If you were to have asked me a couple of days ago I would have told you that it seemed as if a couple of developers had nailed down the fundamentals for a great dungeon crawler/loot 'em up, and that this hopefully would elevate the genre in its entirety. Borderlands 2 and Torchlight II showed us how captivating action experiences could be combined with role playing elements and loot, and it seemed as if the genre was experiencing a golden age.
However, it didn't take long to realise that you can just as easily get everything wrong as is evident by Realms of Ancient War.
The game does its best to be as instantly forgettable as it possibly can, with a story set in a faraway world where four warring nations are at eachother's throats. The reasons for the war are never explained, and we're told everyone in this world has forgotten the reasons. And while you can't expect epic and emerging stories in every dungeon crawler this is one of the thinnest motivations to go on a monster slaying tour I've ever heard.
As you would expect you can pick between three classes at the start of the game - a mage, a female ranger, and a barbarian who apparently has reached such an advanced age that he is more tendom than muscle and he sorely needs clothes to cover up his hideous hide. Each character controls the same, and your three starting abilities are mapped to the A, B, and X buttons on the Xbox 360 controller. In theory a move that should keep things simple enough,
However, the developers have opted a system that makes use of cooldowns forcing to players to constantly wait for abilities to become available after using them. This makes it especially frustrating to play as the mage as he constantly has to wait for even the most basic attacks to recharge. Meanwhile you also have to keep track of your sparse supply of mana, something that makes the action even slower.
This is just the start of the problems with the combat system, because an even worse offence is that the developers have failed to add any sense of weight to the characters or their attacks. The only indication that you actually hit your targets is numbers that appear above them. They haven't even added in sound effects to represent the fact that a sword or a fireball is connecting with an enemy. The lack of weight and feedback also means that enemies continue on their predetermined paths no matter how hard they're hit.
The aggressive nature of the enemies can be traced back to their complete lack of artificial intelligence. As a result they often found themselves stuck in the environments. A phenomenon that is especially funny when the object they get stuck on is a fireplace that slowly barbecues the monster as he furiously curses his lack of intelligence.
Things aren't much better from a technical standpoint. Visually the adventure is covered by some kind of blurry mist that renders of the game dull to look at. The only exception here is the font used for the dropped loot, that in spite of utterly uninspired names such as "Red Key", "War Sword", and "Magic Wand" is clearly visible on screen.
The soundscape is likewise a weird experience that ranges from the sound of the storming winds that sound as if it was recorded in a grocery bag, and passable adventure tunes. It's weird to listen to the music as it never reacts to what goes on, and you get the same soundtrack regardless of whether you're prancing around a quiet meadow or beating up a screen full of enemies.
The most unique problems found are when the sounds and graphics combine to make life difficult. The poorly recorded soundtrack falters as soon as there is too much action on screen, and the framerate suffers throughout to an extent I've hardly ever seen before.
The developer rounds out the experience with some of the worst dialogue I've ever seen in a game, and you better get used to reading it as there is hardly a spoken word in the game. It's difficult to take a threat seriously when it's phrased "If you are lying I'll come back and be very angry!", and the surroundings don't seem all too dangerous where written about as "These spiderwebs are so sticky, I can barely walk when I am on them!".
There are more problems with Realms of Ancient War, the lack of a mini-map for instance, making it difficult to find your way across the levels - and the co-operative mode doesn't allow you to earn experience and gear across a common character file. Instead of giving you a laundry list of flaws, it's easier to simply conclude that there are no valid reasons to spend time or money on this awful piece of software. If you long for a cheap quality dungeon crawler with lots of loot and magicial abilities on your console - then you're way better off with Torchlight, Crimson Alliance or Dungeon Defender.
Loading next content