablo style game, and even though there would be a couple of loot whore games coming out at the same time, this one wasn’t a sequel, and so it would be a chance to try out a whole new loot whore game. Sometimes I like things for strange reasons.

Upon booting the game up, I was greeted with a corny story told poorly, but that’s not exactly unusual for these kind of games. Once I got past that, I was ready to whack enemies and make them burst into gear like an overly aggressive kid at a pinata party. Initially, I was impressed with the interface, which felt easy to come to grips with. Playing as the Mage, I set out to Reduce monsters, Reuse potions and Recycle equipment, full of hope and dreams.

Those positive feelings did not last for very long.

On the Xbox Live Marketplace the game is listed by its acronym, RAW, which is, in a nutshell, the most accurate way of describing the game. It’s raw, like alpha build raw. Like unfinished raw. Like if you tried to serve meat like this you would be getting a call from the health inspector raw.

Just to get it out of the way, the controls are well implemented and while the menu isn’t going to win any original design awards, it’s functional. Those are the only to positives that I can think of for the game, the rest of this is going to be complaints, so if you like hearing an angry gamer whine, keep reading.

Xbox Live coding hates the game as well, because every time I’ve loaded it up, it disconnects. Just this game.

The story is poorly written garbage that doesn’t do enough to give the player a motive or reason for why they’re killing everything. There’s a whole story about four kings of the realm that is tedious to sit through and seems to only exist to point the player in a direction and say “Go there. Oh, you’re back? Um, now go here.” I’m just fine with games that don’t have a story, and in RAW‘s case it would’ve been better, maybe, if they had not strained over the minor bits of lore for the game and used that time to fix up other parts of it.

Graphically, the game is zoomed out with no option of zooming in; I’m assuming that this is because of the low texture count that can make the game look like a PS2 game when zoomed in. The character screen shows a closer view of the player character, and it’s surprisingly low quality for an Xbox Live Arcade game. The environments show a good amount of variety between them, though this is negated by the fact that the dungeon designs and layouts kind of suck.

The sound is irritating. There are attacks with annoying sound effects, as well as attacks that seem like they are missing sound effects, particularly the melee weapons for the Warrior class, as there is no sound of impact for when an enemy character is hit. The minimal amount of voice work is terribly voice acted and repetitive. There are times when there is light background music and long stretches where there is not.

The controls have attacks and abilities mapped to the face buttons, kind of like Sacred 2, only instead of holding down a trigger button to switch between mapped abilities, RAW uses the right thumbstick to flip between abilities and saves the triggers for potions. This works just fine and is easy to adapt to. What isn’t easy to adapt to is how much the battle system hurts.

The battle system falls apart in several areas:

Potions: aren’t dropped with a consistent enough frequency to be dependable, and are super expensive to purchase at a vendor, which, for me, is a first for this kind of game.

Enemy placement, respawning and AI: enemies mostly mob the player, and they’ll do so in impressive numbers. There’s no real thought, it seems, behind where the enemies are placed; as you walk around a dungeon there will be a sudden mass of enemies, then another, then another. There is downtime for each ability in the game, and this can be really long for even some of the basic abilities, so if you are playing by yourself, be prepared to run around in circles as a method of crowd control. Don’t run back though, as the time limit for respawning enemies in an area seems really short. I would clear an area as the Mage, then move forward and see another mob of monsters, so I’d start walking backwards while firing off magic… only to walk right back into the enemies I’d just killed.

Death: the game gives you orbs, which essentially work like lives in other games. You reach a checkpoint, and as long as you have more lives, you respawn at a checkpoint. Lose all the orbs and die, and you lose all experience, loot, etc for that entire level. That’s kind of brutal for a loot whore game to take away your progress, and that’s on the normal difficulty.

Put them all together and you’ve got a game with expensive health potions, long cool down timers for abilities, enemies in constant overwhelming numbers, and an unforgiving death system. It’s not fun or balanced in any way whatsoever. It’s a sloppy mess that looks like a game filled with mechanics that just don’t work well together. It’s not that difficult, really, even with all of this, it’s just not fun. You’ll hate the spider enemy types before the end of the first part, and those bastards are in every goddamn area of the game.

The one interesting thing the game adds is the ability to possess and control larger monsters. These monsters show up only so often while playing, and when they do, you can press the Left Bumper to possess them. For a moment you get to play as a powerful monster, or at least powerful offensively, since it usually takes less than a minute for the other enemy characters to take it out.

As a loot game it also fails to provide any kind of satisfactory loot. At no point do you ever get weapons that make you feel that, for a second, that you have an edge over the enemy classes. A lot of the loot is the same loot with a different color scheme, and appears to have been both designed and named by someone with about as much creativity as a chipmunk. The same goes for the skill trees; the battle system is such a mess that upgrading your character never really feels rewarding.

I did not experience very much of the co-op, which is local only. The second player cannot unlock achievements, and while the game was slightly more fun in co-op, it was not fun enough where I could convince anyone to play it with me for very long. Usually they would play for long enough for to ask if it was going to get any better, only to realize it wasn’t at which point they were done. The one time I convinced someone to play it again, the game had deleted all of their loot.

Hell, if you know someone addicted to loot games who needs an intervention, get them this game. It’s the opposite of addicting, it might help them break their habit.

So that’s RAW. The game feels almost like what would happen if you tried to describe Diablo to a developer whose first language wasn’t English, then based off of that description, challenged them to make that kind of game, then in the middle of the developmental process, took it away and gave it to a different developer. It’s like a puzzle where some of the pieces don’t fit and others don’t even look like they’re from the same goddamn puzzle.

There’s no reason to do the ten-point review score. Don’t buy this. Don’t do it.

Short Attention Span Summary: If a pet made a game like this you would rub their face into it while yelling “Bad! Bad!”