I reviewed Celestian Tales: Old North a little while ago, and was overall pretty positive about the game. It was a Kickstarter RPG which I backed, and I’m pleased with the result and encourage you to try it out some time. Ekuator Games is at work on its continuation, and I look forward to that, but in the meantime, they’ve released an add-on for the game, called Howl of the Ravager. Well, I do DLC rants for the big developers, so I may as well do them for the little guys, too.
Howl of the Ravager is a prequel story to the game, which focuses on the early days of the knighthood of Severin Leroux, who plays a major part in the main game’s plot. It also touches on several other secondary characters of the main game, namely the king, his wife-to-be, and Niena, mother-to-be of 1 of the main game’s protagonists (the best 1, for that matter). As such, Howl of the Ravager provides a great opportunity to expand upon a significant but inadequately explored character of the game, build the Celestian Tales lore, and answer a major question of the original game: why the hell Severin acts as he does at the game’s end.
Unfortunately...well, Howl of the Ravager doesn’t really live up to much of its promise. I mean, it does develop the game’s setting somewhat, but its focus is on a part of the lore (large, sapient tree entities and their relation to the Old North) that doesn’t really have any relevance to the game proper, so while there’s nothing wrong with the lore-building, it doesn’t feel terribly significant, either. And that’s about all that can really be said in a positive way for this in terms of expectations. The king and queen-to-be are okay, but what can be learned from them that can’t already be gleaned from the main game isn’t all that interesting. Likewise, Ylianne’s mother Niena has her character developed, but it turns out that she didn’t really have much of a personality in the past; the entirety of her development as a character in Howl of the Ravager doesn’t hold a candle to the single conversation she has with Ylianne in the main game. The identity of Ylianne’s father is revealed, but it turns out that it’s not especially interesting.
Most disappointing is definitely the main character (sort of) of this DLC, Severin himself. He’s just absolutely wooden. What little real character development he receives is shaky at best--it’s left rather ambiguous how much of his ambitions and frustrations and such are really him, and how much are just the result of the influence of the magical sword he’s using. His relationship with the king is explored a little, but not any further than you could already determine from the main game. I guess Severin’s connection to the queen-to-be is new and somewhat interesting, so there is that, but that’s not a whole lot to ride on. Most frustrating to me is that the question of why Severin acts as he does at the end of the main game is still completely nebulous. Howl of the Ravager brings up the possibility that he might have been heavily under the sword’s influence, but it’s impossible to say that for sure, so all this game presents is a vague possibility of an answer to why Severin is so out of character in Celestian Tales 1’s final moments, rather than any hard facts.
Taken on its own instead of by expectations of expanding on one’s knowledge of the main game, Howl of the Ravager is...okay. Niena and Severin aren’t interesting characters, but they’re not bad ones, either, I suppose, and they do well enough as mouthpieces for lore development and plot points. The DLC’s story is fine, even fairly interesting at times. I’d say I enjoyed it overall, and I have a certain fondness for Celestian Tales 1, so learning more about its world and history was rewarding for me.
I really wish they’d done better with Pierre, though. His character is supposed to be the moderate, diplomatic voice of reason to counterbalance Severin, and this is usually a character type that I appreciate, but Pierre mostly just comes off as a wishy-washy milquetoast. And his romance with Niena is...well, it’s just crap. It’s one of those annoying love stories where attraction just seems to happen with the flip of a switch; one moment Niena is (with complete justification) put off by Pierre’s clumsy interest and advances, the next moment, she’s considering the question of whether a love between an elf and a human can be made to work. It’s made worse by the fact that the sudden about-turn only happens during a period in which she’s forcing herself to lead Pierre on a bit, at Severin’s request, in the interest of giving Pierre a reason to get his head in the game for their world-saving mission. So the point at which feigned interest becomes real suffers from being immediate and coming out of nowhere, yet is also vague enough that you can’t even pin down when it happens, so you’re left wondering for a while what’s going on as Niena starts showing earnest interest even though you thought she’s just supposed to be pretending. It’s weird, and it doesn’t work. And the final nail in the coffin is just the fact that they have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever, probably in no small part due to Pierre having an overall unappealing personality. So yeah, Pierre is a major problem with this DLC, being that a lot of its story depends on his character (more so than the supposed protagonist Severin, really) and his romance.
So, what’s the verdict, for any of you who have played Celestian Tales 1 and want to know whether they should purchase the DLC? Well...it’s not terrible. Despite its flaws and that it doesn’t really accomplish what the main game needed it to, it’s still a decent story and a decent exploration of the Celestian Tales lore. If you played Celestian Tales: Old North and didn’t really care for it, this isn’t going to change your mind, but if you enjoyed the game as I did, you’ll probably find some enjoyment in Howl of the Ravager. If it were any more than $5, I’d be hesitant to recommend it, but at less than the price of a sandwich, it’s a fair purchase. You can purchase it at GOG or Steam if you’re interested.