In case you haven't noticed, we've really been awaiting the release of Crescent Moon Games' follow-up to their 2009 open-world RPG Ravensword [$2.99] (and so have you, if our anticipated games list is any indication). After years of waiting, including the launch of a new label as well as another excellent RPG, Ravensword: Shadowlands [$6.99] is finally here. Just as the original Ravensword made its mark for bringing a sought-after genre to iOS, Shadowlands demonstrates just how far the genre has come on the platform, making it one of the most ambitious and enjoyable RPGs of the year.

After a magical gambit in the war against the dark elves goes awry, you wake up at a local guild in the city of Aven, wondering how you got there and why you managed to survive. After a few initial quests, you end up at the door of the Archmage, keeper of magical lore and mastermind of the magical spell that nearly killed you. Upon learning of a deeper threat, the Archmage sends you on a quest to recover three Ravenstones, powerful artifacts that will allow you to enter into the Shadowlands and destroy a demon bent on destroying the entire world. In terms of narrative, Ravensword: Shadowlands weaves a tale appropriate for the grandiose scale of the game. While it probably won't be winning any awards for originality, I was satisfied with the game's lore which was apparent in the quests, characters, and books.

Meanwhile, the game's open-world gameplay is everything we've come to expect from Crescent Moon Games, and then some. From the moment you customize your player at the onset (which, by the way, offers a pretty decent editor) you're free to play the game however you wish. Shadowlands employs an ability system similar to Elder Scrolls: Oblivion in the sense that you gain skills by performing actions. Meanwhile, killing baddies also earns general experience that work towards leveling up, with each level-up giving you points to spend on your attributes and talents.

While the talent system lends itself to some specialization (seeing as how talent points eventually get rare), I'm a big fan of the fact that Shadowlands allows you to improve on any aspect of the game that you want to work on. Whether you want to be a melee fighter, magic user, or stealth ranged damage dealer (or all of the above!), Shadowlands provides viable paths for each style, which is more than I can say for other titles. In addition, I had no issue with the game's controls, which offered simple movement and battle controls with a few necessary extras such as auto-run and a quick-bar.

Complementing the character specialization is a wide array of weapons, armor, stat-enhancing jewelry, and spells available for use. Weapon types all play slightly differently, while the armor is geared towards a balance between raw defense and weight. Ravensword: Shadowlands even offers players the ability to purchase and furnish houses, although the system for doing so is a bit rough around the edges.

While it's certainly possible to power through the main quests and complete the story relatively quickly, I wouldn't recommend it. Explore your surroundings and you'll find hidden caches of chests, random caves filled with enemies and treasures, and locales looking to hire a hero for a quest. A lot of open-world games suffer from having a grandiose world but nothing to do in it. Shadowlands doesn't suffer from that issue, instead featuring a world that not only encourages exploration, but rewards players for doing so.

Another reason you're going to want to explore the world of Shadowlands is the simple fact that everything looks amazing. Crescent Moon continues the trend started with Aralon of open-world games that not only play great, but also look beautiful. This is one of the few iOS games I've played where I've actually stopped and just marveled at the world surrounding me. Playing this game on an iPhone 5, I was also amazed not just with the level of detail and viewing distance, but also with the fact that the game ran at a smooth framerate with little slowdown.

While there's a lot to love in Shadowlands, one perpetual complaint lies with the game's tendency towards bugs and graphical glitches. Occasionally you'll take out an enemy that doesn't seem to adhere to physics and fall to the ground. I've also had a few occasions where certain graphics in an environment are replaced with other assets, leading to strange situations like a giant glowing piece of armor floating in the sky.

In addition, I encountered a few instances where I'd receive a side mission and have it marked as completed before I even knew what I was doing. Conversely, you might complete a quest but the game will still think you're working on it (even after turning it in). I also had a situation where I stumbled into a cave where all the enemies were immune to arrows (no idea why). While all these issues are certainly annoying, they'd hardly be considered game-breaking, and will likely be ironed out in future updates.

It sounds cliched, but it's hard to believe I'm playing a game of this caliber on iOS. All too often we see games that sacrifice gameplay depth for visuals or vice versa. Other than a few minor glitches, Ravensword: Shadowlands is the real deal, and is an excellent open-world RPG with a decent story, ample content, deep character customization and beautiful visuals. Not only is Crescent Moon Games' latest offering a perfect example of how far we've come in terms of iOS gaming, I'm also excited to see what can be done in the future.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • http://twitter.com/__ReJ__ Renaldas Zioma

    And if you wonder what engine Ravensword: Shadowlands is using, that's Unity.

    • http://siifour.blogspot.com/ Ryan Huggins

      You actually answered one of my core questions. Unity is such a good engine. I really need to learn to make 3D stuff. Games like this make me love 3D even when a lot of AAA games make me hate it all the same. Haha

  • Illuminerdy

    I don't care one iota that this is an Elder Scrolls-like experience on iOS. If the gameplay is rough, the game is rough. If the the story sucks, the story sucks (most game stories do). This comparative gaming criticism won't cut it. There was so substance in this article. Skill trees, sure, but how do they branch? Housing system is rough? How? Why? Please specify. What sets this game apart? Again, no one should care that it's open world on iOS.

    • Illuminerdy

      The writing in Aralon was so bad. It was like ripped out of some dude's speckled Mead composition book.

    • The_Unflattered

      "No one should care that's it's an open-world RPG"? Why? Explain yourself. You have a lot of ideas about what other people should and should not enjoy, or otherwise care about.... but you're not giving us a very good argument for why anyone should give two s**ts about your opinions.

      Sit down, kid.

      • MidianGTX

        You realise you're arguing exactly the same point he is, right? There's not much substance to this review and that's what he's asking for. The fact it's open world means absolutely nothing and the game shouldn't be scored based on that alone. If all that matters is "something has been done on iPhone" then presumably you're happy with short, boring, buggy games with badly implemented mechanics and awful controls... but that's okay! Because it's on iOS!

      • The_Unflattered

        I'm not taking exception to his argument, but to the assumed assertion (that you're also suggesting), that "the fact that it's open-world means nothing". I disagree! That alone IS an accomplishment, for this OS! "Boring" is totally subjective. I enjoyed "Endless Ocean" for the Wii very much, but I'm sure many here would be bored to tears with that game! For me, ALL 2-D fighters are boring as $%#@, yet some live and breathe for them. I love moving through an open world, especially when it's beautiful (like this game is). If that bores you, too bad!! But to make statements like "XYZ means nothing", or "No one should care that it's XYZ" is just an annoying exhibition of self-important delusion.

      • Illuminerdy

        Yawn. I already clarified later. Nobody will get their panties in a wad. if an open world game is released for 3DS or Vita. Your phone is powerful enough to run an open world game. Congrats? Is it any good? As far as my opinion being a self-aggrandizement of some sort, well, I am sorry it made you have bad feelings. Nobody me more than me, so it makes having an opinion easy. Doesn't seem like everyone disagrees with me though.

      • Illuminerdy

        *hates me more than me

    • araczynski

      open world is THE one thing i care about. tired of running down scripted corridors.

    • http://RolePlayFTW.com Huy Ngo

      Aralon got rave reviews and I had purchased it solely on the reviews. I was sorely disappointed. Sure you get the open world experience, but it's severely limited by the barebones story, dialog, and bugs. I assume this release is tainted by much of the same, some people may enjoy it, but gamers used to a level of quality on consoles and PC, I'd warn to stay away from releases like this.

      • Lichkingmatt

        The new ravensword has no bugs in it it's the clean of bugs that but the game uses a lot of ram and processing speed at least 512 ram when playing and 35 % processor so if you it crashes you ipad or iPod or iPhone when going to northern aven because of the size of the city it has to load and process once close of all apps in back ground you run with out crashing

    • Lichkingmatt

      Am you have the game get it and you soon see hi I every play anything like this on a device like this. Just try it and you see it nothing like you ever play on and mobile os before

  • pauldavidmerritt

    Please stop making ridiculous generalization like, "iOS open wold games are no big deal." Yes, it's a huge idea, and a great feat accomplished. Quit bashing things like that.

    ANYWAY--
    Okay, about the controls: this review mentioned there were no problems, but there are some shortcomings with the controls. It uses some type of 'mouse acceleration' parameters. Hence, it is difficult to be accurate when looting items off of a table, for example. Also, when reaching for a book I found on a dresser, I could put my curser on it! The controls should be situated to 'walk' when moving the virtual movement pad just slightly. Changing into 'hidden' mode is not a good fix for this, even though it will slow your movement down. Other than the 'iffy' controls, the game is more than playable--it's fantastically fun!!

    • pauldavidmerritt

      And, yes--it follows in the tradition of Oblivion. I appreciate that type of work on a mobile game. It's not as fully fledged as The Elder Scrolls, but R.S. does a great job with what is capable on iPhone. I put my hands together and clap!

      • Illuminerdy

        The hardware allows for open world. The technical feat is largely the machine itself. This is why these observations are shallow and don't have much to do with the gameplay at all. I commend them for writing efficient code to sustain an open world game on iOS, but what is the quality? If the lore and gameplay are rough, the whole experience is rough.

      • pauldavidmerritt

        I agree, gameplay [is what it is]. Overall, I believe this game is worthy to get attention. I'm very anxious to how the game will play, and the experience to be had, after they work out possible bugs/glitches and add any gameplay mechanics improvements.

      • DeInit

        The technical feat is not largely the machine itself, let's not be ridiculous. I can give you a Formula 1 car fully set up and fueled but if you can't drive you are not going to make it past the first curve. The developers being able to harness what the machine offers is as large and perhaps larger a feat than the machine itself.

      • Illuminerdy

        A decent point. I did say congrats for writing efficient code, but it the platform still pales in comparison to the importance of the game's core mechanics and story.

    • Illuminerdy

      Thank you for a very thoughtful evaluation of the controls. You did a better job than this review.

  • Psac42

    Buying now. Games like this need to be supported. Even if it isn't perfect, if the business model for premium iOS games can't be viable, things will get much worse.

    • themostunclean

      Yeah and I love how the people who will bitch about IAP being shoved down their throats are the same who refuse to buy a premium priced game until it's on sale or free. They don't care about supporting well made, full game experiences, they're just cheap a-holes.

      Games like this are a day one purchase to support a brighter, IAP free, iOS gaming future. Like you said, even if they aren't perfect.

  • pauldavidmerritt

    I ran into this on Aralon as well: I don't like the 'waiting time' you have after you kill an enemy, before it's un-living body can be looted for items. It always puts too much of a halt to your exploration and fighting sequences. It becomes a slight experience-breaker when you're moving from one town to the next, picking off measley enemies, scrounging for loot to pick up.

    I'd like this to be improved in an update :)

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    How does this run on older devices? Run it on an iPhone 5 Superphone at modest resolution and of course it will run well.

    • http://twitter.com/PrayForDeath Pray For Death

      nvm

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        I use an iPod Touch 4 - the iPhone 5 is three hardware generations ahead. Yes, it's a Superphone.

    • themostunclean

      Your device is currently not supported for this game (if you haven't already learned that). Read the developer description on the App Store, don't go by the Apple list of supported devices. Minimum hardware needed is iPhone 4S or iPad 2.

      The iPad 2 is several generations behind by now but still relevant because of the Mini (same device, smaller screen).

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        Thanks - I have an iPad 3, but the iPhone 5 is like 2x faster still. :)

      • Lichkingmatt

        You wrong I have and ipad 2 4 gen it the fastest ipad 2 there is apple change there hardware in the ipad2 3 times but still keep the name ipad 2 it has more ram and a 1 ghz processor. There are ipad 2-1 ipad2-2 ipad2-3 and the one I have ipad2-4 even ipad 3 has and ipad-1 and ipad3-2

      • Celz

        works fine on my iPhone 4

  • Gamer_Kev

    I've played a couple of hours of it on my iPod Touch and it's been very fun so far. The graphics are very impressive, among the best I've seen in an RPG for iOS. The game is a huge step up from the first one which I was impressed with at the time of it's release.

    • Lichkingmatt

      Am so sorry that this game didn't get game of the year and so much people not reading the game before buying the devices it will run great on and then when it crashes there give and bad review and say the game crashes but its there device that can't run it. This game has all the quest working no bugs I finish the game and did all the quest it great code the game makers done i hope they keep it up

  • Georald Camposano

    Am I the only one with issues on the placement of the camera movement virtual stick? Its placed way too high (above the other buttons on the right like the jump button) and it makes playing on an ipad rather uncomfortable since my right hand has to be positioned higher than my left hand

  • ipad_game

    Hope it doesn't lag on ipad 3...

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

      Plays really well on my ipad 3 but there is also a graphical slider in the options if for any reason you have issues on yours.

    • http://www.facebook.com/JonDavidMorris Jonathan Morris

      I am seriously loving this game. Merry Xmas to us!

      No lag experienced here on ipad 3. Just the occasional glitches noted above. I've been playing for about 3 hours now and not once have I experienced any serious issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-D-Dunn/679068624 James D. Dunn

    I'm about an hour into it and I really like it. I had one glitch which exiting out and going back to the game fixed (A floating axe in mid air). So far, story seems decent. Better than Aralon anyway. I gotta say it is worth the 7 bucks. Less than a movie and more entertaining then most of the stuff we have to pick from in the theaters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

    This game is awesome, and should be in every iOS rpg'ers collection.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicolas.grignon Nicolas Grignon

    What about the spawning? Aralon was so tedious and frustrating on that aspect...

    • pauldavidmerritt

      I agree. If the enemy spawning was slowed down a bit, it wouldn't be so tedious. To answer the question: Yes. As far as I can tell, it's built very similar to Aralon. Enemies spawn abundantly quick. It seems they took a large heap of mechanics and game-isms from Aralon--both positive and negative.

      • http://www.facebook.com/nicolas.grignon Nicolas Grignon

        Damm, I think I will pass on this one... as beautiful it is I just can't fight again same enemys just because I want to pass the same road back... Too bad they don't take the best of PC RPG from Bethesda: amazing gameplay dynamics... not just graphics.

      • pauldavidmerritt

        I wouldn't pass on this one. It is very playable, even though there are some mechanics that could be improved. I think it's worth playing! I know we want to bash any game that is released with big hype, and if it falls short of perfect, we like to call it 'plain crud'. There is no objectivity in that, and we all like talking down on it like we, ourselves, are successful Game Developers. If you don't own the game, take all the 'bashing' as a grain of salt. It is the first game I bought for more than .99 cents, right out of the gate. I am what you call a proud owner of a great mobile game, albeit, looking for support with improvements :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/nicolas.grignon Nicolas Grignon

        They never improved Aralon on Spawning of static monster at the exact same place, doing nothing other than wait for the player to fight them again and again... I would buy a RPG from them when there is true randomness and more realistic spawning... it's not that hard to code when you think all the coding involved for a whole game.

      • Illuminerdy

        It is playable like the McRib is edible.

      • Illuminerdy

        Seriously it might not be bad, but to describe something as x-able doesn't do much to sell us on the game.

  • http://twitter.com/IceHippo73 Matthew Tureck

    Is there Cloud saving? I'd like to be able to switch off back and forth playing it from my phone to my ipad.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

      They say yes

  • FledgeFish

    Does/will this game run ok on the iPad mini?

    • MicroByte

      Yes, I've been playing on my iPad Mini and it's very smooth and great looking, no problems for me.

    • Lichkingmatt

      Yes it will

  • pauldavidmerritt

    Please-- anyone that wants to do any 13 year old, adolescent, unintelligent game bashing, please find an alternate, second rate website/forum to meddle on. Come up with some purposeful incite/suggestions that are useful.

    -The fighting mechanics are actually quite engaging!
    -Controls need a bit of help (difficult aiming).
    Dead npc looting, don't like the waiting time when you can loot a dead body.
    -Skill/talent tree is useful, but a bit slim.
    -I don't think we can name our player.
    -the items to buy from traders seem a bit unbalanced. A few random small-cost armor/weapon options need to be placed more generally for trading fun and access.
    -I don't see any guiding markers on map or compass for quests. Might could be helpful.
    -Exploration is fantastic. Looting the land is an achievable quest [in itself].
    -although, not too enveloping, the story isn't bad. Everyone is dead, you are not. Fight the goblins and save the universe :)

    • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

      I laught that there's a regular "game bashing patrol" for these posts. Trolling the trollers huh? That's my kinda fun.

      • pauldavidmerritt

        I'm not a troll, ogre, goblin, or any of the like. I'm an Irish game-lover. I just don't like the immature, irrelevant twerp-ness--the ones who love getting negative popularity, opposed to no attention at all. Any level-headed gamers agree out there?

    • tobias robison

      I have advice about aiming, especially to loot corpses, in my tips/walkthrough file. You can find it by searching for these terms:
      ravensword ravensgift

  • Illuminerdy

    Carnosaur. Enough said.

    • pauldavidmerritt

      It was obviously a good enough name for someone to recognize it and pinpoint it as a disgraceful name :) Crescent Moon actually earned points from your comment on the name Carnosaur. It got your attention, as well as others. The score is 1-0...Crescent Moon.

  • Furtin

    A game full of bugs, glitches and crashes (ipad4) shouldn't earn a 5 star rating. Open world or not. It's an ok ambitious game but nowhere so much better, also graphics wise, than the former game. The story is thin and you have the overall feel of a non-breathing or living world. Don't expect to much people. It's just a fantasy open world game for your smart-phone, nothing more, nothing less.

  • John

    Here is a good question. I think that having such ambitious games on iOS is great, but sometimes I just don't understand why. Playing a game like this has got to DRAIN your iPhone battery in all of two hours. Am I wrong? So, if I was on the go, I would essentially have a trade off, play this game for an hour, or have my battery survive the rest of the day. I like hardcore games such as this, but I just feel like at this point, they are best left for consoles. Can any one comment or add any insights into battery and the reason why you choose to play hard core games on a mobile device? I am curious and open to different ideas and options. Thanks

    • psac

      A few reasons. First, I can play on a plane, although I do need to plug into my portable external battery if it's a long flight. Second, I can play while sitting on the couch while my wife watches something I'm not too interested in. It allows us to hang out even if we're not using the same media. Third is the daily commute.

    • pauldavidmerritt

      I agree, something like this is a trade-off with battery life. BUT -- when traveling, quite a few have the ability to plug the iPhone in the outlet at a hotel; also, at their Christmas dinner location. On the go in the car and your not the one driving? Most iOS owners do [or should] have a cigarette lighter charger, or usb cig lighter converter. Or, you can just relax, hold your breath, and wait 'til ya get out of the car. PC games or console video games aren't even close to being this versatile.

    • John

      Okay, that makes a bit more sense. So, some times you just gotta play, and if you do, you just need to make sure to charge more often. I bought a few of these Holiday deals were great, so I will have to try them out. Now, if only I could get my icloud to sync between iPhone and iPad, this game seems right up my alley. Thanks for the replies.

    • The_Unflattered

      Yeah... I have a lightning cord w/ me @ all times. Charge @ my desk, charge in the car.
      But when there's down-time @ work..... Ravensword YEAH!
      See?

    • Lichkingmatt

      What I do is send my back light right down and play it in doors and I get like 2 form full battery and remain with 72% battery life on my ipad

  • Guest

    Turned a corner in town looked on the sky and saw a massive glowing armor. Horrorfying!

  • Eskel

    When game will be on Android?

    • Lichkingmatt

      Never

  • http://www.facebook.com/Suenc Sven P. Waddington

    how amazing would this be if it had gyroscope aiming? :D hahaha

  • Theman1234

    Where is the crags i am so confused

  • SquashyEel

    Has anyone else noticed that the faces all look like slightly uglier versions of Hollywood actors? I am playing as homely Daniel Craig, but I almost picked strange looking Ben Affleck. And the old guy looks like really stoned Harrison Ford.
    LOL, tangent aside, yes, there are a few MINOR control issues but once I got past them in about 15 minutes the game is a lot of fun. No, it's not quite Skyrim quality graphics or gameplay, but it's a lot of fun regardless. Well worth the price of admission IMO, and head and shoulders above most of the IAP-infested dreck we usually see on iOS.

  • CHR1S 510

    I'm just wondering when will there be a update for iPod touch 4 stabalization because of all the crashes on it

  • http://www.facebook.com/nasser.djawas M Nasser Djawas

    Good Game with Superb graphics .. BUT,

    Stealth Talents ; no stealth/ or hidden mode , Master Thief and lack of pickpocketing function. Sneak attack is working sometimes.

    Magic talents:
    - lack of range. lack of spells

    Combat talents
    - good news; its working.

    General talents
    - almost useless good fortune ( sell those goblin shields if want to get money fast)

    gameplay:

    - lack of gems store.... (only in south aven even that one is only for 10 charges weapon additional damage)
    - u have blacksmith but with no quest for weapon? : Option -> Auto Aim OFF )
    this is critical bad for long range battle for Bow / Cross Bow.

    Blunderbuss is like a shotgun.

    - the Hero eat raw meat... LoL :D

  • pauldavidmerritt

    Crescent Moon - Please make the game a bit more mechanically playable. The LAG with look controls are slaughtering everyone. Even the players that say, "Ehh, they're good controls; gotta get used to them--and stop wining!" would absolutely benefit from better responsive controls.

    I also can't stand the 'move' control. I barely nudge it, and my character just goes full 100 meter dash. No one can easily control the player when we're trying to pick up stuff, loot--all that good meticulous stuff. What the crud!?

    It's still a good game, but it would sell itself better at 6.99 if controls weren't so hunky.

  • tahzblade

    I levelled up about 3 times and got so much gold and equipment and then the game crashed and i had to start again so the only way to play this game is to literally save your game every minute until they fix the crashing problem ... It has crashed about 5 times or more and i forget to save because im having to much fun ... Now this game is not fun cause it keeps crashing i play on iPad 3 which is more better then the iPad mini cause it has a A-6 chip so it should run smoothly I mean i Have so much space left this shouldnt be happening

    If anyone knows how to fix this problem please tell me

    • Lichkingmatt

      Ok first things first if you device is jail broken you may have install mods that uses you ram 2nd close all running apps in background 3rd this game uses 545 megbyes of ram and 35 % CPU so if your device can push that it will crash when the game try's to get memory to play. Download system info lite it will show you how much ram and processor is being used
      And what apps using most so you can kill them.

      • tahzblade

        Thanks but 1 i have never jailbroken anything and never will 2 when i play his game i close all apps

  • mantenner

    I'm sorry, this game was absolute shit! How did it get a five star review? The graphics were good in some places and extremely low in others, the gameplay was boring and repetitive, I didn't even know there was a story it was that bad. Sure the environment were great and the first person was a nice addition, but the game sucked, no one can try and hide that and comparing this to an elder scrolls game is a complete and utter insult to Bethesda.

  • jody2004

    Sucks keeps kicking me out

  • WhovianWithALightsaber

    Do you need to play the first one to understand this one? Or are they standalone?

Ravensword: Shadowlands Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 5