One of our missions at iFanzine is to call attention to the work devs put in after release, because a slew of impressive content updates and extra polish flow ceaselessly into the App Store. We usually comment on these in our weekly news roundups, but some updates are so mighty that they demand feature articles. The “Suneaters” campaign recently added to Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion is definitely one of those. Not only does it nearly double the size of the game, it also significantly expands on the story and mechanics established in the initial release. Now, this is what we call a value-adding update!
Witching Hour Studios take quite a gamble in unseating players from the Empire of the Raven – a comfortable roost thanks to an endearing cast – and letting them take control of the very war hosts they felt inspired to push back in the first campaigns. Scenario-wise, it’s got to be hard to follow up on a story delivered as perfectly as Ravenmark’s was in the first episodes. Calius Septim was far more relatable than the new lead, hot-blooded sun cultist Usun Motare; nor does the fanatical Alejo de Porres stand a shadow’s chance of filling Vidius Harper’s shoes as the right-hearted and confidence-inspiring superior.
That being the case, Witching Hour did the next best thing: for all the talk of hellfire and brimstone here, the mood in “Suneaters” feels lighter over all. The closest I got to identifying with the anti-heroes was the occasional Oh Alejo, there you go again! and the best lines are spoken by or concerning hobbits. Most importantly, the Ravenmark fan gets a completely different angle on Estellion now that he or she looks into it from the outside. The empire’s territory is more vast than I appreciated during the first campaigns, and characters who made the briefest appearances before take center stage as the player’s opposition.
Bumbling antics may abound in the invading army’s ranks, but the gameplay additions in “Suneaters” are no laughing matter! Rusty Ravenmark fans are eased in with a few small skirmishes, but battle-hardened veterans will be pleased with quickly skyrocketing challenge and battle complexity. As in the earlier campaigns, certain units can be linked for bonus effects at a maneuverability cost. Making things even dicier here is the fact that the player’s ranks are swollen by giant swarms of elves loyal to Alejo’s sun cult. While hardier than most human units, the Cardani elves chew up large swathes of battlefield space and really test the player’s ability to keep an orderly formation.
Just as bulky are the Armored Hallow Frogs, sure to become a fan favorite. Not only are these giant croaking beasts as cool-looking as they are rough-and-tumble, but they have an ability to devour entire squads while the words “om nom nom nom” appear onscreen! Rounding out the most peculiar forces at the player’s fingertips are fragile bomber units perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves — and other player units unlucky enough to get caught in their blast radius. Stir in interesting situations like minefields and the need to flank enemies by fording rivers, and you’ve got an engaging logistical challenge on your hands.
A ton of miscellaneous enhancements accompany the new campaign or have been in place for a while already. Two that really affect the player’s experience are the mid-battle auto save and unit destination markers that can be switched on and off. These are merely nice to have in the first two campaigns, but they’re absolutely essential in the third owing to its giant player units and utterly massive final battles. Compared to the first two campaigns “Suneaters” draws more heavily on certain themes from Josh Whelchel’s awesome soundtrack, lending the new episode a rather refreshing soundscape.
“Suneaters” is sure to keep Ravenmark fans occupied for quite some time, but no doubt we’ll all be hungry for more soon enough! Witching Hour Studios have already tipped their hand in that regard: Ravenmark’s campaign select screen reveals that a fourth campaign is already well in development. Better keep an eye on the Witching Hour blog and the official Ravenmark website for the latest news! Let’s leave you with our studio interview and this “Suneaters” preview footage: