The Raven: Remastered Review
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Developer/Publisher: King Art GmbH/THQ Nordic
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Steam
Price: $29.99 (console), $19.99, potentially free on Steam
This is my third dip in the water for The Raven. I was able to review the PC release back at GoozerNation (anybody remember us there?), then in 2014 re-reviewed it as a straight port PS3 release. Now, The Raven has been remastered and upgraded to modern console standards. The Raven takes a second shot at animations, lighting, and hair effects, upgrades the game to full HD, and adds subtitles in French, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese to allow the game a wider audience. Otherwise, it's quite simply the same game, with all the benefits and detriments the original release held.
Before we get into the meat of the review, I'd like to say if you played the game on Steam and are curious if it is worth upgrading, you may stop reading now. The publishers have upgraded every single original buyer, no questions asked. I was given a copy of the game to review on PS4 to research and find The Raven Remastered in my Steam digital library. Go on and play your new game.
Unfortunately, console gamers don't get the same treatment, as it's a new purchase with no cross-buy options. Oh well, gift horse in the mouth, et cetera. The Raven follows the adventures of Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, on a trip on the Orient Express. A mysterious thief, The Raven, is after a treasure that is being transported on the train. Even though he originally has nothing to do with the case, Zeller finds himself swept into the adventure, perhaps more eager to help than his friends are in him coming along.
Zellner isn't a traditional video game protagonist, he belongs in an Agatha Christie novel. An older, portly man who yearns for the adventures of his favorite crime novels, Zellner has heard the legacy of The Raven, who was killed during one of his epic heists. He has shown back up, and is after some priceless jewels. The story is a traditional mystery told in a point-and-click adventure style, going from the train to a cruise ship and into the heart of Egypt.
The Raven's upgrades are purely cosmetic, but they do a good job on the upgrade. The original title suffered from some rough shadowing, likely covering up the simplistic details of the characters. This led to some of those uncanny valley oddities, such as bright teeth shining through simplistic mouth motions. The game is brighter, with more character details. Certain animations are better done, making things seem more natural and less robotic. To be honest, it was what I like to call a "rose-colored glasses" upgrade. At first play, it looks slightly better, but if you go back and play the original edition, you can really see the differences. Characters seem more natural, and the world feels more logically "lived in."
Unfortunately, the game still suffers from some of the original issues. The world is oldschool Resident Evil style, with set camera angles. At times transitions would change the direction of the player, messing with the walking angles. Walking is all you do, too. Even at a crisis moment where a fire could kill several people including a small child, Zellner's top speed is a general saunter. I'd have loved to have them implement a run. I do appreciate the ability to "fast forward" after reading the subtitles, but at times you have to wait through the animation anyways after muting the character. Not bad, just makes it odd.
I do like how the game has natural progression, but also a challenge to up the quality of your detective skills. For example, in the first scenes, there is a stolen purse completely unnecessary to the main plot. You can power through and solve the main issue, but you can also get greater achievements by following through on the extra puzzle parts. I was sad to see that in the PS4 edition, you have lost the ability to instantly pop to Episodes 2 and 3 like you could on PS3, but I understand as this is released outside of the original episodic window.
The Raven: Remastered does a good job of refreshing a last-gen game from four years ago for modern systems. It's a chance for new players to feel as if they're right in the middle of a classic mystery novel, though the lack of urgency even in crisis mode takes you out of "video game" mode at times. Fans who played it on Steam won't even have to spend another dime for an upgrade. If you like adventure games and didn't catch this one the first time through, it's worth the value pricing to see this mystery come to life.
-Well done story and voice acting
-Remastered graphics and animations
-If you played it on Steam you get it free!
-Some animations are still odd
-Lack of run button, even in crisis
-Traditional point-and-click adventure tropes, like how putting things together in the perfect order can be confusing