In the sea of roguelites at our fingertips today, it’s pretty easy to get lost among the procedural tides. Luckily, Ravenbound seems to have found a unique and ambitious take on the genre with an open-world action-adventure that’s filled with clashing blades, incredibly nasty bosses, and, of course, birds – because if I can’t turn into a bird and back into a human at-will, what even is the point? The massive map filled with optional random encounters to tackle and loot to claim is a gimmick that helped break up some of the more familiar roguelite elements, like repeatedly confronting bosses and steadily unlocking upgrades after each attempt. After several hours running around the massive, Scandinavian fantasy-inspired world and getting myself killed with my unrelenting curiosity, I’m definitely interested in seeing more.

If you’re into roguelites, most of the notable elements are present and accounted for. I spent plenty of time rolling new characters, engaging in various upgrade systems to improve my stats in the short-term and long-term, and getting beaten down by enemies that were clearly beyond my current power level. But what sets it apart are the absolutely massive open-world hubs I explored as I made my way through the campaign. It’s a fresh twist that made it all feel unlike anything I’ve played before. If you’ve played any of the open-world games for which developer Avalanche is known, like Just Cause or Mad Max, then you might have a pretty good idea of how Ravenbound works as well: I was primarily roaming around an open-world fighting things and improving my character while causing as much mayhem as possible.

But beyond that, the developer throws out the usual formula in favor of design elements that supports its roguelite ambitions. Instead of completing quests and progressing through the story linearly, every chance encounter and discovery fueled my ultimate goal of defeating the absolutely nasty world boss that waited for me at the end of it all. To give you an idea, after conquering three mandatory combat encounters in the first area, I gained access to the area’s boss. Now, I could have decided to go straight from there to tackle the big bad, or I could continue to explore and improve my character further at the risk of getting in over my head and getting maimed before I ever got my shot at the boss. That game of risk/reward ended up being incredibly entertaining, and synergized well with the roguelite formula that had me retracing my steps and taking that gamble again and again. And it certainly helped that the open-world areas are beautiful, the dangerous enemies and creatures I encountered were compelling (and sometimes horrifying), and combat, though sometimes a little wonky and clearly in an unfinished state, was fast-paced and challenging enough to keep me engaged after numerous runs.

“That game of risk/reward ended up being incredibly entertaining, and synergized well with the roguelite formula…”


Ravenbound also tries some interesting stuff with the loot system, which is a card-based format that had me building a hand of cards that could be used to add certain bonuses and abilities to my character to modify how I played. One such card generated an additional health potion for me to consume after each combat encounter, while another let me turn into my bird form instantly, allowing for a quick escape for times where I got greedy and found myself in some serious trouble – I, uh, used that one a lot.

I only saw a small slice of Ravenbound’s massive hub worlds, but it’s already unlike anything I’ve seen before and could end up being a refreshing new take on an addictive formula I already know and love. I’ll certainly be watching this one closely as it develops.

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