Ravenswatch is a roguelite ARPG made by Passtech Games, developers of the criminally underrated Curse of the Dead Gods. The game is set to release this month, but we got an early hands-on look.
Passtech Games’ signature art style is very present in Ravenswatch, the studio makes use of thick outlines to draw its characters and environments, making it almost look like a comic book in motion.
They also have a lot of experience when it comes to shading and usage of lighting, since it was a major mechanic in Curse of the Dead Gods. Their experience clearly shows in the rich environments and thick atmosphere.
Ravenswatch doesn’t have a lot going on when it comes to plot right now, it feels a lot like a “gameplay first” sort of title, which I’m completely fine with, since the gameplay is tight and polished.
The player is tasked with killing a massive creature called the Nightmare, which will awaken in four days. This time can be spent leveling up, finding items, acquiring currency and weakening the nightmare to make the boss fight easier.
The player can choose multiple characters to embark on their journey, and each character has a set of skills that all synergize with each other.
Figuring out the best order of skills to use in a way that takes your upgrade and items into account is very satisfying, and button-mashing will not take the player far on higher difficulties.
A few of the classes follow your expected archetypes, like the mage, warrior and rogue, but you also have more unique individuals. Each character is based off of a mythological figure, sometimes being played straight and other times subverted, for now we have several classes.
First is Scarlet, the rogue who serves both as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf; then Beowulf, the fearless warrior who can enhance his skills with the aid of the last wyrm; and next is Snow Queen, a straightforward ice mage that freezes and shatters enemies on a huge radius.
Then we have Aladdin, the middle-eastern folk hero who can call upon his djinn for wishes; next is Melusine, the mermaid who weaves between stances that can either either heal allies or damage enemies; and finally The Pied Piper, the flutist who uses music to controls a horde of pestilent rats.
Each character’s kit feels really complete, and all of them manage to have engaging playstyles, but runs end up blending together since you can’t choose much.
There isn’t any character customization outside of runs, so the player doesn’t have much freedom in how their character will play. Even the in-game upgrades are somewhat tame, I’ve yet to find something that makes an insane difference, most are added synergies or damage increases to a skill.
Ravenswatch reminds me a lot of Moon Hunters in its approach to gameplay, where it just drops players in a map and has them killing stuff for a while. I don’t particularly think it’s the best formula for a roguelike, or roguelite in this case, because it lacks the addicting feel that games like Dead Cells or The Binding of Isaac have.
I usually complain about games that have a plethora of unneeded systems, but I feel like Ravenswatch has the opposite problem, there isn’t much to unlock or work towards. Giving the player a way to customize and min-max their character through unlockables would add a good layer of meta progression, either that or some sort of cosmetic reward system.
The player does receive new modifiers and upgrade possibilities when leveling up after a run, but it still doesn’t feel like enough to keep a player coming back.
Ravenswatch has a fun core gameplay loop, but at the same time I can’t say I’m compelled to keep grinding out runs, the minor difficulty increase hasn’t done much to rope me back in.
The game’s day and night cycle does manage to keep things going fairly smooth, with some characters completely changing their playstyle depending on what time of day it is. Enemies also tend to change their behavior depending on the time of day, with some only showing up at night.
For now, Ravenswatch has 6 different characters on a selection screen with 11 slots, an ever-increasing difficulty system, and one map with a massive nightmare boss fight at the end. The game is pretty forgiving with four revives when playing solo, but they are shared amongst players during co-op play.
Passtech Games’ Curse of the Dead Gods shares some problems that Ravenswatch has, mostly in its difficulty finding ways to keep runs fresh, despite both being extremely polished titles when it comes to gameplay.
I have optimistic hopes for Ravenswatch’s future content, even if the studio doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making their roguelikes engaging in the long run.
Ravenswatch is set to release on April 6th, 2023 on Steam’s Early Access for Microsoft Windows, with PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S planned for the future.