Ravenlok (XBOX Series X) Review

When You Want To Quest While You Quest For Your Quest

By Philip Orona

Do you like quests? Do you like quest NPCs that give you more quests when trying to complete a quest? Do you like your sub quests to fan out into 16 sub quests? Well then “Yo Dawg!” Have I got a quest for you!  Ravenlok is an action RPG that places you in the titular role of the Ravenlok, the Raven haired girl who gets pulled into a fantasy land and invokes the Alice in Wonderland setting along with its characters and tropes. While we have seen this done before (Hello American McGee!) The good people over at Cococucumber have taken some inspiration from Studio Ghibli and injected some innocence laden whimsy into the Lewis Carroll cautionary tale of danger abound and this results in an action adventure that invites exploration. 

The game begins with a girl who has just moved into the rural countryside with her mom and dad and they are still in the process of unpacking the moving van. After talking to the parental figures, you are given your first set of quests which menial “help out around the house” tasks. It gives you a quick and easy tutorial on how quests work in this game. Once these tasks are completed you head into the old barn to look around and here you find a mirror that pulls you into the literal wonderland and into the presence of the White Rabbit. The White Rabbit immediately sends you on a quest to put an end to the villainous queen as you are the prophesied Ravenlok hero.. In order to do that, you have to find your tools of adventure. 

These tools are in step with the adventure game trope, a sword and shield. This is where you discover that this game will not hold your hand for every little thing. It does give you base tutorials on how to attack and use skills but outside of that, it comes down to exploration. So where do you get this sword and shield? Look around! That’s where! After some exploration you can find your required items and strut on to the main quest of finding and confronting the queen. As you walk the land, you encounter characters that have quests of their own. One quest will lead you to someone who has what the first character needs but now, in order to get what you want, person B has a small laundry list of their own. This sends you spiraling into a proverbial rabbit hole of subquests. In the Mushroom forest (the first main area) you will have no less than 12 quests to complete which spawn from the first request of getting a blessing potion to help open an item shop. Each area has a mirror as a means of fast travel between them, because who knows what quest will have you revisiting that area. 

The rest of the game follows pretty much the same formula of fetch quests for characters and occasionally solving puzzles with minor minions sprinkled about that are punctuated by a semi difficult boss character who follows a pattern of attacks which can be avoided by dashing and running around the battle area. Battle is aided by items you can buy or are given through quests. Fire and Ice bombs are effective for large damage and your health can be replenished by potions. There isn’t so much an experience system as there is a leveling system that requires feathers that are found by defeating enemies. This too isn’t readily explained to you. After having my tuchus handed to me for the fourth time by the first mushroom forest boss, I clumsily stumbled upon a rodent character who offered to shine up my sword and shield in exchange for feathers. Doing so increases your health and attack strength. This is what allowed me to defeat the first foul plant beast and move on to the next stage of the mushroom forest. While it shouldn’t be completely unexpected, the difficulty chasm between area minions (being extremely easy) and the boss (who was a tank) can be a little confounding in your character’s unmodified form. Once you figure it out though, it makes sense. 

Ravenlok is full of vibrant colors and details yet utilizes minecraftian 8-bit jagged edges to some of its objects, mostly the characters themselves. The juxtaposition of a beautiful sky and vivid glowing plants against a chiptunes cutout character model makes for compelling visuals that are well served by the processing power of the Xbox Series X. Smoke and particle effects are beautifully rendered throughout the environment and shine when special skills are invoked while in battle. The controls are light yet easy and purposeful. Swinging the weapon happens so fast there is almost no feel or heft to the attack, which makes for fast and furious button mashing until a boss battle which will require timed attacks and dodge dashing. The larger sprite-like creatures are wonderfully detailed in a blocky straight edge kind of way, with lots of multicolored surfaces that make it almost a shame to have to skewer them. However, skewer you must in order to collect on the quests that are handed to you in each environment. 

The sound is good but takes a backseat to the visuals and action. While the music certainly sets the whimsical tones of the areas you are in, it is not what grabs you and pulls you in. While I feel too many games work too hard to make sure everyone can easily play, this game makes you feel uncertain at times if you are playing the game correctly.  Enemies can’t be this easy, right? Oh, that boss just stomped me. Was I supposed to enter Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’s house at this point in the game? I don’t know. It leads to great exploration and certainly puts you in the seat of someone who has no idea what is going on because the player certainly won’t. If that’s your bag, then welcome. Inexperienced questers may find themselves losing interest. The item and equipment menu, while explained briefly, doesn’t give you much to work with. Its autosave feature is great, however, It took me a few minutes to realize that there was no save button or save points. It’s automatically done at certain junctures. 

Ravenlok is a fun and vibrant action adventure roleplaying game that will have you reminiscing of classic games like Zelda Ocarina of time and Dark Cloud. It’s all of the hack and slash you could want that throws in a near Arkham Asylum level of subquests and lack of direction that keeps you moving back and forth between areas in a near metroid-vania kind of way sandwiched into a storybook fairytale that becomes difficult to put down once it hooks you. Those who are a fan of the gothic fairytale genre should certainly enjoy this game, once you get past the game’s indifference to the player. 

What I like:
Graphics and art style

Ease of controls

What I would improve:

Add scaled level of assistance (provide some hints for newbies)

Quest markers\map

Slightly more complex battle system

What other games is this like:

Dark Cloud series

Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask


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