Archives for : Spiderweb Software

Avernum: Escape from the Pit

Avernum: Escape from the Pit is a remake/rewrite of the old Exile and Avernum Trilogys by Spiderweb Software. Avernum is a RPG with a Tactical RPG fighting system and plays a lot like Avadon: The Black Fortress, a game I reviewed a while back. Although there are a number of similarities to the two games there are a lot of differences as well.

We’ll start with what is Avernum about. In Avernum you play a group of 4 characters that you create at the beginning of the game. For whatever unknown reason they like many before them have been thrown into a portal to Avernum a cavernous world separated from the surface world. Whatever sins or possibly wrong person you POed you are now stuck in an underground world with no way out in sight. Welcome to Avernum a world of the unwanted. People have been being thrown down here for a long time and have established there own system of survival and your characters must set out to find their place in this new world or maybe a way out.

So that is the gist of the story. You’ll talk to different people get quests and information to lead you farther into Avernum and the secrets that have been left behind. Although the story and the way it works differs greatly from Avadon and most RPGs these days. First since you create your team of 4 from different types or you can even select a custom type to create a team exactly the way you want it. You can chose how they look what their names are and what skills and traits they have. The downside to this is that your characters really have no history or importance individually. You won’t hear anything interesting from them or have any story lines that focus on any individual member of your team. It really is all about your team as a whole.

The game offers you the freedom to attack anyone you would like to. So if you want to attempt to go on a spree you can, although this won’t benefit you in anyway that I can tell. Although it is a good way to get killed pretty quickly as the towns guards come to take you out pretty fast. So give it a shot if you’re daring or just follow the quests and explore the surroundings. Like most RPGs, you will have your kill em all quests, as well as your numerous fetch quests. So many fetch quests you may even feel like stabbing the guy who wants you to fetch some very lame set of objects that may take forever to find on the expansive map. Although unlike Avadon in Avernum pretty much everyone is friendly which is a little strange figuring that these are the people kicked out of the surface world for whatever reason. Prison makes strange bedfellows I guess and Avernum is in a way a very large prison, that offers more freedom than the surface world albeit with a higher mortality rate.

As far as gameplay goes, point and click is the key to it. Much like Avadon in this way, I never really used the keyboard for much of anything. You just point and click then your character moves to that location on the map or if in battle they move as close to there as possible. Selecting spells is easy even if you don’t put them on the quick bar at the bottom. It is just a click on the spell type priest or mage and select the spell you want then click the target. If your character is too far away they will move closer to get the shot off. While there are warrior skills you can learn as well that allow you to deal more damage in a single attack they all have a recoup time denoted by fatigue. Overall the games battle mechanics are simple, straight forward and fairly easy to grasp. All battles are played out where the floor is like a grid of squares that you and your enemies maneuver to gain line of sight or get next to them to pummel them with your weapon.

Leveling is easy to grasp as well, yet can be a bit hard to determine the best route to go with your characters. The first part of leveling is picking which attribute to add a point to; strength, dexterity, intelligence, and endurance. These attributes are all pretty straight forward. Next you will get 2 points to add to your skills, whether it is archery, mage skills or lock picking or any of the  other numerous choices. This is the part that choosing your route becomes very important. How much tool use/lockpick skill do you need in the group or are you going to find a book that requires more points in arcane lore than you already have?  I found myself many a times lacking the skill levels necessary to do what I wanted at the time I found something. Requiring me to go get experience to level up and go back to the object I couldn’t open or use at a later time. The last part of leveling is every two levels you get the chance to choose a new trait to add to your character. These traits seem dependent on both your attributes and skills you have chosen. This is what can give your mage that extra oomph from your warrior you decided to turn into a swordmage. Yep, that is also a trait and I’ll say I was happy to see it.

The things I found lacking was that objects on the ground are very often hard to see. This can make some fetch quests a royal pain. You end up taking a few steps only to check the ground again finding nothing or a rock. The music isn’t bad, but it isn’t grand either. It just sort of blends away and is quite forgettable. The last thing is that your characters have no stories, you don’t get to pick one or give them one in game they simply are and they stay together simply because they came through the portal together. There is no interaction with them and I couldn’t help but feel like they as a whole might as well be just one hero. The last thing I wasn’t to fond of was the reputation system it goes up from completing quests and it helps to open up more quests and get people to talk to you who would otherwise be uninterested in your arrival. While it is an interesting mechanic the encourages you to do the quests it also makes you feel a little constrained into doing things like the fetch quests and other things just to build your reputation.

So while Avernum is very open world with a large map to explore and a myriad of quests to take, I miss the deeper intrigue you get from other RPGs. While the game is nice and has a very retro feel to it storytelling wise it just didn’t grip me the same way as other RPGs. It does offer a lot of character build choices and plenty of locations to explore, but I could only give it a 3 out of 5. It is a solid game and has more plus than minus when it comes down to it. If you love RPGs and TRPGs give this game a shot if not you will probably be bored pretty quickly.

Avadon: The Black Fortress Review

Avadon: The Black Fortress is a tactical RPG for the PC created by Spiderweb Software. This TRPG does have an interesting storyline where the questions and your responses may change your view on things. One the things that Avadon boasts is that you can be the loyal hero of Avadon, the indifferent merc or even do something along the lines of bringing Avadon down.

From playing this game, I will go over what I know and how I feel about this RPG. Now I haven’t finished the campaign so I don’t know the end yet, but from what I have played this game grabs a hold of you and pulls you in. Although humorously, about one of the only characters you may like will be your own character, I thought that pretty much everyone was a snake. With all the political intrigue going on around you, you may quickly become suspicious of every single person you talk to, and that even includes the 4 other characters you are teamed up with throughout the game. In one situation a simple statement was made that caused an argument between two of my own teammates (Hands are what they are called). It was quite humorous but I had also thought I would like to stab them both at that moment for being so unprofessional in front of others.

That right there is what leads me to, what is this game really about and how is it played. When you start the game you will pick a character from one of the 4 types, Bladesmaster (Warrior/Paladin), Shadowwalker (Theif/Ninja), Shaman (Druid or Nature Cleric/Summoner), or Sorceress (Mage/Psychic/Thief). The reason I elaborated on the classes is that they are all sort of a blend of some of your typical RPG classes but none are quite the same. What class you pick is entirely up to you, and it’s biggest aspect is that in all missions that is the one class you are guaranteed to have with you. Don’t worry about the other classes they all quickly become available as partners for your missions.

Now the story starts out with a really good plot. 5 countries have formed a pact to stop the warring amongst each other to allow them to face the greater threats from outside. To keep this pact working and to help the countries protect their borders, the black fortress of Avadon was born. Hands, who go out and do missions and do the dirty work. Eyes, who are the people who sneak around for Avadon to find those who are attempting to destroy the pact or just to keep a general eye on the things going on. Finally The Hearts, are the people who take the information given by the eyes, hands and the scores of envoys that come to Avadon and chose what Hand to send out on a mission and how many people they can take. This is where you get your missions and where you decide who will come along with you, but don’t worry if you hate them, on your next mission you can change it up.

While on these missions, you’ll take side quests and do whatever you really want to do. Be nice to the locals, or be cruel. Heck, they probably fear you already. If they don’t you can probably make them if you want to. One of the great things about the games story of politics and backstabbing and loot grabbing is that instead of being lead around by more experienced hands, they are all to busy and although you are the new kid on the block, you have to be better than the 4 screw-ups that no other hand wants to use. So they become your responsibility and you are given missions instead of the screw-ups who have been there longer. It’s up to you to find out why no one else wants them, if you feel inclined to get to know your fellow hands. Through your missions and the people you talk to, you will start to get a better idea of what is going on and what you may have to do in the future.

Now lets get to how is this game played. As you play you will level up, each level you can increase one stat by 1 point: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Endurance. You will also be given 2 points to place on your ability tree. Depending on your class will depend on what abilities you have available to your main character. It takes 2 points to take a new ability that you meet the requirements for. Once you have taken that ability you can place 1 point on it while placing the other point somewhere else if you chose. It’s really up to you. At level 5, 15, and 25 you can take one of 3 specializations that enhance certain abilities that your character possesses. You will also be leveling up all 4 of the other hands, So you might want to make the hand that has the same class as you focus on different abilities. This is called training the hands. One nice feature about this is that although you may favor certain classes for your quests, all of the hands will gain experience even the ones left behind. So whenever you return to Avadon train them, you never know if you might need them in a hurry.

I only say this because the game leaves you feeling like at any point any where some one might try to kill you. Maybe it’s just me, but the game feeds into the paranoia aspect. You venture around like you would in Diablo, but when a fight starts the map is all squares and turn based. This is nice since it gives you the time to think out strategies or just send your characters rushing in to cut down the enemies the old fashioned way.

The game is all point and click, there are keyboard shortcuts although the space bar really was the only one I learned. The space bar is used to end a characters turn. The game also has a little bit of music, but not really that much. I often found myself wandering around a wilderness just to notice how quiet everything was. I actually liked this in a way I didn’t expect to. It gave it that feeling of being alone. You wandered and it was all quiet, but if a wolf was approaching or near you, you might here it howl or growl. So it sort of feels like they decided to pull out the standard RPG music and instead let the setting bring the feeling out. Since you’re never walking a world map but instead are moving within areas, the objects always match the size of your characters.

I have played this game for hours on end and only enjoy it more and more. I give this game a 4 out of 5. I know there are some simplicities to the game, as well as it’s lack of constant music, that may turn away some fans of RPGs and TRPGs, but as far as engrossing you into the story and making you decide what you will do this game does it and never lets you feel safe around anyone. I just love that.