Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion - 2.99 (Witching Hour Studios)

Strategy gaming is a genre I’m fairly new to. Not to say that I’m not fully immersed in it. Over the last 3 months, I’ve buried my head into quite a few RTS and Turn-Based Strategy titles. More often than not though, I felt as if they didn’t offer enough depth. There has always been the desire to have more control over an aspect of the game, or wishing that the story was deeper, the history of the characters revealed a bit more, and so on. Enter Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, developed by Witching Hour Studios.

At it’s core, Ravenmark is a very well fleshed out turn-based strategy game based on rock-paper-scissors mechanics. Each of the 4 different groups of fighters has a group that they‘re strong and another that they‘re weak against. But it’s everything that’s added on top of the core gameplay that makes Ravenmark a strategy game that stands out amongst the crowd.
The game focuses on Calius Septim, a young, but very smart member of the Estellion army. His older brother, Rebus, is constantly pushing him to his limits, while Calius’ superior officer has it in for him. Before each battle, you’ll get a short dialogue scene, moving the story forward, and letting you know why you’re moving to where, and what’s going on around you, but there’s also a Codex that you can read through, giving some background on the characters, the fighters you’ll be using, the lands that make up and surround Estellion, and quite a bit of the social, and spiritual information for the world you’ll be playing in, all expanding significantly on the story.
The gameplay is done in a turn-based manor, first with you giving all the orders, and then watching all of those orders be carried out. However, there are tons of different little aspects you’ll need to pay attention to, or else you could end up loosing big time. As stated already, each of the 4 different groups of troops you’ll be using has another group that they’re strong against, and weak against. Swordsmen trump spear-men, spear-men, cavalry, cavalry beats the archers, and archers over swordsmen. With this make-up, it sounds easy enough, right? Not exactly. You’re given a certain amount of Command Points per turn, with each unit requiring a command point to be given an order, and you will almost never have enough command points. Thankfully, there’s quite a few ways to deal with the lack of command points. You’re able to combine groups of the same troops, for instance, 3 groups of archers can all move next to each other, and then combine, making one formation. Doing this also gives that group of troops a special ability. In this case, archers are given double attacks, meaning all 3 groups are able to attack twice.
You’ll also command higher ranking officers, each of which has a special ability which can be used right away at the beginning of a battle, but then will need to recharge over a certain amount of turns before it can be used again. You’re also able to give Standing Orders to your troops, which helps save on command points, because once you give them an order, they’ll perform that order until it’s complete. You can command troops to keep moving forward, or follow an enemy until the enemy or the troops are dead, or keep them standing in one place, regaining HP. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll need to keep an eye on what order all of the units move in. If you’re not careful, you could end up moving a group of troops to an area where an enemy just was, because that enemy was able to move before you. You’ll also need to keep track of which way your troops are facing, or else an enemy could wind up attacking you from behind, getting an extra bonus.
The graphics are extremely well done, with some of the best UI controls I’ve had the pleasure of having in a strategy game. The music, sounds, animations, everything within the game that’s surrounding the core gameplay and story is top-notch, and very easy to use, understand, navigate, and all comes together to form one of the best turn-based strategy games I’ve ever played. $2.99 is an amazing price for what the game has to offer, and is highly recommended for any and all fans of the genre, as well as newcomers. The tutorials are done very well, and you learn everything gradually, with the game essentially showing you exactly how to do each action, there’s not a whole lot of reading if that’s a turn off. Ravenmark is another game that shows that the iOS is capable of handling a hardcore title with plenty of substance and depth, and a game that gives iOS gamers wishing for more serious games to hit the AppStore another title to add to their list of definitive iOS games, as well as gives more hope for the future of iOS gaming.

Ravenmark gets a perfect score of 5 out of 5.


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