Post-Apocalyptic Online Slaughter! — Ravaged Review

Ravaged is just the latest example of a considerable Kickstarter success, having pulled a final total of $38,767 with an initial $15,000 goal. I’m convinced they had that success because they were offering up something that’s surprisingly hard to find on the PC lately:  a solid online FPS game with an emphasis not just on team coordination, but also gloriously huge maps. Maps so big that vehicles become more than just a convenience, but something closer to a necessity. I discussed some of this in my preview of Ravaged, but with the game now out and available on Steam the question remains: is this game worth the price tag? Hell, is it FUN? Good questions both – and the answers are inside.

Let’s get the story of Ravaged out of the way: there’s not much to it. Some kind of apocalypse took place, there’s now two warring factions that can basically be divided between ‘guys who wear shirts’ and ‘guys who largely do not’ – and now they’re fighting. Everything is desolate looking, as a good post-apocalyptic setting should be. Ravaged doesn’t have a singleplayer campaign, and the multiplayer maps are strictly team v team rather than co-operative, so a story would have been superfluous for the most part anyway – no points against them there.

As far as content goes, Ravaged officially boasts 8 maps, 10 classes, 28 weapons, and 10 vehicles. Now, I say “officially” for a reason: for instance, while the site says 10 vehicles, apparently only 7 are in the game right now with at least one more marked as “coming soon”. While there are 10 classes, each with their own skins, their general role and weapons loadout really makes it seem like 5 classes, with a different skin depending on the side you’re playing. The weapons seem to be in a similar situation here – if there’s a difference between the shotgun one side gets, and the sawed off shotgun the other side gets, I just haven’t noticed it. Still, each of the classes starts out with different weapons that handle differently from the alternatives, and five is a respectable number. The weapons are reasonably diverse, including melee weapons, pistols, automatic rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and grenades. Most of the typical FPS weapons are represented here.[singlepic id=9356 w=320 h=240 float=right]

And then we have the maps. Oh, man, the maps. Easily the best part of Ravaged, and in general I have to give 2Dawn high marks for this. See, I’m a sucker for big, huge maps. It seems like most competitive online FPS games nowadays are all about these horrendously claustrophobic maps, where ‘across the street’ is about as much distance as you can typically expect to get for a clear shot, and if you’re lucky the whole gameplay comprises a city block’s worth of distance. In Ravaged, the emphasis is more on these big, huge, sprawling maps with tons of ground to cover, lots of great hiding places to sniper or rocket-snipe from, multiple ways to get at any given point of interest… it’s just glorious. Pretty too! Despite all the maps I played on having either an arctic or a wasteland desert theme going on, these felt like truly lovely environments. Well, as lovely as you can get after the apocalypse anyway. Great, great feel.

Not every map has vehicles available, but of the ones that do, driving or hitching a ride on them is a near necessity. The problem is, even when I was getting a pretty good sub-100 ping, the reaction time on these vehicles felt a little sluggish. Maybe it’s because all my gaming time lately has been spent playing Borderlands 2 as the host, so an instant reaction to my button pressing is something I’ve gotten used to, but for whatever reason the result was the same for me: there’s a noticeable delay from key press to vehicle control, and that bothers me. That said, once I got used to it, the vehicles were serviceable enough. These machines range from single player quads/trikes to large options that have room for passengers or even a gunner, to helicopters. A word of advice on the copters: they’re the sort that actually take practice and skill to pilot. I don’t have this, so my experience with them amounted entirely to ‘killing myself in ten seconds’, repeatedly. With the other vehicles, I had more success – mostly in terms of smearing opponents under my wheels, or quickly switching from driver to gunner (it’s as easy as pressing the number of the gunner position, unless you’ve got a teammate in there) to lay down some fire at targets. As mentioned earlier, not every planned vehicle is currently available – the Dump Truck in particular looks promising, and should be interesting to try out when it’s eventually released.[singlepic id=9357 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Ravaged has two game play modes: Thrust, and Resource Control. Resource control plays like a variation on Capture the Flag, where the goal is to steal supplies from the enemy camp and bring them back to your own camp. You can also capture other bases out on the map, allowing you to spawn closer to the enemy side (or allowing them to spawn closer to you), making fresh attempts on their supplies that much easier. Thrust, meanwhile, is a kind of capture-and-hold style game, and seems less popular on the servers right now – the goal is to capture and hold all bases on the map, then either kill all remaining enemies or simply hold all the bases for a minute in order to win. This is different from the Domination game modes you may be familiar with: as near as I could tell, points don’t accrue while you hold these territories. You must capture every base in order to win, and this can have the potential to turn these into long, long matches, at least against tenacious opponents.

In addition to this content, Ravaged comes with a few nice features. For one, there’s an online leaderboard to consult – with the top spot currently (and unsurprisingly) being occupied by one of 2Dawn’s own employees, I believe. The game also emphasizes its teamplay aspect with the ability to form squads, allowing you to more easily see your squadmates on the map or even spawn on them during gameplay. While this is convenient, I admit it felt somewhat out of place to me. Maybe it’s because, unless I missed something, Ravaged doesn’t offer a way to ‘spot’ enemies and mark them on the map for other teammates to see – the two features seem to me like they go together in a big way, and only having the spawn-on-squadmate ability seems a  bit irritating, at least if you’re going up against a coordinated team.[singlepic id=9358 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Now, I had a lot of fun playing Ravaged. The different classes and weapons seemed a bit bland compared to other games – there’s no serious Call of Duty style customization available, or the extreme differences between classes you see in a game like Team Fortress 2, but it’s easy for me to see someone growing accustomed to this or that particular class. There’s a real thrill which comes from figuring out the best way to approach a given target on a map, trying to sneak around from the least suspected angle and unload a double-barreled shotgun into a target, or hop into the gunner position of a vehicle and just light up every opponent you could see. Focusing on a particular class is also enjoyable – for me it was the aforementioned double-barreled shotgun secondary which I really fell in love with and kept going back to over and over. Anyone who’s a fan of both competitive play and big map action would probably do well to give Ravaged a look.

That’s not to say Ravaged doesn’t have some downsides. As I mentioned, the responsiveness of the vehicles just rubbed me the wrong way – even if you can only do so much with online delays, I can’t help but feel other games pull this off better. The announcer’s voice ended up annoying me – he’s on the repetitive side, and I heard “get those mangy bastards” one time too many. I got stuck on the map a couple times while playing, usually in out of the way nooks and areas, but in a competitive game having that happen at the wrong time could be severely irritating. Really, though, these complaints are relatively minor with what is an otherwise solid game.[singlepic id=9359 w=320 h=240 float=left]

If I have any major reservations about Ravaged, it’s with regards to the price. 25 bucks is a lot to ask for for an online-only game, especially one from a small Kickstarter-assisted developer. If the community doesn’t really take off for Ravaged, well… that’s 25 bucks down the toilet. While you can shave off some of that price with a 4 pack purchase, it’s still something to keep in mind. On the flipside, 2Dawn is confident enough in their game that they’ve launched it with a demo available – available at the just-linked site – which really says something positive about their commitment to this game.

Do you like competitive multiplayer games with an emphasis on giant maps, team play, and vehicles? Then grab the demo. Tell your friends to grab it too. It definitely warrants a look, and if the community grows and stays active this can easily be a game to go back to again and again to get your online FPS slaughter fix.

Victor Grunn has been a gamer since the days of single-button joysticks and the Atari 800XL. When not lamenting the loss of the Ultima series or setting people on fire in Team Fortress 2, he's an aspiring indie game developer and freelance writer.

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