Developer: 2 Dawn Games
Publisher: Reverb Games
Ravaged is one of the first Kickstarted games to release since Double Fine popularised the crowd funding platform: a 16-player online FPS set in a postapocalpytic future Earth where two embittered factions struggle for survival. 2 Dawn Games, a small indie outfit with experience developing Battlefield and Frontlines, promised to supercharge the traditional multiplayer arena with all manner of vehicular insanity; stuffing the levels full of jeeps, dune buggies, tanks and helicopters. Basically, they wanted to give us multiplayer Mad Max.
Broadly speaking, they succeeded.
The first thing you'll notice about Ravaged are the eight maps, or more specifically, the art and level design showcased therein. A selection of expansive levels provide scope for multiple play styles and different engagement ranges (from intimate interiors to enormous plains), but also manage to impress from an aesthetic standpoint. Whether you're fighting over the destroyed remains of the Statue Of Liberty or squabbling over snow-covered suspension bridges, the apocalyptic setting is cohesive and believable. The colour palette is also pleasingly vibrant, taking care not to present too much in the way of dull greys and browns.
Ravaged looks seriously impressive for an indie shooter. Though surprisingly demanding on your hardware (I was forced to run it on medium settings to avoid some painful slowdown on a capable rig - system requirements here), the graphics are crisp and detailed, sporting some high-resolution textures and allowing the art direction to shine through.
Sadly, this refreshing setting also serves to highlight just how staid and derivative the infantry shooting is. Both Ravaged factions offer five incredibly unimaginative classes with equally unambitious preset weapons (a heavy, a sniper, demolitionist, an SMG specialist... you know the drill), while the two available gametypes are just slight riffs on standard Domination and capture the flag modes. The mechanics are functional enough for task, an instantly accessible but crushingly familiar aiming-down-sights affair, but weapon handling feels ever-so-slightly off due to an odd lack of recoil and kick. It's especially noticeable when wielding sniper rifles, which seem to be constructed from advanced frictionless materials or alien technology. Inconsistent sound design, exemplified by an aggravating commentator who manages to be both apathetic and annoyingly obtrusive, fails to match the competence of the art.
It's also difficult to tell friend from foe since characters look very similar regardless of which side they're on. 2 Dawn Games failed to follow Valve's example of providing markedly unique and instantly-recognisable silhouettes for different classes and factions, leading to a fair few confusing moments despite some close-range team markers. With so many competing shooters on the market, many of which are much cheaper or free to play (including Team Fortress 2), Ravaged doesn't make a particularly strong case with its conventional combat.
Thank goodness for those vehicles, then!
Ravaged is at its best when you're hooning around on an ATV, assaulting an enemy base in a convoy of jeeps, finding a hidden tank or blasting opponents from the passenger's seat - to be faced with the frequent terrifying realisation that a sniper has managed to kill your driver. Should you fancy yourself a magnificent man or woman in need of a flying machine, jury-rigged gyrocopters are on hand to deliver aerial domination once you've mastered the fiercely difficult controls. You'll likely spend the bulk of your time behind the wheel, the high octane action lending some much-needed and thoroughly insane personality to the experience.
That said, the vehicles come with their own set of drawbacks. Their handling could be charitably described as 'nuanced,' but could equally be labelled as 'twitchy,' requiring plenty of practice before learning how not to flip yourself over on the tiniest of obstacles. Gyrocopters suffer from an even steeper learning curve, but once mastered, it becomes possible to spawn camp above an enemy position; hovering outside of rocket range with impunity.
In the main, thankfully, the vehicular combat works well and compliments the mundane infantry fighting brilliantly - providing plenty of gameplay variety and the high velocity thrills you'd expect from the (earlier) Battlefield games. Ravaged's Mad Max-esque carnage provides more fun than any number of competing shooters, which is incredibly impressive considering its humble roots.
Many potential players will be disappointed to discover that Ravaged features no form of progression whatsoever. No XP. No unlocks. No customisation. No nothing. I personally don't feel that pseudo-RPG systems are strictly necessary for every First Person Shooter, since it provides perfect balance and keeps the focus on skill over gear (I won't mark it down), but many gamers will doubtlessly miss the feeling of being constantly rewarded for their play time.
Worse, the lack of progression makes Ravaged feel more than a little 'skinny' and lacking in content, which is ultimately the biggest problem facing 2 Dawn's FPS at launch.
For £15.99, Ravaged delivers what I'd consider to be a bare minimum of content. Five classes. Two gametypes. Eight maps, of which you'll likely see one or two over and over and over and over again due to painfully arbitrary rotation. Gallingly, you can't create your own servers yet, forcing you to rely on the list of underpopulated dedicated servers. 2 Dawn promise to continually bolster the experience with free content updates (such as construction vehicles, which should be fantastic fun), but they need to do so quickly to get boots on the ground as fast as possible and stop the existing player base from seeking more variety elsewhere.
- Inordinately enjoyable vehicular funtimes after a stiff learning curve
- Thoughtfully-designed maps
- Cohesive and eyecatching art style, capable visuals
- Traditional infantry combat, weapons and classes are incredibly derivative
- Quirky weapon/vehicle handling
- Gyrocopter spawn camping
- A bare minimum of gametypes and multiplayer options at launch
The Short Version: Ravaged makes up for its lacklustre FPS combat with a selection of great vehicles, Mad Max-style action and smart level design. However, 2 Dawn Games will need to provide much more content and options in order to weather what could potentially be a harsh winter.