Revenant Review

Although Revenant is also a great-looking game that's fun to play, it constantly threatens to break apart at the seams.

Revenant is an action-intensive role-playing game that involves a lot of combat and not much else. It isn't a blatant Diablo rip-off like Darkstone, but its isometric perspective and its emphasis on character interaction of the violent variety mean that Revenant ought to appeal to the same crowd that enjoyed Blizzard's hit. However, although Revenant is also a great-looking game that's fun to play, it constantly threatens to break apart at the seams. Its hero, a bitter and menacing Ken Wahl-lookalike named Locke, is brought back from the dead to serve his masters - but it's the game rather than its protagonist that most closely resembles Frankenstein's monster. Just as Revenant is an impressive accomplishment in many ways, so too is it a disjointed collection of features that are at least as repellent as they are cohesive.

Revenant's Locke is exceptionally lifelike for a dead man. His strange jitterbug walk isn't flattering, but once he takes up a fighting stance and starts swinging his two-handed sword, he becomes quite the showman. In fact, the motion-captured animation that brings Locke and many of his enemies to life makes the game look terrific and unique. The continuous combat in Revenant quickly takes on the realistic and dynamic appearance of an action movie and makes the game both exciting to play and to watch. Locke leaps around with whopping sword combinations and flying kicks, smashes huge spiders with his boots, and lops off his enemies' heads as his battle cries drown out their gurgling death screams - the action is totally over the top. If anything, the game would have benefited from a little restraint - Locke's enemies die the same way over and over, which eventually takes the edge off watching and listening to ninjas and such choke on their own blood as they melodramatically stumble about.

The rest of Revenant also looks good. The prerendered background scenery consists of fairly typical fantasy fare, such as dense forests and catacombs, but it's richly colorful and highly detailed and doesn't clash with the great-looking polygonal characters. And whenever Locke lets loose one of his many powerful magic spells, incredible special effects light up the entire screen. There's no question that Revenant looks impressive.

The problem is that the developers' apparently single-minded focus on Revenant's production value has obvious and almost unforgivable consequences where the rest of the game is concerned. Revenant often pauses without warning to load more scenery, which becomes a constant source of frustration and a real liability when the game decides to stop when you're in the middle of a huge brawl. Although you can adjust the frequency and length of loading times to your preference, you'll never find a perfect middle ground, and you'll end up staring at static screens all too often unless your computer greatly exceeds Revenant's system requirements. Furthermore, Locke will fight the same handful of carefully detailed enemies over and over, just as his entire quest is not only short but evidently also shorter than originally intended. The quest has an epic setup, but Locke's journey merely involves passing through a couple of long mazes and trivial puzzles and ends up feeling like some half-hour episode of something much larger. There's more evidence to suggest that Revenant is but a shadow of what it was supposed to be. Locke will encounter characters that were clearly designed to be companions in his quest; they stick out of the crowd and talk about how much they'd like to join, but they never actually do. Ironically, it is these same underdeveloped storyline pretensions that kill Revenant's replay value, since its weak linear plot forgoes the random variation that made Diablo last. Furthermore, Locke can theoretically become proficient in all kinds of weapons, including clubs, axes, bows, swords, and his bare hands. However, the game practically forces you to fight using swords the entire time, since that's the only type of weapon you'll find consistently. Locke will also find a huge variety of great-looking suits of armor that he'll throw away within minutes as he stumbles upon newer and even better-looking suits - and this sort of variety seems like a waste within such a small game.

In addition, Revenant's magic system, which involves combining particular runes in sequence, feels completely unnecessary since you'll find scrolls that tell you exactly what combinations you need. It's a needlessly complicated interpretation of Diablo's point-and-click spellcasting, just as Revenant's interface is a convoluted nuisance hanging over what should have been a clean and intuitive game. You'd expect to be able to easily navigate inventory and statistics screens, but you'll be fumbling with Revenant's overlapping, unlabeled menus throughout the game. Revenant also includes a complicated map editor and a multiplayer deathmatch mode, both of which probably looked good on paper, but neither of which will help make the game any more enjoyable for the average player.

What's unusual is that while all these many problems are both evident and disheartening, they still do not ruin what is essentially an enjoyable and fast-paced action game. Even though you'll get stuck looking for hidden exits to tedious mazes, and even though the game's rare instances of plot development are overwrought, uninteresting, and poorly acted, you'll still want to keep playing. That's because despite all the countless unfinished and unpolished details, the fighting in Revenant remains fun. Control is smooth and responsive, Locke commands a huge variety of great-looking attacks and spells, and his enemies are fast and powerful. It's a shame the rest of Revenant isn't nearly as good, but it's to the game's credit that its core mechanics work so well they overshadow its many problems.

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Revenant More Info

  • First Released Sep 30, 1999
    • PC
    Although Revenant is also a great-looking game that's fun to play, it constantly threatens to break apart at the seams.
    Average Rating380 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Cinematix Studios
    Published by:
    Sold Out Software, Eidos Interactive
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Animated Blood, Animated Violence, Suggestive Themes