Alice in Wonderland is an everlasting story that has inspired every artistic medium. Film, television, illustration, and even video games have put their spin on Lewis Carroll’s work. When Cococucumber revealed Ravenlok, I wanted to see what new twists and flavors they could add to a legendary story. Will Ravenlok be filled with wonder, or will this adventure fall flat? Let’s dive in.
You begin your journey as a young girl who moved into the peaceful countryside with her parents. While helping with chores, she stumbles upon a mysterious mirror that transports her to a magical kingdom with a beautiful pixel art visual style. Finn, a talking rabbit, exposits and reveals our player is “Ravenlok,” the prophesied hero who will save the kingdom from the evil Caterpillar Queen and her corruption. Our protagonist casually agrees since she has Raven-colored hair and loves adventure, thus beginning our story.
The narrative of Ravenlok possesses core ingredients to make an incredible experience, yet is shallow in depth. The themes of freedom and corruption carry the arc, but character depth is sorely lacking. For example, the Caterpillar Queen is evil because she is evil, our hero has to overcome no internal obstacles, and the friends made along the way go through little to no character change. It’s a shame, as further development of the world and its inhabitants would have sent Ravenlok to magical heights.
The magical kingdom is divided into three uniquely themed areas and each one presents different quests you’ll need to complete before confronting the queen. Graphically, each area is artistically fantastic. The pixelart style mixes perfectly with the magical theme Ravenlok strives for. The NPCs you engage in dialogue with aren’t deeply developed narrative wise and serve the sole purpose of hinting how to progress quest steps.
The quest system is one of Ravenlok’s shining stars, as the location-specific items and tasks necessary to progress aren’t directly stated. The system is based on player exploration and remembering certain dialogues from varying NPCs for clues and hints. Each quest feels purposeful to the main objective, whereas other games present side quests as unimportant chores for items and trophies.
My statements on the narrative experience carry over to the gameplay. There are things Ravenlok does well, yet the lack of depth holds the game back. Ravenlok is armed with a sword and shield alongside four special abilities you acquire throughout the game. The special abilities are on a cooldown, but your sword attack happens as fast and often as you press the button. The shield can block partial incoming damage at the cost of stamina, but it’s an irrelevant mechanic as you have a dash available infinitely with no cooldown.
You encounter many enemies in Ravenlok, and players can stun-lock them all (except for bosses) by simply spamming the sword attack. Engagements become monotonous quickly. The foundation for an engaging system exists with the sword attacks and magical ability synergy, but with the shield being impractical and the infinite dashing simply being the better option, balance issues occur.
There are consumables and throwables items in Ravenlok, but they are limited to health potions and bombs. These are purchasable from an item shop via coins and are inexpensive for the benefits they provide. You acquire coins from breaking pots littered throughout each area similar to The Legend of Zelda. However, the economy doesn’t work well, because you can fast travel back and forth to an area and farm coins. I never worried about running low on items which made boss fights trivial.
Overall, Ravenlok is a fun break from the saturated AAA open-world landscape we live in today. I spent around eight hours in Ravenlok, and it is what I would call a “weekend title”: a game that players can finish quickly or one for individuals who don’t have a lot of time available. Ravenlok isn’t meant to be an expensive or overly long game. The game’s shortcomings aside, I enjoyed exploring and navigating throughout the kingdom. It’s available via Xbox GamePass, an excellent place for it to call home.
Noah is the resident weeb who spends most of his time gaming and watching anime. His goal is to expand his skills while meeting new people. You have probably seen him feeding the other team kills in Overwatch Comp or speculating Star Wars and One Piece. Follow him on twitter @RigsbyNoah.
Ravenlok possesses the blueprint for a fantastic series inspired by novels and fairy tales. If Cococucumber expands on the narrative experience and strengthens the combat system in their next outing, wonderful adventures await.