6waves’ latest title Ravenshire Castle is a strange beast. Combining elements of citybuilding gameplay with tactical stealth action, it looks like being the final entry in the “Ravenworld” series, thanks at least in part to the dissolution of 6waves’ internal development teams. But does this series end with a proud lion’s roar, or simply a whimper?
Ravenshire Castle casts players in the role of a lion or lioness revealed to be the heir to the titular estate. The castle in question has fallen into disrepair over the years, and it’s up to the player to restore it to its former glory by building and expanding, harvesting resources and retrieving the lost Ravenshire treasures from a series of rival castles.
Gameplay unfolds in two main parts. While at their own castle, players may build new rooms, build new items (each of which is designed to go in a specific room or outdoors) and collect income of currency and resources from objects and crops. Quests are provided by a series of quirky animal characters who gradually move in to the player’s estate as story progress is made.
Gameplay in this first part breaks with very few genre conventions — there’s building, crop harvesting, collecting items and all the usual activities — though there is a noticeably stronger focus on gathering specific resources to complete building projects than some similar titles. Most resources can be collected either by asking friends or by harvesting from the appropriate items. Some may only be gathered from rival castles, which is where the second part of the game comes in.
In this second part, players invade another castle, either a predesigned computer-controlled one or a player-designed “rival” estate. While in the other castle, players have a limited amount of energy with which to score as many points as possible. This is primarily achieved by looting objects, but score multipliers can be applied by looting each room’s “heart” structure before searching everything else. In this way, larger castles have greater potential rewards on offer, but also generally have more chance of the player being caught by non-player characters and guards wandering the halls, which in turn causes their score to suffer. It’s a fun game system, though the pathfinding of the player character at times leaves a little to be desired, sometimes leading to inadvertently blundering in to a room full of guards.
Ravenshire Castle features some more serious issues that significantly impact the experience at this time, however. For starters, the frame rate is very inconsistent, even when the contents of the screen are not changing, and this problem only gets worse as castles expand. The game’s visuals look great in static screenshots, but to see them juddering around drunkenly even on a high-powered computer with a good graphics card is very disappointing, as is the amount of time it takes for walls, objects and characters to load when moving to a busier castle environment.
Perhaps the most serious issue is the completely broken “visit friends” system, however. Here, players are supposed to be given five energy points per friend per day to go and “help” at their respective castles, with the visiting player able to collect soft currency, experience and resources in the process. Unfortunately, a major bug means that by returning to their own castle and then re-visiting their friend, players can acquire five more energy points to spend, meaning that with patience they can essentially find themselves with an unlimited supply of experience, soft currency and basic resources such as wood and stone.
Beneath these flaws lies a potentially excellent game, albeit one where energy runs out a little too quickly for play sessions of a satisfying length. With a little rebalancing and work on the issues mentioned above, 6waves could have a fittingly triumphant finale to the “Ravenworld” series on its hands. As it stands, however, it’s difficult to recommend the game in its present state.
So close to greatness, but spoiled by technical issues and major bugs in the game’s mechanics. One to try in a month or two when these flaws have hopefully been cleaned up.