I'm about to go to press, so to speak, and I'm still vacillating between my feelings about this game. My overall impression is indefinite -- I think this will be the case with many people who play Revenant. Which is not to say it's a middle-of-the-road, run-of-the-mill production. On the contrary, the game goes all out in many areas. The voice-actors, for instance, really act. Locke D'Averam, your hero, veritably yells his lines.
Of the new super-duper funky-dunky gamepad-based action interface I'm a huge fan. I hate to think you have to sacrifice the overall quality of the game (which, unfortunately, Revenant does) just because you allow players to control the characters with a gamepad. I know many intelligent people who use gamepads. I never saw why such seminal CRPGs as Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment couldn't allow the use of a gamepad for controlling what takes place onscreen. It's simply another (more convenient, laid-back) way of inputting information. Sure, a gamepad is a step further away from the pen-and-paper and text-based roots of the CRPG, but one step forward in terms of progress is usually going to be a step away from tradition anyway.
At any rate, as I mentioned, the overall quality of Revenant suffers seemingly from the theory behind what it means to use a gamepad. Within the first few minutes of play, after about when the priest in the first sequence dropkicks you and then puts you in some sort of figure-four, it becomes readily apparent that the RPG-intentions behind Revenant have dissolved into a sort of Kung Fu-meets-swords-and-sorcery action-adventure game. Which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But it's like pulling away from McDonald's and discovering you've gotten an extra burger instead of the McNuggets you were hoping for: they messed up your order. So it goes with Revenant. I found myself marveling over how sore my finger-muscles were from mashing the buttons during the larger fight sequences, and that's when I started to wonder why I cared more about winning battles than developing my character.
Which speaks indirectly to the single greatest flaw of this game: the dialogue system. I kept waiting for there to be a dialogue option that mattered. We take such things for granted. I mean, if you're going to have multiple dialogue options in a game, shouldn't there be some character-based motivations serving to make you selective in your choices? Revenant could definitely have taken a lesson from Baldur's Gate here. Through gritted teeth I tell you that the dialogue options in this game are a waste of time. The dialogue itself is not exactly a waste of time, as it does work well enough to move the story forward and shed vital information, but the fact that there are time-wasting options for selecting different paths of dialogue is what frustrated me the most. The reason for this is because it rarely ever mattered what dialogue options I chose; I simply had to click one option and then the next to get the full story. Though I would've appreciated some meaningful dialogue options to choose from, I would've been equally happy if the developers simply omitted the dialogue options altogether and had every NPC simply run through their scripted lines accordingly, in a bunch of dialogue cut-scenes, so to speak.
But really what Revenant delivers is a sort of CRPG-meets-console-game experience. Imagine Planescape: Torment mixed with Final Fantasy VII and you'll get the idea. All the processing power that PCs offer coupled with all the lack of meaningful character development that many "console-RPG" games offer.
You'll be dazzled by the graphics and 3D lighting effects, you'll appreciate the sound and you might even laugh at the actors' overemphasis of their lines (all dialogue options are recorded for playback), but you'll scoff at the childish story and you'll begin to wonder, like I did, why leveling up is more important than finding out who Locke D'Averam really is, or what Lord Tendrick's daughter has to do with Yhagoro's plot to take over the world.
Many details of the game are quite nice. Each piece of armor and each weapon is beautifully rendered and appears not only on the paper doll, but onscreen as well. Many of the backgrounds are sophisticated in design and include moving parts. The magic system is relatively unique, the item properties and their respective character enhancements are mostly original and the onscreen interface is easy enough to navigate. (The interface did have a few glitches or oversights -- a better map system, including a world map, was badly needed; some simple item properties, such as what the different potions did, could not be identified because the identify option was broken -- but I found it mostly intuitive and redundant enough that I could overlook these problems.) But then there are other details that are baffling and annoying: a number of characters throughout the game seem to serve no other purpose than to offer to join your party, but this option never gets to be realized. Also, the multi-player game falls short of what it could be, supporting an up-to-4-player deathmatch where a group-adventure format would have made more sense.
As far as game highpoints go, in addition to the graphics and the beautiful, trompe l'oeil cut-scenes, I was mostly pleased with the talisman-based magic system that Revenant offers. I liked that the spells, such as Quicksand and Nourish, were mostly original, and that Locke could learn them based on his skill level and from experimenting with the different talisman combinations, and I liked that the spells could be accessed through the gamepad. I think the idea of mana as spell energy is a little tired, but I liked that Locke replenished himself differently, either in terms of health, or mana, or both, based on what foods (as well as potions) he consumed.
Ultimately, though, Revenant falls far short of what it could be. Despite the Hollywood-quality effects, the game suffers from a lack of meaningful story or character development. The rush to publication shows through at the seams, and the game smells of port-to-console accessibility.
Graphics: Eye-poppers, right and left. Motion-captured animation for the monsters, including the wonderfully acrobatic Druhg; cut-scenes you'll mistake as video; bright colors without burning holes through your irises; different-colored armor and weapons, all of which show up on your character, onscreen. Console-game cartoonishness aside, this is how CRPG graphics should be done.
Sound: Except when a bug caused my No Music option to be ignored, I found the sounds in the game to be a nice accompaniment to the gameplay. The music was of a twangy Medieval nature, and there were oodles of effects-changes for everything from the different sounds of footfalls (based on terrain), to the sounds of combat. Also, I was impressed that there was a recorded reading of every dialogue option by every character, and that the voice-acting was highly pronounced, if a little goofy at times.
Enjoyment: The game is all glitz and no guts. The story and the writing are childish to the point of being boring. The dialogue in this game just makes me so mad, mm! Who cares about the main character? In a nutshell: a waste of superb game mechanics and innovation on a story without heart or soul.
Replay Value: Paradoxically, the actual parts, or chapters, of the game seemed too long (endless winding caves, seemingly borderless wilderness), but the game as a whole seemed too short, so what you end up with is a tedium of which you'll quickly have your fill and not want to be going back for more of anytime soon. Not to mention the fact that there is no "Choose Your Own" to this "Adventure." The fact that there are dialogue options at all is annoying, because mostly all the dialogue is necessary, and few of the options have any bearing on your character's development.
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