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Graven Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch & PC)

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Man holding a spell book Graven review

Having spent its sweet time in Early Access, Graven is finally out now, and fingers crossed, its issues are ironed out. Tagged boomer shooter, Graven tests your spirits and ability to survive its harsh monster-ridden world. It throws you out to the wolves and trusts you’ll find your way home somehow. In lots of ways, Graven delivers on expectations. Yet, it also has a few not-so-minor problems that could potentially be a deal-breaker for you. Let's explore the ways in which Graven excels in delivery and more. Cue in our deep-dive Graven review, that should tell you how fitting the game is for you.

Cast Out to Die

Spell book in graven

Graven reminds me of the movie “Priest” (2011) and how its priests were anything but the norm. They were essentially vampire hunters, trained in combat to show no mercy to evil. Graven follows in the same footsteps, kicking off with the story of a priest of the Orthogonal Order. When your daughter’s life is in jeopardy, you slay the priest responsible for putting her in danger. Unfortunately, your heroic attempts to save your daughter’s life turn the priesthood and the entire town against you. They banish you to exile, to your horrendous death.

A little later, you resurrect to a depraved world. A curse has befallen the people within this world, riddling them of their humanity and condemning them to a life of carnage. Many lose their lives, their bodies left piling up in the streets and stewing in their own rot. This is the ghastly world Graven throws you into. Its dark, melancholic tone sticks with you throughout your playthrough, constantly infusing within you a sense of dread and disgust. 

Hold on, Graven does all of this in the best ways possible, though. It carves out a believable world, one where each step taken deeper into its void reveals horrendous crime and undead monsters. It doesn’t tell you either, rather shows you how depraved the world is. Aesthetics and details are all beautifully crafted to exemplify a sweet, sweet exploration journey into the unknown. For its visual craft and apparent effort put into the atmospheric vibe, Graven deserves a standing ovation.

Redeem Your Soul

killing acreature with a cross bow in the sewages

Gushing aside, the story goes that you’re seeking to cleanse this horrific world of its monsters and undead in some twisted attempt to redeem your soul. In just the first few minutes, you meet guards who send you on your first quest to fix a sewage blockage. So, you descend into the sewers, and therein, the tutorial starts. I have to say, I love Graven’s taste in inducting you into its world. It’s utterly free-form in the sense that you don’t get help navigating its world. You have no map to trace your steps or hints to help you out of a tough spot.  

It’s not to say that Graven is open-world, either. You essentially get access to an area. Here, you’ll find, say, a locked door. So, your next task becomes finding the key to unlock the door. You’ll explore the area, ensuring you keep your eyes peeled for clues and secrets. Pay enough attention; it should take less time to find the key. Afterwards, return back to the door and, in turn, open it to unlock a new area. Do this a couple of times, often solving neat puzzles, uncovering secrets, and collecting precious items, and you’ll keep digging deeper and deeper into the three sorts of realms Graven has in store for you.

Die, Vile Creatures

fighting creatures

In that sense, the game feels linear and pushes you to explore to your heart’s content, step by step. You should have no trouble picking up valuable weapons that expand your inventory further. Or, gold coins from slaying beasts can be exchanged for upgrades at the hub. Now, the hub. That’s the central point or home base, where the vendors are. You’ll want to return to the hub to upgrade your weapons and spells because, a little farther into the game, the monsters and flying minions will start to take their toll on you.

Combat is a pretty massive part of Graven. It starts off slow-paced, despite being tagged as a boomer shooter. And thankfully so, because you first get a staff that smacks enemies and launches them into the distance from close range. The staff is pretty effective in both exploration (breaking stuff) and melee combat. But you’ll soon need a long-range weapon and crowd control if you’re to survive. Sure enough, you begin to unlock all sorts of standard and unique weapons of all kinds. A crossbow that shoots like a shotgun. Loretta's Mastery Magic is a great bow that fires four arrows per reload for long-range and those nasty flying creatures. Even a flamethrower that explodes barrels on impact is perfect for crowd control. 

The more weapons you unlock, the more upgrades you’ll want to get. That’s because previously slow-paced enemies begin to gain speed and numbers farther down the road. You’ll be fighting for your life, trying to dismember and destroy fifteen enemies in one go. Dying will be inevitable, at the cost of gold. You’re constantly running in circles, trying to wean as many vile creatures off of you as you can. These parts are where Graven truly feels like a boomer shooter.  

Inventory Issue

reloading crossbow in Graven

As you can imagine, with seconds to spare, it’s crucial to have a manual reload. But, no. Graven gives you four arrows on your magic great bow, for instance, before forcefully reloading at the direst of times. That’s not all. Ammunition is gold in Graven. How you manage your resources is what keeps you alive or dead. So, you don’t want to be emptying your rounds, especially on invulnerable enemies. In any case, you’ll definitely need to switch to melee once you run out. But melee weapons can only do so much when a myriad of enemies come swarming at you, some seemingly invulnerable to your attacks.

Uhm, yes. That still doesn’t cover it, not in the slightest. See, you have limited slots for your weapons and potions in the quick-access toolbar. Essentially, if you want to use these items, you must have them equipped in the toolbar. But, the toolbar can only equip three weapons at a time or two weapons at a time and one potion. It hardly makes sense because you have multiple healing potions available. And often, you only need to consume it once and then put it back to wait for an upgrade. 

There’s More

Collecting shield potions

If you want to use your potions and you have three weapons equipped, you need to switch out one of the weapons to make room for it. And that only creates room for just one potion. So, imagine you want to use a healing potion mid-battle. You have to pause the game, pull up your inventory, drag and drop your potion to replace one of your weapons in the toolbar, and close the inventory. Okay, now, equip the potion to your hand, drink it, pull up the inventory one more time, replace the potion once again with your weapon, and then proceed to play.

Furthermore, weapons, in practice, have to be three at a time if you’re to survive a boomer shooter. You need your shotgun-like weapon for close-range, blasting AoE damage. You also need a long-range weapon to pick off enemies from afar while you run around for your life. But a melee weapon is also handy to smack down any enemy who manages to get close. Mind you, Graven grants you access to a variety of weapons, so you’ll likely also be experimenting with different types of each. Unfortunately, Graven doesn’t give you that luxury; instead, it forces you to pick just three weapons or two and a potion. Well, unless you’re up for the switch, that takes precious time and can be hella frustrating. 

Lost Cause?

old boat man on a boat on graven review

Another issue is that Graven has no map, which is funny because it plays like Metroidvania. With no map to guide you, backtracking is just an everyday gig playing Graven. Simply getting to the hub is a pain. You’ll find yourself going back and forth, searching for shortcuts, and hoping not to get lost, which will happen lots of times. Eventually, you’ll reload the game just to respawn at the hub. That proves a lot shorter. However, that same feature is frustrating when you’re booting up the game but don’t respawn where you last were. 

The puzzles are intuitive. However, finding the clues to solve the puzzle is where the problem lies. With no map and Graven never telling you where to go or giving you hints for finding something, you’ll often wind up on goose chases and spend more time going around in circles than need be.


fighting 5 head white creature

On matters of environmental storytelling and combat, Graven does an outstanding job. It feels surreal to explore every nook and cranny within Graven’s universe. You almost want to spend as much time as you can taking in the retro-styled 3D atmospheric vibe and batting off vile creatures as you go. Without realizing what you wished for, Graven soon starts to give you the run-around. There’s no map, leaving you to fend for yourself at the cost of precious time and patience. Besides, the inventory system is a pain, all of which give Graven a mixed review. 

Graven Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch & PC)

Tread Carefully, If You Dare

Graven isn’t for everyone. It’s a dark, atmospheric boomer shooter that takes you on a free-form explorative journey. While it starts slow-paced, the latter stages of the game quickly pick up pace, bestowing upon you a gruesome challenge you may be craving for.


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.