New to Avernum? Well, you aren’t coming in too far behind the pack, mostly because this game is based after the very first Avernum game.
The Avernum games are made for those who enjoy turn-based role playing games with a lot of dialogue and exploration in an overhead, grid view. As in good ole’ RPG fashion of the prior decade, a map of the area is slowly revealed upon moving around the area (similar in graphics and style to Age of Empires games). This new edition of Avernum has a leg up on the initial installment of the series, due to the utilization of the mouse “point-and-click” feature (how futuristic!).
So what exactly is Avernum? Is it just a funny word, the protagonist maybe? Avernum refers to the series of caverns to which you are initially exiled – “a dark, subterranean prison.”
Although the world is comprised of four continents, it is under the control of the Empire, and one of the initial blocks of texts tells you it is your unlucky day since, “You are never going to see sunlight again. You will never breathe fresh air. Or be warm or dry. Or feel safe. This is your punishment.” Poor chap.
Once you become accustomed to the gameplay, you are likely to find the game rather addicting. I’m lucky I escaped from my Avernum black hole long enough to get this review out to you! As it was my first time playing an Avernum game, I was initially off put by the fact that I couldn’t pick up any item I wanted…not due to inventory space but due to a lack of action points. I quickly learned that action points are necessary to pick up and equip items, and conservation is key to the equipping of future items.
This is very much a game that relies on large blocks of texts to describe a scene and subsequently move you through the plot points of the game. The graphics and landscape do little to stimulate your sense of wonder and enchantment as do mainstream, console-based RPG’s. (But keep in mind, this is an indie game that focuses on gameplay and storytelling before graphics.)
It will inevitably be a switch to go from Final Fantasy and Zelda’s current graphics to Avernum, in which a block of text pops up saying, “On this side of the door, at last, you can hear people. You smell fresh smoke and hear the muttering of speech.” However, if you have an imagination and patience for this style of RPG, you will soon be captivated by the depth of storytelling and humor embedded into Avernum.
It is rare to find a game without compelling musical sequences, but Avernum rarely integrates music into its scenes. I do, however, enjoy leaving the menu on for periods of time to hear its regal sound. Unfortunately this is sharply contrasted with the game’s lack of music, as the full-bodied menu music is abandoned for sound effects like whistling wind.
Avernum contains four character types to create a party – soldier, rebel, priest, and sorcerer – and you can either stick with preset character images and names or create characters in your own image. It is a bonus that the game also has four difficulty levels – casual, normal, hard, and torment. I personally love the description of torment, explained as “the ultimate challenge for the warriors of Avernum. You will need to use every trick and fully utilize every ability to defeat the nasty enemies arrayed against you.” Above and beyond the integration of these difficulty settings is the fact that you can change the difficulty whenever you want! This means that at the first sign of trouble, you can easily switch from “torment” down to “casual” or “normal,” thus saving you the agony of suffering through a truly difficult part of the game.
As this is a turn-based, grid-style of combat, it is necessary to end the combat mode before your party can journey together again. (Perhaps there’s some purpose for this that I’m missing the point of?) I do love the fact that when you enter a person’s house, Avernum isn’t your typical RPG in the sense where you can loot anything and everything without consequence. No, you have to actually decide whether it’s worth stealing an item. Each of these items has the warning, “This is not your property,” along with the likely possibility that you’ll risk being caught.
As in other RPG’s, mage spells and healing abilities have specific costs, and new skills can be added as you increase levels. Plus, you can view your stats at the menu, including information such as number of foes slain, types of damage dealt along with the quantity, damage taken, fallen characters, potions made, quests completed, etc.
KitGuru says: Although Avernum is arguably lacking in some areas (such as music), it is a fully fleshed out RPG that provides series’ newbs and veterans alike an enthralling gameplay experience. If you’re looking for an old-style RPG to enjoy, it is definitely worth the price.