Realms of Ancient War is an action/role-playing game with a strong affinity for hack ’n’ slash, developed by Wizarbox. At the beginning of the story, you must choose whether you are going to spend the game hurling fireballs and deadly spells at numerous foes as a Wizard, slowly ploughing your way through armies of enemies as a powerful Warrior, or utilise your endless skills of survival striking from the shadows as a Rogue. You are then presented with a quick run-through of recent events of the last few decades or so, and then are thrown head-first right into the action, slowly turning your character into an unstoppable whirlwind of fury, complete with a power pretty unique to Realms of Ancient War that allows you to take control of your enemy’s strongest units and turn them on their own.
In the first impressions, Realms of Ancient War has obviously had a lot of time and energy invested into it for its graphics, which really shine through at points. The loading screens are actually some of the most pleasing to the eye and the scenery in the game tends to be very well-put-together. The magic spells especially, although only visible for a short time, look great and the scenery, again, is overall of a very high standard. The title has also managed to ensure that the dead bodies of your former opponents stay on the battlefield instead of evaporating as they tend to do in most other titles, which allows for an enhanced sense of satisfaction as you look around caves that are now marked with your handiwork. In contrast, the actual character design, which looks stunning in all of the artwork, is disappointing. You will certainly notice the main things about your character as they change throughout the game and you equip them with different coloured armor and weaponry, but on the most part all of the little details have seemingly been quickly brushed over, leading to an overall effect which just isn’t quite satisfactory, especially at higher levels where you look almost identical to how you did at the start.
The combat in Realms of War almost certainly delivers on its promise of being a hack ’n’ slash as you work your way through innumerable enemies of different varieties, depending on where you are along the storyline. You will find yourself being ambushed by large amounts of enemies that don’t tend to have that much life at all. You can breeze through most of the game as long as you are careful as to where you run to so you don’t get blocked in, because once you are blocked in you will almost certainly be cut down by the horde which has beelined straight for you – a design you will very quickly be able to use to your advantage. Throw down a poison trap and walk backwards a few steps and it is guaranteed that whatever is running at you will completely disregard the danger and run straight into it. Running away is your number one and only form of defence, seeing as there is not a control for blocking or dodging at all.
Wizard and Rogue classes allow you to use ranged attacks before you go charging in, and although they tend to look great and give you the upper hand in small skirmishes, more often than not you will find that any distance between you and your target has been closed down before you can manage more than a few shots. Luckily, as you grind through enemies you also grind up the levels and you will be given skill points to assign to different characteristics, such as increased ranged damage or an increased mana pool, which make these ranged moments a little more useful; but in the most part, the skill points you assign tend to actually do very little.
Combat-wise, you will also come to grips with the soul gems. During each level, you are only assigned a certain amount, which are used to revive. Running out of soul gems means you are sent back to the start of the level, and it is not until late in the game where you will be given the opportunity to avoid using one. However, it definitely adds a twist to the game, which notches up the difficulty a little and makes the game a little tenser as your supply begins to dwindle.
In addition, Realms of Ancient War has a less-than-gripping storyline, and you will rarely feel the compulsion to carry on playing like you do with other games of the same genre. The lore is vague, and the opening sequence of events that explains the recent history gives you very little idea into this world of warcraft and wizardry and the relationships between the four different sections of the continent, and you don’t really cover much more of this as you work your way through the game. Furthermore, the levels can be a little confusing to navigate at points, due to a strange choice of deciding not to include a map or mini-map; as well, directional arrows tend to point as the crow flies, but if you have some experience with these types of games then there should not be too much problem with finding your way around. The way the dead bodies remain on the floor will almost certainly signal to you that you have been there before.
Finally, although the game lacks multiplayer, you can engage in a co-op campaign by connecting a few wireless controllers. This makes the game a lot more playable and does reduce the chances of your character getting mobbed by the throngs of creatures out for your heads. However, it is a little bit disheartening to find you cannot team up with somebody over the Internet, which would have made the game a lot more appealing in an era where almost every game has some form of online capability.
In conclusion, Realms of War is a title that is on the lower side of average in the genre it exists in. Although the graphics are great from the menu screens and scenery, the characters just never seem to look that detailed or magnificent as you would want them to, and it contrasts greatly with the artwork displayed throughout. The combat system is very basic as it lacks a mini-map, blocking, and dodging; and you tend to spend your time in the middle of a sea of monsters. But to give credit where credit is due, it is still very enjoyable to hack your way through such a large opposition and come out the other end, and the brief moments of rampage as you take charge of some of the stronger units are definitely great fun. In terms of length, the game will take up a large chunk of time if you decide to play through all three campaigns, but it does lead to the question whether you will truly enjoy the game for that long.
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