ravenswatch

Ravenswatch is strong on promise, but short on content right now

A slim start with huge potential

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Ravenswatch was really not on my radar prior to this weekend. I’d heard some rumblings here and there, but after a few friends talked me into it and I saw the fairly cheap price tag, I figured I’d give it a shot. Co-op roguelite with some vague whiffs of dungeon-crawling sounded like a good time.

And it is, as it turns out, a good time. Passtech Games, the studio you might best know for its work on Curse of the Dead Gods, has something here with Ravenswatch. It’s visually appealing, clever and evolving, with some good variety run-over-run. My only hang-up is that there isn’t a lot here right now, either.

Running up that hill

Ravenswatch lets you pick from several classic characters from myths and fables, like the Pied Piper or Beowulf. You then set out to fight the emerging nightmares around Reverie, corrupting the world and really bringing down the vibes.

The whole time, a clock in the bottom-right of your screen is ticking, counting the hours and time-of-day. When you run out of time, it all comes to a head, and you have to face the looming Master Nightmare with whatever strength you’ve built up.

Granted, there are plenty of ways to gain power on the way there. Taking out monsters garners experience, but you can also look for rewards on the map too, like treasure chests or wells that increase your health. These can add up over time, as you build up both your character and the skills available to them.

Image via Passtech Games

Fabled legends

Every characters has their own set of skills, sorted into different categories. Generally, there’s a basic attack, some kind of power move, options for mobility and defense, and an ultimate skill. It feels akin to Diablo, or maybe even closer to narrower action-RPG kits like Battlerite or MOBA games.

The way these skills evolve, over time, is through levelling up. Once hitting a new level, you get a selection of several different upgrades that can augment your skills. In one run as Scarlet, the Red Riding Hood equivalent, I grabbed an upgrade with a Quest attached to it. After killing enough enemies with a certain Wolf form move, I’d unlock the chance that a killing blow might not put that move on cooldown, giving me another immediate use. Paired with other empowering talents, I could chain attacks together into a frenzy of damage, leaping from foe to foe.

In another Scarlet run, I focused more on the Critical Strike capabilities of this character, leaning into her Human form. It emphasized how Scarlet’s core mechanic—she’s Human by day, Wolf by night—could make for drastically different playstyles.

I only dabbled in the others, but it seems like there’s a decent amount of variety in building up and strengthening your character over time. With four available at the start, and two more unlockable right now, it’s a solid lineup to learn and master.

Image via Passtech Games

Time is standing still

Once the days run out, or if you choose to start it early, Ravenswatch takes you to a boss fight with the Master Nightmare. It’s a decently challenging bout that I fell to the first time. Gradually my party learned to master the game and our available resources, and we handily overcame the danger. Of course, there are higher difficulty modes available for more challenge, so it won’t always feel too easy.

But right now, my biggest asterisk on Ravenswatch is how early it is. It’s currently in Early Access, and to be fair, Passtech Games has been very up-front about that fact, as well as how much content is in this version now. Given how Early Access can mean different things for different studios though, it’s worth noting that there’s just the six characters, a single map, and a single boss to fight. It’s enough to keep you in for a few runs, but feels slim even within the Early Access bounds.

Passtech is planning on a year-long Early Access run, adding content and balancing as they go. This spring should hopefully see additional Ultimate abilities and a new Hero, and further on into the summer, there will be a new Map, enemies, a new boss, and Chapter Two on Storm Island. Basically, there’s a lot more in the works, and I feel like they’ve got a good track record of getting to the finish line.

As I write this now in April 2023 though, it’s still quite early. If you’ve got some faith and want a fun co-op night with pals, this might hold you over. It felt like a clever mix of Diablo and Risk of Rain, combining the action-RPG set-up with a ticking timer and ever-present danger of being swallowed up by the rising tide of danger. Ravenswatch has all that, albeit in a small, concentrated form right now. And I’m hoping it works out well enough for more of it to pop up in the coming year.


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Author
Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.