GRAVEN – Review
Follow Genre: Shooter
Developer: 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher: 3D Realms
Platform: PC,
Tested on: PC

GRAVEN – Review

Site Score
Good: Fantastic sound design
Bad: Plagued by technical issues
User Score
(1 votes)
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Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Back in the ‘90s, 3D Realms were the undisputed kings of the boomer shooter genre. Franchises like Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, and Max Payne cemented themselves in the memories of gamers around the world, and are still played today, partially thanks to sequels, re-releases, and remasters. We can imagine that anyone who has fond memories of those beloved shooters is at least somewhat curious about the new IP GRAVEN, 3D Realms’ latest outing. The game blends boomer shooter gameplay with dark fantasy RPG elements, which sounds like a match made in heaven. The game originally launched in Early Access back in 2021, but it has now been fully released, ready to bring ’90s-style shooter goodness to your PC, with a console launch set for later this year. We’d tell you to dust off your boomstick but in GRAVEN you’re using spells and a staff, so if you have those on hand, grab ‘em as we take a look at what the game has to offer.


An opening cutscene supposedly sets up GRAVEN’s story. We say supposedly, because due to technical issues, it was utterly unwatchable. Not only was the frame rate for this scene atrocious, but it took no more than three seconds for the audio to go out of sync with the visuals. Add to this that whatever information was supposed to be conveyed made use of flowery, archaic language, and the result is difficult to make sense of. A quick search online taught us that we weren’t the only ones with this issue, so while there definitely is a story present here, it’s currently indecipherable. From the in-game context, we were able to deduce that the protagonist is a fallen priest who ends up in a medieval town in the middle of a swamp, where he has to deal with some kind of plague to repent but that’s about everything we can tell you about GRAVEN’s narrative.


From an aesthetics perspective, GRAVEN is one of the more interesting retro-styled shooters we’ve played recently. The game blends mid-90s style low-poly 3D models with pixel sprite work. The majority of the visuals are rendered fully in 3D, but if you get close to a door, or just look at the font used for dialogue, you’ll notice that these elements seem to hail from a much earlier time. It works surprisingly well. What doesn’t work, however, is GRAVEN’s frame rate. For how simple the visuals are, the performance here is just atrocious. The game constantly stutters and occasionally freezes completely, forcing a restart. For how relatively simple the retro visuals are, the game should be able to run a lot smoother. Granted, we aren’t running GRAVEN on a high-end PC, but if our hardware can run the latest Prince of Persia without a hitch, then the issue is likely to be on GRAVEN’s side.


Audio is perhaps GRAVEN’s best aspect. The music feels appropriate for a ’90s-style boomer shooter, even if it doesn’t necessarily fits the medieval theme. The ambient sounds create an unsettling atmosphere, with the muffled cries of peasants echoing through the village from inside the houses as you walk the streets. When you’re wandering through a derelict sewer, the sounds that enemies make are a necessity for spatial awareness. If we were to actually recommend GRAVEN as a game you should play, then we’d say that you also should really wear headphones to fully enjoy the immersive sound design.


Oh, how we wish we’d be able to sing GRAVEN’s praises here. In theory, all the elements for a fun retro shooter experience are present here: Taking control of the priest, you wander around carefully designed environments infested with enemies, and you use your powers to kill everything in sight with extreme prejudice. Given the dark fantasy setting, it makes sense that you’re not using guns, but instead, you’re armed with a staff and a spellbook. There is a healthy spread of health pickups and other goodies scattered around the map, so you keep yourself in tip-top shape. GRAVEN’s RPG side also should keep things interesting: there are actual quests and side quests to go on, environmental puzzles to solve, and dungeons to explore, giving the game a Duke Nukem meets Skyrim sort-of-vibe. In theory, that sounds awesome, right? In practice…. Not so much. GRAVEN is unfortunately plagued by loads of technical issues that render the game nigh unplayable.

We’ve mentioned the performance and frame rate issues when we talked about the game’s graphics, so we won’t be repeating ourselves here about those. However, when GRAVEN does “work”, other design issues rear their ugly head. There is no in-game map, making navigating dungeons a pain. Hitboxes for enemies feel off, making it difficult to perceive if an enemy is in melee range or if you should lob spells at them. Not that spells feel particularly effective. Their damage output feels very limited and the priest’s limited MP depletes incredibly fast. You’re lucky if you can kill a single enemy with a spell before having to swap back to simply whacking zombies on the head with your staff or delivering a swift kick. Spells may become more powerful as you progress through GRAVEN, but we’d given up long before we reached that point.

To their credit, the development team is hard at work ironing out the kinks based on player feedback, as evidenced by the update posts on the game’s Steam community page. Hopefully, the major kinks will be ironed out over the coming months. As it stands, GRAVEN isn’t a game we can recommend, simply because of the aforementioned issues. Granted, the games that GRAVEN pays homage to were far from perfect, but the issues that are present here are very different, so we can’t chalk this up to deliberate period-accurate clunkiness. Perhaps GRAVEN left Early Access too early. Here’s hoping the console version fares better.


Beneath layers of technical issues and poorly thought-out design choices hides a game with plenty of potential. We were on board with the game conceptually, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps in a month or two, GRAVEN moves from a technical mess to a game that’s at least somewhat fun to play. That said, we can’t see GRAVEN become more than a footnote in 3D Realms’ storied history, and that’s a shame, really.

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Rating: 2.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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GRAVEN - Review, 2.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

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    March 13, 2024, 02:15

    […] hasn’t been all that long since we took a look at 3D Realms’ GRAVEN and we’re already looking at another title from the granddaddy developer of ‘90s FPS games. […]

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