A few months ago I reviewed a game called Haunted House: Cryptic Graves. It was dull, broken, badly designed, impenetrable, and excruciating to play. I called it “the worst game I have ever played”. Well, developer Reality Pump and TopWare Interactive can breathe a sigh of relief, because Raven’s Cry isn’t quite as bad as Haunted House: Cryptic Graves. It’s merely the second worst game I’ve ever played, and makes hugely flawed fellow pirate RPG Risen 2: Dark Waters look like Baldur’s Gate by comparison. This isn’t going to be pretty.
Raven’s Cry as mentioned is a pirate RPG, but unlike Piranha Bytes’ Risen series developer Reality Pump is attempting a more grounded, less fantastical piratey tale set deep in the Caribbean. Playing Captain Christopher Raven, a dickish man with a dickish past, you find yourself being betrayed by a man named Tirado and in need of a new ship and crew. Very quickly you also get a quest beyond getting revenge on Tirado - you need to get revenge on the pirates that killed your family as well. Exciting!
Now right away I have to say that Raven’s Cry has some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen, in gaming or otherwise. Regularly poor spelling, sentences that make no sense, characters that just randomly appear and we have to assume are supposed to be important, these are the minor things - it’s actually hilarious the way Reality Pump get “buy” and “sell” the wrong way round. Far worse is that the plot is boring and utter nonsense, dialogue contains expositionary clunkers that characters are fully aware of like “remember when your father was murdered on that beach ten years ago” that most six-year-olds know is bad writing, and the final nail in the coffin: Christopher Raven is the most unlikeable, badly written, irritating, over-the-top gaming protagonist since Rufus in the Deponia trilogy. He snarls, shouts, swears and yells at everyone including his friends, and there’s one particular scene in a brothel that made me cringe where he threatens and assaults both a customer and one of the girls - then the boss shrugged this off. “Oh, that Christopher Raven, what a scamp”.
Hi, I'm Christopher Raven! And if no one else cares about the dead body behind me, I won't either!
Then we get to the voice acting, which requires its own paragraph. I’ve encountered some poor acting in gaming, like the Game of Thrones RPG and, er, Haunted House: Cryptic Graves, but Raven’s Cry takes it to a new level of crapness. First off, the actual acting itself is terrible. Christopher Raven changes emotion every line, other characters screw up their lines and just continue talking, and all of them sound like they’ve never spoken English before. But that’s not the end of it! Ignoring that some actors sound like they’ve been recorded over a buzzy telephone, half the dialogue in the game is actually missing. You’ll start a conversation and find that as much as 50% of it is replaced with subtitles. It really is quite atrocious.
All that and I haven’t started berating the game itself. There is literally no part of this game which feels finished or doesn’t invite scorn and ridicule. You explore a location, find some quests, buy upgrades or equipment, usual RPG fare with a pirate touch. You can sail between locations on your trusty pirate ship and can get into ship battles as well as buy and sell cargo. If you’re thinking this all sounds quite like an RPG version of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag you’re right, except that Ubisoft’s game was competently made. Raven’s Cry isn’t.
Captain Raven showing off one of his more endearing characteristics, hurting defenceless women and threatening them. What a guy!
For example, the world is boring. There are a few points of interest on the badly-designed map, but everything in-between holds nothing of interest. Bystanders barely do anything, there’s no chatter, no one to talk to, and if you attack and kill a random person in the street most of the other people around will completely ignore the murder that took place right in front of them. Furthermore the level design is atrocious and the unhelpful map will usually lead you into a dead end, and there’ll be plenty of times where Raven gets stuck getting up an inch-high platform so just getting around isn’t just boring, it’s also frustrating.
Interaction isn’t much better. The controls are slow and rubbish, and woe betide you if you’re playing with an Xbox pad (which I had to until the most recent patch finally added mouse/keyboard support). Stealth is pathetic and I only used it a couple of times in the game. Most of the time the game will fail to tell you how to do things properly before throwing you into it, like telling you how to shoot someone without mentioning you also have to reload your gun first. Then we have the combat, which impressively manages to be worse than Risen 2: Dark Waters. You’re presented with a load of buttons yet you can get through most fights by just hammering the quick attack key, and enemies show no hint of intelligence whatsoever. It’s just dull and frustrating, like the rest of the game, and it’ll take you a while to realise that your health bar isn’t the red bar at the bottom of the screen (that’s experience).
Then we get to the ships, which was the one chance Reality Pump had to get ahead of Risen 2 which was sorely lacking the sailing side of pirating. Unfortunately I wish they hadn’t bothered. When steering your ship either moving forward very, very slowly or firing cannons at enemy ships that take a good 20 seconds to reload. Yes both can be upgraded, but there’s no excuse for making the ship combat and sailing so interminable. Combine that with having to guess the cannon elevation required to hit a ship and the fact that ship repairs are vastly too expensive means that ship combat just really isn’t worth it. Plus just randomly sailing around costs a lot of money in crewman wages, so it’s possible to get to a point where you can’t play the game anymore. Although to be fair I got there anyway.
I'm pretty sure galleon isn't spelled like that, but whatever
Finally before I deliver the verdict - bugs. While the last three patches have finally delivered such luxuries as “a controls screen” and “mouse support on menus”, Raven’s Cry is still riddled with glitches and bugs. I’ve had crashes, NPCs walking into scenery, weird combat encounters, and one staircase that just would not let me pass. Every time I played the game I’d encounter some new and insane glitch, so it might be worth picking it up for comedy value alone.
RAVEN'S CRY VERDICT
If you haven’t guessed it already, Raven’s Cry is quite blatantly unfinished. I personally guesstimate that it needed a whole ‘nother year in development but either Reality Pump or TopWare ran out of money. Which is a shame, since after that year it could’ve been a good game. At this point in time though, it’s the complete opposite. In every aspect Raven’s Cry is painfully dull, excruciatingly frustrating, and woefully glitchy. There is literally nothing fun here at all and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play it for anything other than a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style evening of mockery. It’s the worst game of 2015 so far, and it’ll probably hold that title until Alone In The Dark: Illumination comes out. Avoid, please god avoid.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Laughing at each and every stupid moment that comes up. You never have long to wait.
Some of the environments look nice.
Glaringly unfinished, with glitches, missing dialogue and poor testing all evident.
Writing and voice acting some of the worst ever seen in gaming. Some dialogue even has an echo in the background.
Dull, badly designed and frustrating.