At some point in the next few weeks, Crescent Moon Games's much-anticipated sequel to its epic iOS role-player Ravensword: The Fallen King will go live on the App Store.
Ravensword: Shadowlands is shaping up to be a truly enormous game. It's got hundreds of items to find, loads of different baddies to splat, over 40 hours of gameplay, and, according to Crescent Moon, "the biggest 3D world to date" on iOS.
That's way too much for us to cover in one preview, though.
So, instead, we decided to turn on our iPhone 5, launch Ravensword: Shadowlands, commit a good hour to the game, and find out how much of its world we can see in 60 minutes.
Follow along for our journey into the Shadowlands…
We kick off our epic adventure with a prologue, which handily doubles up as a tutorial. So, we'll set up the story (something and elves, I think) and learn the controls.
Those controls seem pretty easy to get to grips with. You've got run and look on the left and right sides of the screen, and you can start your hero off on a continuous run with a quick double-tap.
There are buttons for jump and attack, the latter of which doubles up as a shield block when you hold it. There's also a camera button if you prefer playing in first person.
Anyway. I've killed a few elves, and my crew knocked out a massive great troll when I wasn't looking. With that, the prologue is over.
Now, the real adventure begins.
I wake up, bloodied and bruised from my prologue-tutorial battle, in a modest house in a tiny town. A woman called Layna has attended to my wounds, and helps me choose a new face. What a gal.
Once I've chosen a new visage, I'm told to go meet a bloke called Perdis at the Guild Hall.
This gives me a good chance to fiddle around with the 'quest' menu. When you're tracking a quest, the destination appears on your mini-map, but only when you're quite close.
There's no marker on your world map, no Skyrim-style compass, and no giant arrow pointing out your destination. That's going to make things a bit tricky.
This Perdis fella seems like a nice chap. Not sure I trust that pointy goatee, but he has just given me a nice sword, a hardy leather vest, and 200 gold coins. So, he's probably not entirely evil.
With those doubloons rattling around in my long johns, I'm told by Perdis to head to the blacksmith. I'm feeling a little exposed, so I'm gonna buy myself a shield.
A quick trip across town, and I'm in Dunner's Smithy.
Sadly, I can't actually buy anything. Everything in the shop is just outside my measly 200 gold budget, so I walk out empty-handed. Thanks, Perdis, you pointy-bearded jerk.
I should note that you can buy more gold with in-app purchases if you're that way inclined. I'm more of a noble warrior (and, besides, IAPs are turned off in this preview build), so I need to work for my cash.
I went back to Perdis, who told me that Layna has got some work for me. Off I go!
Blimey. These people are giving me the right runaround. Now, Layna's sending me off to Silas Brown (no relation) over at the Strongarm Tavern to find out more about some nasty-sounding sorts called the White Hand.
Oh, for heaven's sake. Now, Silas is saying he isn't involved with the White Hand, and I've no proof otherwise. Maybe, I'll check his house. It's only down the road.
He's probably got an "I love White Hand" T-shirt hanging up in his closet. That'll sort him out. I'm gonna go all Phoenix Wright on his Unity-powered butt.
But, his house is locked, so first I'll need a lock pick. The shop called General Goods sounds promising (though I've made a note of the store next door called Bows and More. I do like a good bow, me).
Oh, heck. A pack of 50 lock picks is 300 gold, and the general store won't sell them separately. What is this? Costco? Now what?
Oh, yeah, I just remembered that Perdis had another mission for me. Maybe, I can earn some dosh to buy some lock picks. It has become my one and only mission in life to expose Silas as a lying, treacherous berk.
Ol' Facial Hair Freddy (a.k.a. Perdis... keep up!) tells me that a wizard called Lamil lives in the Great Forest, and that he'll help me out. Sounds good.
I don't really know where the Great Forest is, but I've jumped at the chance to leave the quaint village of Aven and get my first taste of Ravensword 2's rich and expansive overworld.
Breathe in deeply, travellers. That's the smell of adventure.
Right, adventure didn't go as planned. That wasn't the right exit. Maybe, this one? Nope.
A-ha! A forest! That's the good news. The bad news is that I'm hungry, and so my health regeneration has taken a turn for the worse.
I have learned how to be stealthy (you hold your finger on the camera icon), but the invisibility effect doesn't last long enough for me to creep up on these deer.
So, for now...
Holy crap, a wild boar. These ugly pigs might not look like much, but Far Cry 3 has taught me that these tusky monsters are a force to be reckoned with. Have at you, foul beast.
32 and a half minutes
Hah! Take that, you snorting nuisance.
So, I've killed my first wild beast, and got some pork. I ate it raw because I'm such a bad ass. My hunger seems to be replenished, so onwards, I say.
I've got wizards to find.
I've found a house. And as luck would have it, it's the wizard's house.
But, oh, 'eck, he's got himself trapped in a bottle. What a colossal idiot.
The wizard needs my help to break out of his glass prison and grow back to normal size. All I've got to do is find a cave, explore its network of tunnels, find a clearing, scoop up some water in a little vial, and trek all the way back. Sigh, what did your last slave die of?
Well, I need the cash for lock picks. So, off I go.
Hey, I'm pretty good at killing boar now. My blade stats are increasing automatically as I use this sword, which is handy. I could do with a shield, but you can defend yourself a little with just a sword.
You do have to be careful not to tire yourself out, mind. As you fight, your energy falls and you can't land killer blows when you're exhausted. It means you'll often need to retreat from battle to get your breath back.
Holy crap! A goblin!
Yeah! Take that, you little green bastard.
The goblin also dropped a crappy wooden shield, which means I can defend myself more readily from attacks now.
That looks like a goblin camp. I can see at least three of the blighters already, and there are probably more inside.
With this shield, no potions, and every chance of getting winded after a few sword strikes, I don't fancy my chances of getting through here unscathed.
Bugger. I was right. I killed about three goblins, but two took me on at once and killed me. The enemies in Ravensword don't seem to have levels, so it's tough to know if you're strong enough to kill anything in this game. In this instance, I think the answer is 'no'.
New plan. I'm gonna kill some goblins; loot their corpses for money and shields; then head back to town. I'll sell all the stuff and hopefully have enough cash for a lock pick.
Good job you can fast travel in this game, eh?
Hooray. Several deaths, many goblin fights, a close encounter with a wild boar, and a fast travel back to Aven later, I've got my lock picks.
Time to see what this Silas guy is hiding from me. Time to find some evidence of his involvement with the White Hand, present it to everyone in the tavern (well, that one peasant), and put this guy in his place.
I don't quite understand the lock picking mechanic, but that seemed to do the trick.
Oh, bloody hell.
Ravensword: Shadowlands should hit the App Store later this year or in early 2013.