GRAVEN (PC) Review

By Athanasios 20.05.2024

Review for GRAVEN on PC

A few years back Slipgate Ironworks gave retro FPS afficionados a taste of the dark fantasy world of GRAVEN. Clearly inspired by Raven Software's Heretic and HeXen, this was a breath of fresh air in an industry addicted to military shooters. It looked fantastic… but when it came to the actual game it had plenty of flaws that needed to be ironed out. To be perfectly honest, that didn't happen in the release of the complete(?) experience. Still fun, but with plenty of - old - issues, here's a review of another, half-baked retraux FPS from 3D Realms.

A kind and honourable priest witnesses the attempted(?) sacrifice of his adopted daughter, which leads to the murder of the one who dared to do such a thing to his beloved child. Spilling the blood of a fellow priest, even a heretic one, condemned him to the swamplands of Cruxfirth, where an undead plague has left a kingdom in ruins. There, he will try to help in whichever way he can, and maybe find if there is a connection between the strange things that are going on here and the event with his daughter. Spoiler Alert: there kinda is. Of course, like with the Early Access version, the plot is there just to give you a sense of worldbuilding, but don't expect something more than a confusing introduction, and a few pieces of scattered lore.

For better or for worse, this throws none of its weight on the storytelling front. Like HeXen before it, the campaign is divided between a handful of "hub worlds." In each of these realms one must do lots of exploration and a bit of puzzle-solving, in an attempt to basically open up the way for the next hub world in line. Throw in lots of enemies between A and B, and you have GRAVEN. It's very similar to the aforementioned HeXen as it overstays its welcome, with each chapter including many unnecessarily long sessions of key-hunts, but at least it's much, much better than its source of inspiration, as it is easier to get a general idea of where to go next.

Screenshot for GRAVEN on PC

The quest begins with the priest simply wielding a melee weapon, but soon he'll receive his first magic attack; a fire spell. Don't get ready to spit fireballs to incinerate your foes just yet. While the spell can be used in battle, it will mostly be used as a tool - a way to open the way by burning spider webs and crates, light up explosive barrels… and nothing else really. Players won't have many chances to get creative with the spells they will acquire. Some are better in combat than others, and some will be used more during exploration, but in the end it all feels like a missed opportunity to offer some truly intriguing obstacles to let those abilities shine.

Generally, GRAVEN hasn't really "evolved" from its Early Access days, and still feels more like a proof of concept deal. Take the actual battles, for instance. There's a myriad of different foes, but most of the time the tactic required to bring them down will simply be to shoot them until dead - usually while backpedalling due to the enemy speed and their bullet spongy nature. The are many more problems at hand. Damage is severely unbalanced; the annoyingly broken melee attack hitboxes of enemies makes it easy to get hurt; the completely idiotic use of a stamina meter lets you run faster than the Doom Slayer for almost 30 seconds, and yet it depletes after a couple of sword swings or simple leaps.

Screenshot for GRAVEN on PC

One of the worst aspects at a hand is the pacing. This never manages to make you accept its long length, with each new Act basically being the same thing all over again, but in a brand new setting - and because of the Auto Save recording your progress but not your location, whenever you return to your game, you have to go all the way back to where you last stopped, which also means killing all those bullet sponges that were sprinkled between A and B. Not fun… but at least the journey looks great!

Say what you will about it, but GRAVEN's scenery and atmosphere will please all but the ones who hate retro-flavoured visuals. Its Dark Souls-meets-Heretic, with its bleak, dystopian, gothic fantasy realm being divided between barren fortresses in the desert, icy landscapes, and dark, plague-ridden, medieval kingdoms. The OST is also quite good, filled with memorable symphonic or ambient tunes that are too good for the game they've been attached to. Generally, it many times feels as if most of the budget was spend on the audio-visuals, which is a darn shame.

Screenshot for GRAVEN on PC

GRAVEN can be fun once you get used to its many, many little flaws, like for example the lack of weight in regards to the movement, or how weak melee (and even ranged) attacks feel, with enemies barely reacting when getting hurt (if at all), or how underused many tools from the available skillset are. You are also supposed to mess around with the world's physics. In reality it's one more skin-deep mechanic that never goes anywhere, which in turn means that for the vast majority of the time one can't really try out different solutions to problems.

This is an unpolished title, with a heavy identity crisis. It supposed to be an exploration heavy experience, once in a while it tries to be an action-RPG, and then it throws all its systems out of the window and simply becomes Doom - a weaker version of it. Despite all these flaws, it can still be enjoyable. Unfortunately, it's also buggy as hell. Apart from "minor" staff like hits that don't really hit, or props that levitate for no reason, it's easy to destroy your game by bugs that won't let you open a door or push a lever. This happened like three times during this review, which makes this occasionally fun title a bad recommendation at its current and probably final state.

Screenshot for GRAVEN on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


It's clear from the very first hour into the dark fantasy world of GRAVEN that this retro-flavoured FPS was not a victim of an incompetent developer, but one more example of internal problems that didn't let the team behind it complete its homage to titles like HeXen. The end result remains fun despite its many issues, like its unnecessary long length and unbalanced mechanics. Sadly, it's also very likely that players might stumble upon a game-breaking bug that will ruin hours upon hours of gameplay.


Slipgate Ironworks


3D Realms


First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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