Wot I Think: The First Few Hours Of Raven’s Cry

Well Raven’s Cry [official site] is quite the thing. It’s not too often that you get a game released in a state like this these days, without having “Early Access” excuses stamped all over it. This pirate-themed third-person RPG is quite astonishingly terrible. Here’s wot I thought of the first few hours.

Welcome to the confusing not-yet-invented American accent of St. Lucian resident Mr Handsome Hairychest Pirate – your pin-wheeling Mr Magoo of a playable character – in this historical farce of clumsy controls and barely coherent menus that rather hilariously prices itself at £40.

Taking most of its inspiration from 1998’s action games, Raven’s Cry also borrows a good few ideas from Sid Meier’s Pirates, including reputation meters, smuggling, and ship battles. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no ballroom dancing. It is, however, in glorious gloomy third-person 3D, complete with broken sword fighting, broken ship boarding, broken conversations, broken interfaces, and broken spirits.

Things open, after some meandering cutscenes I only vaguely remember, with a ship battle. No explanation, just dumped right in a sequence in which you must sail between some rocks, and then fire canons at another ship. It’s clumsy, barely involving, and tiresome. Once completed, there are more cutscenes about something probably, and then you’re in a pub where you’re not quite taught how to fight, then a town where you’re being shot at by about thirty enemies. You’re armed with a sword, and a ye-olde-pistol, and a hook instead of a left hand. Sneak up unnoticed and you can take enemies out with your hook, but get spotted and it’s time to wave your sword about!

Wave wave wave! Oh gosh, it’s so, so bad. The animations are dreadful, spasmodic blips as enemies change attacks, with blocks generally achieved by fluke rather than skill. Things are so choppy that it’s hard to tell if you’re actually hitting or being hit, until one or the other of you falls over dead. Which is the Bolshoi Ballet compared to the pistol. Yes, a ten second reload time is a thing of the history, and the rifle-wielding locals are similarly inhibited. But there’s dozens of them, and one of you, so the odds aren’t really with you. Especially since the damned thing rarely works. It’s complete arbitrary whether a point blank headshot will take someone out, or just have no reaction whatsoever, as they stand there and stare blankly at you.

Get through that tedium and you arrive in your native St. Lucia, and immediately are treated with this bit of local theatre:

Absolutely everything is a mess. Characters sometimes forget to open their mouths when they talk, the animations are universally dreadful (I have become prone to snickering as I watch Cap’n Handsome stride his manly strut), and the voice actors – who vary from okay to terrible – are forced to say the most unremarkably banal nothingness.

But the interface. Oh my, what a treat there is here. Everything is awful, laid out as if in Word Art, presented without flourish nor thought. The map, for instance, doesn’t tell you which island you’re currently on. And when you zoom out to the full Caribbean, the individual islands are a different shape than their zoomed in equivalents, so no hope of figuring it out that way.

And the shops! I can’t get over the shop interface. I cannot understand how a sentient human was involved with this layout:

There are such poor design decisions. When you fight someone, their health bar appears in a straight red line at the top of the screen, but the straight red line at the bottom of the screen isn’t your health, no no, yours is curved over the teeny map bottom left. But then, goodness me, if there’s one aspect we can all celebrate, it’s the XP notifications.

Look, it may seem like I’m being overly picky at this point, but when a game’s this dreary and poorly put together, you’ve got to find your fun somewhere. Rather than popping up with “100 XP” or howsoever you might expect it, you get a short story:

“100 experience points received”

It’s only disappointing they don’t write out “100” properly.

I should add, I’m fighting my way through this interface using the 360 pad, because the game’s not giving me any choice. Have a pad plugged in and it’ll insist on it, and I’m not crawling around the back of my PC for this nonsense’s sake. It’s better suited to the analogue stick for general play, but obviously its refusal to let me use my mouse is agonising in the batshit menus. And as if that weren’t annoying enough, my attempt to reassign 360 buttons to things slightly less idiotic than the defaults resulted in discovering this momentous control options screen:

That’s right. There isn’t one. Just a blank space where it’s supposed to be. £40.

Ooh, what else. There’s some sort of bonkers fish-eye on the camera view, which means that NPCs getting near the edges can start to distort in very peculiar ways. This chap has a very disturbing left arm, for instance:

Copious amounts of recorded dialogue is missing, including for the main character. And they know it too, the game switching a character to subtitles mid-monologue. And oh god, OH GOD, what’s wrong with their necks?!

Fluffed lines are left in, with characters starting a sentence, messing it up, then restarting. There are major characters for whom no dialogue has been recorded at all, leading to mad conversations with one person chatting away, the other person fluent only in subtitle, which is a peculiar experience. And a slightly more galling one when it’s not the occasional mistake, but something they clearly knew they weren’t even close to finishing, but thought, hell, let’s sell this to the suckers anyway.

Oh, listing everything wrong with this is my new hobby. When it changes time of day, it doesn’t gradually adjust the light levels – it just becomes daytime like God flipped a switch. Out of boredom, at one point, I tried to see if I could murder NPCs in a town. I could. The game didn’t care, no one reacted. But best of all, I heard the murmuring of a small crowd a few times, killed one guy, and it stopped. Noisy guy!

One scripted fight autosaved as the chap chopped me with his sword, and it only took one more blow from him to kill me. So eventually, after multiple tries, I just ran off. Came back a minute later and he’d forgotten he was meant to be fighting me, and stood patiently still while I hacked him to death. Oh, and the exposition! It’s a joy. Conversations in which characters introduce major plot points by saying things like, “But you know that my father was killed when I was a boy and had that same shape carved into him!”

Icons on the minimap don’t match those on the main map. Characters piss mid-conversation. The jump barely functions. There’s just nothing redeemable here. Frankly, it’s damned rude to release a game in this state.

So, Raven’s Cry is available for £40 on Steam! What a treat.

100 Comments

  1. Lurid says:

    If there’s one thing the devs behind Two Worlds have taught me, anything is redeemed if you put a lot of “knave”, “mayhap” and “forsooth” in the dialogue.

    • Rich says:

      Also an ork with big boobs.

    • Chaz says:

      Well Two Worlds Two was pretty dreadful so this was never going to be great. Though at least it was reasonably playable, this however sounds like a real train wreck.

      • neonordnance says:

        You’re thinking of the original. Two Worlds II is, believe it or not, a solid RPG with some cool ideas and a large, semi-open world.

  2. Runty McTall says:

    “Fluffed lines are left in, with characters starting a sentence, messing it up, then restarting.”

    This is pretty astonishing!

    • Knightley4 says:

      I remember a similar situation with the russian localization of Dragon Age: Origins. God, it was hilariously terrible…

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      There’s a character in Oblivion who, after speaking a line, quietly mutters “wait, let me do that one again,” and repeats the line with a slightly different reading.

      • fish99 says:

        Really?

        I do remember some quests in Skyrim where a character would change accents from line to line (obviously recorded months apart), or dramatically change volume/quality, but thankfully such slips were very rare.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cooper says:

        • sinister agent says:

          NPCs flipping between accents and tone wasn’t even slightly rare.

          • fish99 says:

            I’ve played it through twice (all quests) and only noticed the switching accent thing probably five times, mostly with a few characters in thieves guild quests, but also sometimes with guards. I also noticed volume change a few times too. That’s not a lot for the huge amount of dialogue the game has.

          • Kemuel says:

            The beggars in Oblivion were the best. It was like they were all con-artists using their croaky old “spare a coin” voice on passers-by, then completely changing when you struck up proper conversation with them.

      • gwathdring says:

        Thing is, Oblivion had a couple of fourth-wall breaking jokes. There is an admittedly slight possibility that was left in knowingly; it’s one thing not to bother to spend money re-recording bad lines or to, while editing, miss a quiet mutter when you have TONS of dialog to go through. But it’s another thing not to trim out a line being read twice in a row.

        • sinister agent says:

          Voice acting is Bethesda’s dump stat.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            I used to have to take occasional breaks from whatever quest or exploration I was doing in Skyrim, just to travel back to the Thieves’ Guild and listen to Stephen Russell’s lines a few times. Makes everything better, without fail.

  3. Frosty Grin says:

    Big surprises.

    (Not really.)

  4. Frosty Grin says:

    Oh, and they actually wanted to make it Early Access – Valve didn’t let them.

  5. skalpadda says:

    I’m astonished these kinds of disasters not only get past a publisher but also don’t get insta-pulled off Steam. If it was just a bad game, fine, but this is clearly defective and no one in the production-> sale chain seems to give a flying toss.

  6. DarkFarmer says:

    Anybody else getting pop up alert windows requiring restart of Chrome when coming to RPS?

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Please could you email me with details of what you’re viewing the site on, what you’re seeing, and ideally a screenshot. Cheers.

      • teddancin says:

        Sort-of off topic, but mobile RPS on iOS has been sending me to the app store sporadically this week…but no title loads…if it happens again I’ll copy the send-away URL.

        • sinister agent says:

          Might not be the same thing, but someone mentioned this on twitter the other day, too. I think Jim might be looking into it already.

        • Premium User Badge

          John Walker says:

          We are looking into it, but the most helpful thing would be data. So if it happens, please email john@ or graham@ with as much detail as possible, especially where you were sent, and precisely what time it happened.

    • fish99 says:

      Not here. Do a malware scan (malwarebytes is pretty good) and see if it still happens.

    • Yernn says:

      Yes, this was happening to me a lot over the past week. Using both Chrome and Firefox when visiting RPS and Eurogamer, I’d get clickjacked and sent to page called softwareupdaterlp, or something like that. In Chrome, there was no way I could get out of there without force-quitting or hitting the acknowledgement pop-ups. Once this started happening, I scanned the hell out of my extensions and plug-ins. I didn’t find any signs of malware.

    • Behrditz says:

      yeah its a hijack script ad. When I brought it up before, my comments were removed.

  7. rondertaker says:

    sometimes a quality review of a garbage product really hits the spot.

  8. LarsBR says:

    “Characters piss mid-conversation.”

    Sounds realistic to me.

  9. zeekthegeek says:

    You know whats the worst

    This review makes me want to at very least watch somebody else play this. I’ve become a masochist.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      There’s a good chance I’ll video myself playing some more this week.

      • All is Well says:

        Please do! I’m imagining something along the lines of Alec’s Risen 3 Report, only with less busty sisters and more broken stuff.

        • sinister agent says:

          Agreed. This sounds like it could be ideal for a video, so we can all enjoy watching you suffer. This is the core of a good game video.

      • G_Man_007 says:

        I genuinely want to watch you play it from start to finish.

    • RedViv says:

      Please DO watch Jim Sterling play it. The maddening perspective nonsense alone is worth it.

      • lowprices says:

        I watched it yesterday, and the whole thing looks like somebody tried to remake Black Flag on a budget of £5. It’s abominable. Also of note; while he was sailing the ship in the default view it genuinely looked impossible to see what was in front of you.

    • vorador says:

      You made me remember a video-review of Big Rigs i saw, and how i laughed so much my stomach was hurting towards the end.

      I do want to watch a Let’s Play of this.

      • Nemon says:

        Wild guess; the GameSpot one where the reviewer ends up leaving the office?

    • Telkir says:

      Any RPS videos on this would no doubt be highly watchable – will look forward to some neck-snapping fun!

      I’d love to see BirgirPall break this game, too. Somehow it strikes me as right up their street…

    • Stevey says:

  10. All is Well says:

    Fluffed lines are left in, with characters starting a sentence, messing it up, then restarting

    Are there any captured examples of this? It sounds hilarious and even potentially worth some money. Just not £40.

  11. gschmidl says:

    Is it as uncomfortably rape-y as the shitty trailers?

  12. pastuh says:

    I can only write this:
    From now i never read again John Walker reviews.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I wish you could write a little bit more, to say why.

      • P7uen says:

        The last John Walker review I read said he had a nice beard but they resented paying for the new baby expansion pack: 7/10.

      • TomA says:

        You’ve got no chance mate, I saw him comment on another article “I can only write this:
        From now i never leave again constructive criticism.”

      • pastuh says:

        I dont know how to write.. (my english very bad)

        Looks like you got paid to write negative review.
        I read only: this bad, this horrible, totaly broken and so on..

        Why write review if game very bad?

        • jonfitt says:

          It’s amusing to read about how terrible it is, and it’s a strong warning to anyone tempted to waste money on this game.

        • Behrditz says:

          Because thats what a review is.

        • Immobile Piper says:

          It’s a pirate game. I’m very interested in pirate games. Without this review I might buy it and be disappointed. That would be bad.

    • Premium User Badge

      neffo says:

      From now i never read again John Walker reviews.

      He just messed up the punctuation. He wasn’t being negative.

      From now, i never read again. John Walker reviews!

  13. Rizlar says:

    That first video made the game look hilariously tongue-in-cheek. Then the other guy started talking and no… no, it’s just terrible.

  14. Nice Save says:

    This sounds like it might be in that “hilariously bad” category that can be worth playing for the amusement value, but never for £40. Maybe a quid.

    I remember playing SOLDNER and laughing hysterically until parts of my torso ached…

  15. thekelvingreen says:

    Characters piss mid-conversation.

    More of this sort of thing.

  16. BockoPower says:

    I really don’t get it why people are angry when games are released in such state (and will be fixed in max 1 year) while you know when all is fixed the game will be worth it but are totally okay when they play Early Access game that will be in Alpha for at least 2 years and nobody has an idea what the finished product will become.

    But screw logic, right?

    • sinister agent says:

      “Hi! Here’s some flour. You can try some now for a £1, which I’ll use to buy milk so I can make you a pancake.”
      “Thanks! Here’s £1.”

      “Hi! Here’s a pancake. That’ll be £5.”
      “Thanks! Hey wait, this is just flour!”
      “Oh but I’ll use it to buy milk so-”
      “Let me just stop you right there…”

    • patrickpeppers says:

      Because people aren’t paying for a future good game, they are paying for a currently good game. And what guarantee do customers have that the game is actually going to be fixed? Also, most Greenlight games aren’t £40.

      • BockoPower says:

        The “borders” between “paying for a future game” and “paying for the current game” are washed out with each day. I am sure if this game was released as an Early Access everyone would be happy because it’s a good looking game with nice story and okay combat. Everyone would say “Damn, this game is fantastic. It has many bugs but it’s still in beta and I know devs will fix them”. And after 1 year it could be finally released with most bugs fixed and everyone will be happy. Two Worlds series (from the same developer) were also pretty bugged at release but after lots of patches they became good.
        It just doesn’t make sense when people believe some new developer of a Early Access game who promises many updates but go full rage at an established company that releases a buggy game and promises to fix it. Except for the price difference of course.
        I know it’s good to fund creative people who have no money for their projects but this Early Access thing is getting out of hand and exploited as a big-titted whore on a pirate ship.

        • wu wei says:

          Wait, you’re defending this and criticising early access? I can’t even begin to fathom the mental gymnastics that would require.

        • All is Well says:

          See, I think you’re getting things wrong because you keep equating EA to a final release, even when you’re fully aware that EA games are in beta or even earlier stages. People wouldn’t complain about Raven’s Cry (as much) if it was EA, precisely because it would still be in beta. EA games are full of bugs, as is RC, but EA games aren’t advertised as being complete or finished, or even playable sometimes. RC is being sold as a finished game and a rather expensive one at that. Of course people will complain if it is as buggy, broken and unfinished as, well, an unfinished game.

          And your last remark is just… stupid. But sure, if you’re going to make a nonsensical argument, why not top it off with some casual sexism for no reason, right?

    • gwathdring says:

      If this game is fixed in “max 1 year” I’ll buy you 40 Pounds worth of pancakes. And then eat my hat.

      • tobecooper says:

        If this game is fixed in “max 1 year” we should all start pissing mid-conversation as a tribute.

      • BockoPower says:

        X-Rebirth was also quite a mess but now after 1 year it’s much much better as far as I know. And I am sure the bugs in Raven’s Cry won’t be 100% fixed but the major ones will be. On the other hand there are games like the Mouth & Blade series which after so many years still have major gamebreaking bugs but a lot of people love them.

    • Shuck says:

      “you know when all is fixed ”
      You mean if it’s fixed. There’s absolutely no guarantees. Plenty of games have gone entirely unpatched, and most are never completely fixed – especially when, apparently like this game, they have too many things wrong with them (especially especially if the problems also include poor design decisions). Even if a particular element does get fixed – If combat, for example, is broken, who knows what the unbroken combat would even be like? The “fixed” version isn’t necessarily good.

      • BockoPower says:

        Well, yes. I actually meant IF but for that price I think most bugs will be fixed.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Thanks. I’m heading off now to spend £40 based on your earnest assurances that one day, you’re really hopeful, the devs will magically turn an uncooked turkey into a sumptuous three course meal. I can’t really argue with that train of logic at all.

    • wu wei says:

      There are only three reasons I can think of to openly support such a broken game charging money (outside of a clearly marked development phase):

      1. Post-purchase rationalisation (aka buyer’s stockholm syndrome)
      2. You worked on the game
      3. A form of the snob effect

      None of which are a positive, nor are they “logical”.

  17. Muzman says:

    Hilarious.
    You know, it looks like it might be an alright game with some polish. Ok a lot of polish.

    When disasters like this come along I think game journos should go get the story, where possible.
    The tragic tale of the Moldovan development studio who won big on the strength of a good PoC to some publisher, only to discover they had bitten off more than they could chew. The bank collapses, the building turns out the be owned by the mafia. The publisher goes bust and sells up to THQ who promptly go bust themselves. The assets end up with Square Enix who didn’t read the fine print and thought they were buying a bunch of cheap office chairs and two dozen Bejweled clones. So they send in the Eidos heavies to assess the property (the team now squatting in a disused Soviet supply ship, listing slightly somewhere outside Odessa, with no rent as such except that “captain” Dimitri is kept in reasonably good meth and no one upsets the ferret)
    They heavies decide its a wash and they’ll get great bonuses if the aquisitions section comes in with the right amount clear on their budget next quarter. So they shut them down. All but the two original owners are left to ship whatever they have no later than February if they still want a career in this business.

    The dream, the passion, the highs and the lows of game development in the 21st century. Go get it RPS.

  18. toshiro says:

    A must buy!

  19. trooperwally says:

    So I enjoyed John’s review and thought youtube might have some fun videos of the kinda of rubbish John described. Youtube did not disappoint! This one’s a pretty ranty and the guy doing it is pretty creative when it comes to ways to describe how bad the game is:

    • Shazbut says:

      Thanks. That was entertaining

    • racccoon says:

      I did find that really funny the game looks that way too. really nicely created bar few points ,I think I give this game to be on par to this movie..
      link to youtube.com
      lol maybe not…but maybe that movie would make a great game!

  20. Stevostin says:

    “third-person RPG”

    … and that’s where I stopped reading. After trying my best playing Wasteland 2 for 80 hours I have to admit there is simply now way back from FNV / Skyrim : there are simply just FPV RPG and non relevant RPG. Well, for me that is.

  21. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Somehow heartening that in this age of early access and ever receding release dates, one studio had the balls to just push this pile of crap out the door and let it sit there steaming.

  22. Blizniak says:

    I wonder how many people in the games media are aware that they pushed an old beta build to Steam by accident.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      None, since the development team have said no such thing, and instead listed the things they’re currently trying to fix?

      link to steamcommunity.com

      You’d imagine they’d bring that up were it the case, wouldn’t you?

      • Blizniak says:

        Apparently they wouldn’t. It’s known among devs in Poland that personally know people from Reality Pump but officially it’s all hush hush.

    • Perkelnik says:

      Lol what? Unless they say that with big fat apology, it doesnt matter. What matters is in what state the game is being sold and apparently, it is not good.

  23. racccoon says:

    at least its released and it hasn’t gone through the crap of begging..
    It might have few niggles but it certainly looks kind of fun and funny to play.
    Some games don’t have to be perfect to play,
    they just have to be finished on their own merit.
    I can see this being in the bin of sin but its still looks kind of funny to play. lol

  24. guygodbois00 says:

    “…complete with broken sword fighting, broken ship boarding, broken conversations, broken interfaces, and broken spirits.” Sounds like they’re quite the fans of Mr Dylan’s.

  25. ffordesoon says:

    Saw Jim Sterling’s video of this, and was immediately like, “Well, this is ripe for a John Walker WIT, isn’t it?” And I was not disappointed.

    I will say, the game does appear to have a certain plucky charm. It’s obviously ghastly, of course, but likably so.

    That doesn’t mean it’s worth fifty dollars, of course. But I could see myself picking this up for five bucks in a Steam sale just for the giggles.

  26. mejoff says:

    Well, this is the game whose entire promotional schtick was a bunch of not-in-game rendered sequences of pirates singing extra sweary, extra rapey sea shanties to prove that it wasn’t like all those awful ‘family friendly’ pirate games. They’ve clearly known for some time that the game didn’t really have anything going for it.

  27. No Excuse says:

    So…… 6.5/10?

  28. Devilfish says:

    Damn. I’ve been aching for a pirate game like this ever since I lost months of my life on Sid Meier’s Pirates! Any recommendations for pirate games that… aren’t this? Or Assassin’s Creed?

    • mejoff says:

      Get hold of City of Abandoned Ships, then get the Gentlemen of Fortune supermod for it. There is no better piracy game than that combo.