Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review: Ravaged (PC)


Not knowing the story behind how Ravaged was developed might have been for the best.

Part passion project, part Kickstarter success story -- 2 Dawn Games got more than double their $15K goal -- Ravaged is a pure multiplayer shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world. There's no single-player option, not even a tutorial, to provide the basics. While anyone with exposure to the Battlefield or Team Fortress games should have little problem adapting to the action, all players will have to learn while they play.

This was made apparent the first time a helicopter was piloted. Taking off like a drunk grasshopper, the vehicle tipped to the left and careened into the ground at full speed. Four or five attempts later, the craft held itself in the air. Wobbling. It's possible to become proficient at the aircraft as evidenced by the kind of kill streaks some players can rack up with them but I'm not sure I possess that level of patience.

Learning extends to the ground-based vehicles, which handle quite differently than other first-person multiplayer vehicles.

Because the maps are relatively large, taking vehicle transport is a necessity, a basic hands-on tutorial might have addressed the "adjustment" issues with vehicle control.

The maps themselves are creatively put together. Most stages are evocative of id Software's Rage or the defunct MMO Auto Assault, which feels rote, but a couple of the maps -- a frozen Paris and a obliterated New York harbour -- are creatively put together. Taking cover inside the torso of the toppled Statue of Liberty during a vehicular fire fight has yet to get old! On all the maps there are plenty of choke points and sniper hidey holes to make use of whichever match type is being played but, really, they're just nice to look at.

Yes, there are eight maps and two different match types: Thrust (control a base on the map) and Capture the Resource (read: Capture the Flag).

That simplicity, that Spartan sensibility extends to the five character classes, which are barely distinguished by a handful of unique weapons. The sniper has a hunting rifle, a handgun, a throwable explosive, and a melee weapon. The engineer has a couple of high-powered anti-vehicle weapons, a throwable explosive and a melee weapon. And so on. There's the barest ability to modify the loadout for a class and zero allowance to unlock new weapons, like land mines, or earn upgrades for existing weapons to make them more effective.

Now, if I'd know before going into the game some of the history of how the game was created, it's possible my strong reaction (mostly negative) would have been muted. Knowing it now only acts as some kind of explanation. It's a small indie team working inside a tight budget. I have no doubt that 2 Dawn Games will do something about adding features like weapon upgrades -- they've already done work to add a "Quick Match" option, dedicated servers, and make the game more stable -- to keep players interested and coming back, especially in the face of a game like Team Fortress 2 being completely free.

Ravaged has a demo available that features the "Liberty" map (Thrust mode) and "Canyon" (Capture the Resource mode). Highlighting the "Liberty" map was a good choice because it's probably the most interesting multiplayer shooter arena this year. There's no harm in giving it a whirl for yourself, but I'll be monitoring the update progress before I pump more hours into Ravaged for a zero sum gain when it comes to upgrades and leveling-up.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Almost all of the maps are very creative
- Anyone with previous shooter experience can jump right in
- Can be a lot of fun with 20+ players running around

The Bad:
- Vehicle controls, especially helicopters, can present a challenge
- Bare bones character class variation
- No weapon upgrades or unlocks
- Many times you will have no clue who killed you
- Low number of overall players
- Vehicles can often become snagged on the environment

Score: 6.0 / 10