I hope Ravenbound actually pulls off its open world roguelite mashup

“Open world roguelite” isn’t a set of words I hear together often, possibly for good reason, but Avalanche Studios subsidiary Systemic Reaction is determined to make it work. Systemic shared a hands-off preview with me this week from Gamescom, and creative director Emil Kraftling explained how the heck they’re planning to make these two seemingly opposed concepts work together. It’s hard to make a judgment call without getting to play it myself, but it sure looks like Systemic is on the right track here. And I’m not just saying that because you can fly around the entire map as a bird.

Ravenbound starts by rolling you three character options at the start of each run, randomly made up of the species (human to start), traits, and weapon types that you’ve unlocked. At the start of every run you’ll leap out the Door of Gales, the first of seven, each leading to different elemental maps, and fly away as a raven.

Ravenbound immediately deviates from the roguelites (and -likes) I’m used to. You aren’t crawling through a dungeon room-by-room, or even exploring a non-linear Metroidvania style map as in Hollow Knight. You’ve got a literal bird’s eye view of the forested Gales area with icons pointing out enemy groups, the keys you’ll need to collect to progress, and the one town hub per zone.

(Image credit: Systemic Reaction)

From up above it would be easy to mistake Ravenbound for an open world RPG, but Kraftling is very explicit that Systemic doesn’t want players to expect exploration. It’s inspired by Swedish folklore and baddies, but don’t see “draugr” and think “Skyrim”. As a roguelite, it is still all about combat, just without the linear constraint of a dungeon. The open world is all about offering players immediate choices—how much combat they want, how difficult a challenge they’re willing to take on, and in what order.

raven unbound

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