Ravenmarch: Empire in Flames

Ravenmarch: Empire in Flames is the latest game from Kabam. Like most of Kabam’s catalog, Ravenmarch is a strategy browser game that’s free-to-play and massively multiplayer. The game has an extremely simple premise — in the medieval age, it’s your task to use your wits and might to unite the Empire under a single banner.

Review:

The game starts with you selecting your name and your avatar. You’ve got four options for the latter, two males and two females. Very early on, you’ll align yourself with one of the three factions: Empire, Kingdom, or Leagues. A small bundle of premium currency is offered to entice players to join the least populated of the three. The faction you choose will affect the story and plays a part in PvP, but the game plays the same regardless of your choice.

The bulk of your time with Ravenmarch will be spent two ways: building up your main city and waging war on the opposing factions. Your city has tons of plots for buildings, which you construct and upgrade to bring in resources and recruit troops at faster rates. Timber, Food, Iron, and Gold are all critical resources. Mostly, you’ll put them right back into city upgrades so you earn resources even faster. Gold is useful for buying better gear for your Generals.

You’ll gain your first General early in the story. After that, your Generals will lead your troops into battle instead of your own avatar. You’ll automatically appoint more Generals as the story progresses, and your army will grow larger with each General you add to your ranks. Combat consists of rows of your own troops facing rows of enemy troops, one row at a time. The opposing front rows will attack each other until one falls, causing that army to advance. Victory goes to the army that completely eliminates the other.

I’m sorry to report that the combat falls totally flat. I consider automated combat to be a huge problem with modern free-to-play games, so I’m always invigorated when a game like Ravenmarch actually asks for my input on the battlefield. The official site claims Ravenmarch features “strategic warfare” and the use of “tactics to secure victory”, but these claims are practically a joke. The game uses a rock-paper-scissors system where each front line chooses a battle tactic (Assault, Attack, or Defense) and the game provides bonuses to the side with the advantage. A line of warriors will stick to the chosen tactic until they are defeated, at which point you can choose the tactic for the next line of warriors. The problem is, you can always see which tactic your opponent is going to use, so for all intents and purposes, it’s not even a decision — you simply pick the tactic that gives you the advantage.

Every “decision” in Ravenmarch is just as much of a non-decision. Which sword do you give your General? Gee, maybe the one that gives her the biggest stat boost. Which Generals do you send into battle? Hm, probably the ones with the best stats. What should you throw if your opponent is throwing rock? Paper, every time. I’ll concede that Ravenmarch tried to give players some influence over battle, but it’s totally meaningless! I would honestly prefer if the combat was automated, so I wouldn’t have to make a completely obvious decision every few seconds in combat. Most importantly: combat isn’t fun.

The city-building and war-fighting are linked primarily by your troop recruitment rate. When all of a general’s troops are defeated in combat, you have to wait for new troops to be recruited before that general is ready to return to the battlefield. Upgrading the Barracks area of your city increases the recruitment rate. The city-building is pretty dull too. You’ve got a handful of workers to assign to certain buildings, and then they’ll take up resources and real time to finish erecting or upgrading those buildings. Running out of Timber too fast? Upgrade the buildings in the the woodlands. It’s sort of the same story as the combat — the decisions are completely obvious and unsatisfactory.

Ravenmarch is monetized through premium currency and a VIP system. Premium currency does just what you’d expect it to do; things like bypassing timers and boosting your production rates. The VIP system is interesting, with each new level of VIP providing access to special features and daily rewards of consumable goods. The first level of VIP gives you auto-upgrading, which automatically selects which buildings to upgrade next and starts those upgrades when your have available workers.

Players with mountains of premium currency and high VIP levels will inevitably become the most powerful players. This makes the multiplayer a pay-to-win mess. It doesn’t matter how strategic or dedicated of a player you are, when you hit PvP, dollars are worth way more than brains and hours.

Ravenmarch is simply not good and I cannot recommend it. In fact, I urge you to avoid it. Perhaps I’m being unfairly harsh, but I can’t even find a redeeming quality. The story is boring. The art and music aren’t bad, but they’re nowhere near the point where I’d say “put up with the gameplay just because of how gorgeous it looks/sounds”. It’s not fun to play at all. If somebody insisted that Ravenmarch was worth any of my time, I’d urge them to point out one decision you make in the game that is meaningful. One decision where you have to actually stop and think about what you’re doing for a second. Just one. Until then, I fail to see why Ravenmarch is any more of a game than a Facebook farming simulator.

MMORPG, MMO, Online Games for free

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