As you walk through foggy forests and forbidding castles, swarms of enemies pour from every cranny to cut your adventuring days short. Ambushes trigger your instinctual flight-then-fight response. Without any defensive abilities (no roll, dodge, or block here), you can only run from attackers, and because your pursuers are remarkably stupid, they simply follow your lead. As a rogue, you might place a poisoned trap on the ground, summon a pack of spectral wolves, fling a few arrows into the mass, and then continue running until your powers recharge. Fights play out similarly if you're a wizard. Replace the poisonous trap with a poisonous cloud and the arrows with fireballs, and you'd hardly notice you're controlling a robed magician instead of a fiery rogue.
Despite the predictability of the encounters, there is still some satisfaction in cutting down your persistent foes. Blood pools around defeated enemies, making it feel as if your swords are imbued with incredible power. After a hard-fought victory, you see corpses litter the battlefield. Instead of disappearing into the ether, they remain where they fall, offering a constant reminder of just how much death follows your every step. And though deeper strategies are lacking, there's a sadistic glee in tearing through dozens of foes. You might lead them to a bottleneck, maybe a bridge or tree-lined path, and watch as too many enemies try to squeeze through too small a space. Once they're stuck, you're free to hack away without repercussions, and it's empowering to watch them fall to your blade as they desperately try to reach you.
Realms of Ancient War is a by-rote action role-playing game. But even though it doesn't offer anything you haven't seen in the genre, the fundamentals work well enough to keep you plugging along. It takes more than a dozen hours to reach the end, and though there are few surprises, there's a pleasing rhythm to the scurry-and-slay combat. Teaming up with a friend in local co-op doesn't change things significantly, but it's nice having the option to kill wolves with a buddy. Even with some fun elements, Realms of Ancient War is an uninspired action RPG that rarely rises above basic competence.